If You Want Fierce Loyalty, You Need To Be Fiercely Loyal First

Build fierce loyalty

Loyalty. A funny concept. One that can mean so many different things to different people at different times.

Sports teams have loyalty from their fans. Well, the true ones do. Think Manchester City as opposed to Manchester United, where the latter’s “fans” are more interested in prawn sandwiches than a good soccer team.

Indie bands have loyalty from their fans. Until they sign that big record deal, that is, then they become sell-outs.

Humans have loyalty from their dogs. But then you would be pretty loyal as long as you had someone cleaning up your shit.

So, yeah, loyalty – a funny concept. And yet it’s something that’s so important to so many people, they spend their lifetime(s) trying to work out how they can build loyalty around what they do.

After all, build loyalty, you build bigger success, right? More sales; repeat sales; referrals. Get that gold rush and you don’t have to worry about marketing.

Okay, maybe just a bit about marketing (I’m a marketer by trade, so I’d be dumb to say you didn’t need my services, right?).

So, yeah – loyalty is something pretty much everyone wants to achieve in some form or another. And not just loyalty, but fierce loyalty. Because if you grab that piece of gold, the world is truly your oyster. That shit starts revolutions.

And so companies spend thousands (millions?) on trying to create loyalty programs. Bloggers spend thousands of words trying to say the things they think their readers want to hear to become loyal. Social media “gurus” spend all day on Twitter when they should be doing real work, just to try and get that extra loyal follower to buy into their crud.

And it’s all a waste of time. Seriously.

Because you don’t need to spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars trying to build loyalty. You don’t need to be that desperate typist. You don’t need to be that good-for-nothing-except-quotes-for-Mashable social media douche whose only loyalty comes from those laughing at him religiously.

If you want loyalty – fierce loyalty – it’s easy. Be fiercely loyal first.

Show people you care. Show people you mean what you say. Every time. Show people they can trust you. Show people you deserve that trust. Show people you’re not a dick who simply panders to those stroking your ego (or your dick). Show people every one of them is equal.

And it’s not fucking hard to do this.

  • If you’re a blogger, encourage dissention of your views and don’t let fanboys be your voice.
  • If you’re a business, embrace your critics as much as your fans (if not more so).
  • If you’re a manager, let everyone speak and not just Tommy Kiss Ass.

In fact, no matter what you do, in what discipline and in what medium, it’s really not hard at all to build loyalty.

Think like the person you want to become loyal to you and ask what really matters to them.

Get that simple thing right and you’ll have loyalty so fierce you’ll wonder why you were making it so difficult to achieve to begin with.

This post originally appeared on Sarah Robinson’s 28 Days to Build Fierce Loyalty series.

image: Jean-

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  1. says

    I love this Danny. I will never forget getting that letter on the First of December from some very loyal friends who heard about my situation and tried to help. One of the reasons I am so loyal to you all is that none of you have treated me any differently since I lost my home. In fact, some have reached out even more.
    When I was first getting my feet wet in social media, I had no idea who you were. You were just a cool, smart guy who was more interested in challenging thought patterns than being told how great you were. That really stuck with me. I watched how you treated disagreements and have tried to pattern my behavior in a similar way.
    There are a few other bloggers out there who don’t need their asses kissed (or as you would say arse) but, then there are those who see dissent as a personal attack. I don’t read those blogs any longer. I have limited time online, so I have to make sure I get real value when I read blogs.
    That is loyalty. When you know someone has limited access and they make an effort to read you. Here is to the new breed of loyalty.

    • says

       @NancyD68 Hey there miss,
      You know, what I love about you is you never give up. Not only that, but you share your failings and lessons learned, so others can learn from that. And *that* is why so many are loyal to you, and happy to help.
      You can’t buy that kind of stuff – here’s to you. :)

  2. says

    I love the visceral attitude in this post… I also completely and utterly without a doubt 100% agree with everything that you are saying… 
    I recently wrote a post with a Terrible Title that kinda ruined what I meant to say in the post but essentially the point was I write my best content in my newsletter… I do this because people who subscribe are making a commitment to me as a content provider and I respect that commitment to the highest degree.
    I must be Loyal to these people because they have allowed me into their inner circle.  Just because someone doesn’t agree with a Soapbox I might stand on doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the same respect and loyalty as a reader as someone who polishes your apples…
    Love it dude… Great Friday post.
    Thank you.

