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Loyalty Through Collaboration [Day 15 – 28 Days to BFL]


This is Day 15 of 28 Days of Building Fierce Loyalty. Yesterday, Mark Silver showed us how to put our heart smack in the middle of building fierce loyalty. Today, author Jamie Notter turns the spotlight on using collaboration to build fierce loyalty. Good stuff!

Loyalty Through Collaboration

By: Jamie Notter| @JamieNotter

Everybody wants loyalty. In the business context, that means loyal employees, loyal customers, and loyal business partners. You want that stronger connection. You want people who will stay with you, keep your interests in mind, over time, even when things get rough or become unpredictable. That’s what loyalty is: when the seas get rough, the loyal ones stay the course, right by your side.

Understandably, we tend to look inward when figuring out how to secure these loyal partners. What can I/we do in order to earn the loyalty of these other people? Unfortunately this approach has an unintended side effect: it leads us down a path of treating loyalty as a transactional thing. I do x, y, or z, and that earns me the loyalty of my target audience.

Here’s the rub: it’s not about you. It’s about them. Loyalty is a relationship dynamic, not a transaction. And for the people who are your target audience (employees, customers, partners, etc.), the loyalty decision is ultimately in THEIR court, not yours. It’s something they develop inside themselves. They either feel loyalty, or they don’t.

So if you want their loyalty, I recommend starting with a focus on them, not you. Take a look, for example, at how you can collaborate with them more effectively. In Humanize, Maddie Grant and I write about collaboration as an integral part of becoming a more human organization. We look at organizational activities around things like “brand” and “strategy” and talk about what they would be like if they were truly collaborative. Where companies let their customers actually help define the brand (and even define the products and services). Where organizational “leaders” involve employees at all levels in making strategic choices (because your strategic environment rarely takes your strategic planning schedule into account when presenting you with opportunities).

This is different than how we usually do it. But by collaborating with people on things that you used to deliver to them (or at them), you stand a much better chance of gaining their loyalty. It means you will be giving up some control, and it’s going to demand a lot more clarity on your part (so yes, there are things you need to do). But in doing those things, you’re building a stronger relationship with the people that matter, and that’s where loyalty really starts.

So what could you do differently in your company that would generate more collaboration with the stakeholder groups whose loyalty you are seeking?

(image credit: )


Jamie NotterJamie Notter is a vice president at Management Solutions Plus, Inc., where he leads the consulting division. He and Maddie Grant are co-authors of the book, Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World.


P.S. If you aren’t already signed up and don’t want to miss out on  28 Days to Building Fierce Loyalty, please sign up here.



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  • Thank you so much for hitting on loyalty being a relationship and not a transaction. People are people, not numbers and statistics, and would like to be treated as such. I also love that you tie in collaboration. Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something, and why not let them? Great post, thanks Jamie!

    • Thanks Sherrie! I think we’ve been ignoring potential for decades by not “letting them” be a part of it. Thanks for commenting.

      • Anonymous

        We are hearing that again and again in this series “loyalty is not a transaction.”

        • Anonymous

          Loyalty is not a one night stand, its a relationship. It takes time to develop and mature.

          • Anonymous

            I almost don’t want to admit it, but saying that loyalty is not a one night