    • says

       @Ryan Hanley Perfect example, mate. If folks are going to invest time in you (and a newsletter or blog subsciption is definitely an investment), then the least you can do is make sure you live up to your end of the bargain.
      Otherwise, why should I even care about what you have to say?
      Cheers, mate, have a great one!

  3. davevandewalle says

    A dig on Man U!
    Seriously, though, I’m amazed – sometimes absolutely shocked – at the whole sellout thing. It happens – I’ve watched it, where brands (and people) are too busy with the glitterati that they don’t acknowledge the little people.
    There’s very little empathy marketing going on, IMHO. A lot of it is me, me, me and should be “what do YOU need? How will YOU benefit? What can I do for YOU?”
    Great post.

    • says

       @davevandewalle There are so many people that fall into that “I’m big now, so fuck you” category, it’s kinda sad mate. Especially when it’s something they’ve railed against for so long – guess the true colours come out then.
      Like you say, you get so much back in return when you offer without agenda. Why is that so hard to understand?

  4. says

    Danny, you hit this outta the park. I love it.
    All things I’ve said/thought/done at one time or another, but you really laid it out and put in perspective, Danny.
    I’d like to add a question about the fanboys thing… I definitely agree (and there’s a discussion going on about dissension on JohnnyBTruant’s latest post on copyblogger)…
    but what if the point you’re making is more “1+1=2″ or “we live under gravity”, do you encourage the dissenters then?

    • says

       @Jason Fonceca Hey there Jason,
      I’ll have to check the Copyblogger post out, thanks for the heads-up!
      I have no problem with people getting passionate about their belief and standing up for those that share the same message. It’s when you put that person (or yourself) above all reason and say that people shouldn’t question your views that get my goat.
      Why not just buy a double sleeping bag and go camping together for the weekend? 😉

  5. AmandaMagee says

    Thanks for always cutting through the bull shit, though I would offer that douche seems like a slur we could move beyond. Falling back on gender based slams is kind of lazy.

    • says

       @AmandaMagee You know, that’s a fair point, Amanda – it is lazy, just a word I use commonly (amongst others). I’ll keep in mind for future – thanks! :)

  6. SerinaKelly says

    Again, a post that tells it like it needs to be said. Why do we forget the basics of life so much when we are in business? To many of us, our business plays a huge part in our lives – hopefully, it’s part of our passion! I’m actually talking to myself right now – why am I afraid of pissing someone off? I’m more myself when I’m not trying to be Polly Fucking Anne! To those I’m loyal to, anyone messes with you, they will see the Italian come out – for the rest of you, I’ll work on always showing my true self, and you can take it or leave it because really, it doesn’t matter what you think – down deep, I’m not really loyal to you anyway, so why would I expect you to be loyal to me? My ah-ha moment from this post. Thanks!

    • says

       @SerinaKelly You’re Italian? Awesome!
      It’s so true, though – you’re loyal to those that deserve it. Everyone else is “fair game” (as are you in return) for being “looked after” second, once you’ve helped those that you should be attending to first.
      No-one ever got anywhere by pandering to the opportunists and the fly-by crowd. 😉

  7. says

    Loyalty, that’s an interesting concept, and you’re surely right Danny. Now, many human beings are loyal depending where the wind blows, it’s human nature, but some as you said will remain loyal until the end whatever the cost. Being loyal first while doesn’t prevent those little flags from turning their back on you can get those really loyal to be at your side. That is you get around 50 percent of chances to receive your loyalty back. Not bad. While not being loyal first you get what you sow. Imho. :)

    • says

       @Andrea Hypno For sure, mate. Yes, the quick fans are all well and good, but if you really want to build the loyal mindset of the “cult”, just look at how Apple built their ambassadors. Try take a Mac fan away onto a PC, and find out about ho loyalty is built there… 😉

  8. says

    Not only is this a great idea, it’s science. I just finished up a “Drucker on the Dial” podcast where they talk about how Trust is literally triggered in the brain. It works along the principle of reciprocity, the more trust is shown, the more the brain manufactures oxytocin which is a strong indicator of ones ability to trust strangers. Here’s a link to the podcast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/drucker-on-the-dial/id491093020

    • says

       @AdamLehman Hey there Adam,
      Sounds like an interesting show, mate, and will definitely check it out over the weekend, thanks for the heads-up!

  9. says

    This was a freaking PHENOMENAL post, Danny!! And I loved your blunt serving of truthfulness in all of it’s raw splendor! If there was ever any doubt as to why a person isn’t getting loyalty, you’ve spelled it out clearly here in this post. Loyalty comes after it has been given. If it isn’t given, then it cannot be expected. It does take a lot to build trust though; which I think is a huge key to earning loyalty. If an individual trusts me, and I’m consistent with building that trust; that trust will make it much easier for me to form their loyalty. Yet, just as easily as it was earned, it can as easily be taken away or lost. And once that happens, it’s much harder to get back. Man, I really loved this post!! You hit it out of the park on this one mate! Thanks for sharing, and it will be a pleasure to share it further! 😀

    • says

       @Deeone Higgs Hey there mate,
      It’s why so many loyalty programs fail – companies come up with deals that have no relevance to the customer, and think they can just buy their way into their hearts. Now, this will work with the folks that will take anything, but not so much for the customers you want to build you business around.
      And, like you say, it’s harder to bring back a pissed off customer than it is to keep an existing one happy with one simple act – LISTENING.
      Have a great one, mate!

  10. Leon says

    G’Day Danny,
    Years ago, I had the very good fortune to work for a man who twice lead the Australian Training Team In Vietnam. Over time, he became a mentor and dear friend both of mine and my family.
    Stop!!! Regardless of what you think about the Vietnam War, listen to what he said about loyalty. “Loyalty” said Russell, “should always be earned. It should never be freely given.”
    Back in 1988 the great Tom Gilbert was talking about productivity. But what he saidwas relevant to loyalty too.
    ” We must……. .get in front and give some guidance….. step-by-step procedures and proven designs: a genuine methodology free of the parlour games of amateur psychology.” 
    And we must never forget that our prime responsibitity to our employees is to put systems in place that make it impossible for them to fail.
    As you welcome Spring, look up the words to that lovely song, “Spring Is Here.”
    Best Wishes

    • says

       @Leon Hey there mate,
      One of my heroes is Ernest Shackleton. That guy inspired the crazy-ass kind of loyalty that most people could only dream about. Why? Because he earned it by doing everything he asked of his men.
      Sounds like your mentor and my hero are both the kind of guys to learn from.
      Cheers, sir – have a great weekend!

      • Leon says

         @DannyBrown Shackleton was born in Ireland. Another Celt claimed by the Sassenachs.!  And all those fabulous photos were taken by an Australian, Frank Hurley.
        Shackleton’s journey across the Southern Ocean to seek help was quite unbelievable. There was life before cellphones!
        Avaggoodie y’self.

  11. illanaBurk says

    “If you’re a blogger, encourage dissention of your views and don’t let fanboys be your voice.”
    Seriously. Best advice I’ve heard THIS MONTH. 
    In the age of the like button, we can all get so afraid of dissension… like our whole goddamn business will collapse if someone says something prickly about us. But if we let that preposterous fear squish the creative juices, then we are all just pandering pundits towing the company line. I mean, if we fear debate, does it matter of it’s OUR company? Might as well go back to fearing our bosses, if we live in fear of our readers.

    • says

       @illanaBurk Thanks, Illana!
      The ones I lose respect for are the people who say one thing in public, yet another in private. One social media “superstar” in particular portrays himself as this awesome guy, but I saw an email he sent someone that dared criticize him, and he was a complete ass.
      Of course, his loyal sheeple don’t know this, because he continues to be awesome in public. Whatever – any loyalty you may have had from this part of the web disappeared with that email. Meh. 😉

  12. andrews984 says

    This post was great.  Just what I like to see straight, to the point and honest.  Being a person who is all about loyalty, I believe being loyal is definitely the way you receive loyalty from others.  Sometimes it is not always reciprocated but it allows you to see which people you don’t want around or apart of what you are doing.  I also believe in being myself.  In my younger days, I used to try to please the crowd at times and all that did was hurt my spirit.  Another great post Danny..   

    • says

       @andrews984 My grandfather always instilled in me to treat people the way you’d want to be treated yourself, regardless of “class, stature or any other perceived shite”. It’s stuck with me through life, and never let me down yet. 😉
      Cheers, mate!

  13. Mark Longbottom says

    No surprises Danny it’s simply natural human behavior – or is it.
    I do like the shining Messiah you’ve become by telling [business] people the blindingly obvious way to act.

  14. ThePaulSutton says

    Totally agree with the sentiment of this post, Danny. Great stuff.
    BUT…in the name of dissention, doesn’t everyone like to believe they’re loyal? I mean, challenge 1000 people to read this post and ask the question of themselves ‘am I loyal to my employees/ employer/ colleagues?’ and I’d put money on 1000 of them saying yes (or close to). The point being, people will read this and relate it to how they’re treated, not how they treat others as they’ll already believe they’re doing the things you recommend. I might be wrong, but what do you think? Am I just being cynical?

    • says

       @ThePaulSutton Hi mate,
      Good question, and I’d say a lot of it depends on how truly honest we are with ourselves. I know for a fact that I haven’t been as loyal as I should have been with some folks (see my reply to @rdopping ), and that I was blinded by friendship and let that crap continue longer than it should have.
      Recognizing that made a huge difference in how I approach loyalty. Maybe that’s the answer for others, too?
      Cheers for a great thought, sir.

  15. rdopping says

    Hey Danny,
    All good stuff here but is it really that easy? Just based on some of the douchehats you pointed out one thing that we all need to be really good at is recognizing that our loyalty to someone else may not be entirely reciprocal. The skill is recognizing that.
    Now, I am no authority on the subject but to me there are three degrees of difficulty of interaction in achieving the all coveted loyalty; 1. people you know and/or work with – easiest. 2. potential clients or new aquaintences – harder and 3. the on-line world – most difficult.
    I say that because there is a ton of discourse about how and who you can trust and on-line seems to give a lot of assholes the courage to abuse the privilege of contact. Anyway, I just think trust and loyalty go hand in hand and I agree loyalty is bank. Big, big bank but trust is also big bank. Either can be lost very, very quickly with one wrong move.
    Good post. I clearly need to read Sarah Robinson’s 28 Days stuff. So many blogs, so little time.

    • says

       @rdopping Hi there Ralph,
      Great points, and conpletely agree – the loyalty question is definitely one that has several layers to it, and trust is a huge part of it, as I mention in the post.
      The funny thing is, some of the people I’ve inherently trusted – friends, business partners, family members – have let me down, while those that I’ve previously questioned have turned into some of the folks I’m most loyal to. Go figure. 😉

  16. says

    I am a bit concerned about the phrase “fierce loyalty.”  You have tossed this phrase in, as if a blogger, or brand, just by asking people what matters to them and then catering to them on a consistent basis will get a group of people who will remain fiercely loyal.  I think fierce loyalty is a category that belongs to people/causes/ideas that impact your life in a real way – I can be fiercely loyal to my mate or to my friends (or my dog), and fiercely loyal to my non-profit to raise money and awareness for sick children – but I am I fiercely loyal to my BMW or to a favorite blogger?   I can be loyal to a cause – but fiercely loyal means I want to defend the cause – I walk the talk – I raise money, I write my congressman, I get involved.  I think there is merit in the topic of how to get a more loyal following for your brand, but I think there is a bit of hyperbole in your post.

    • says

       @ElaineJoli Hi Elaine,
      Had I not written the two paragraphs above that phrase you picked out, I might agree with it. But I don’t suggest you cater to people; instead, I simply share my thoughts on what builds loyalty. And as these paragraphs show, it’s definitely not catering.

    • says

      I don’t disagree that you have captured the essence of being loyal and building loyalty – all good, as my Aussie friends would say (actually a really good thought provoking post).  And I would have finished my Sunday morning coffee, had the word “fiercely” not shown up. 

  17. says

    “If you’re a manager, let everyone speak and not just Tommy Kiss Ass” -my favorite line.  You are so refreshingly real Danny.  Building loyalty can seem as easy as deciphering how to make antimatter (just had this conversation with my 8-year-old son – not easy).  But like all things, the concept is simple. You give, you get. 
    Hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

    • says

       @samtaracollier Ah, now your son sounds exactly like th camping buddy I wish I had had at eight – antimatter, indeed, love it! :)
      And, just to add to your thought, miss, the more you give without expecting to get in return, the more you actually get. Like you say, simple. 😉
      Have a great rest of Sunday!

  18. jasondyk says

    Great post Danny, 
    Loyalty comes from being an example to your “followers,” if you show them you are loyal and will be loyal to them they are far more interested in returning that loyalty.  It’s not about the money being spent or the giveaways you offer, it’s about being there for them.  
    Sidenote: I do find it funny about all these REALLY busy social media “gurus” that are so busy with all these clients, and all they do is sit on twitter all day….when are they working on their clients work then? 

    • says

       @jasondyk Hi there mate,
      Truer words never said, sir. You can soon spot who’s building their “community” just to fleece them shortly after (and, usually, the bigger the name, the more the fleecing).
      Ha, and I’m glad you noticed that about the “gurus” – yeah, that constant tweeting really must bring in the bucks for your clients, huh? 😉

    • says

       @AmyMccTobin I was actually consdering posting there, but I think that blog will be winding down, sadly – not enough time for the contributors to spare for the content to be consistent. We’ll see.
      I’m sure that Hubspot list is upside down, still, but thanks. :)

  19. tracibrowne says

    “If you’re a manager, let everyone speak and not just Tommy Kiss Ass.”
    I had to really laugh at that.  The one time I took an actual job with a company, not as a consultant, the CEO said he liked that I spoke my mind and to never stop.  He needed more people around him like that. That was until I criticized something he felt was his baby…suddenly my opinions were not welcome. I’ve learned since then that when people say they want their charges to speak out and up, they rarely mean it.

    • says

       @tracibrowne Ha, jeez ain’t that the truth, Traci? Sadly, like you share, it’s all well and good saying you want something. But if you lack the balls to follow that up with action when needed, then you may as well not have pretended to be supportive in the first place…
      Cheers, miss!

  20. Danny Brown says

    Because I blog as I speak, then people know what to expect. And there are worse things in life than bad language. 😉

  21. Jeff McCauley says

    Interesting. Never thought of setting personal standards based on the fact that there are worse things. Guess we will have to agree to disagree

  22. Traci Hayner Vanover says

    Excellent post, Danny! But most importantly, it is SPOT ON. That kind of candor is refreshing! Folks need to worry less about numbers (be they on Twitter, FB, or elsewhere), and more about furthering the conversation.

  23. Danny Brown says

    Traci But that’s too much like common sense, miss, and we know how that’s lacking in so many, sadly. 😉

  24. Traci Hayner Vanover says

    I blog as I speak as well. I also podcast with the same sass and fervor that I would in a one-on-one conversation. I left the corporate lifestyle behind me over a decade ago, and I certainly don’t miss it. There is value in transparency, when it is genuine.

  25. says

    Customer loyalty, like many other things, can be bought. But, as a merchant, you must be willing to pay a price. Most of the time, if done correctly, the rewards to the business far outweigh the cost – 5:1 if not more. One barrier that business must always overcome is the startup costs with establishing a loyalty program. One low cost solution is http://mazecard.com.au – no startup costs, and no contracts.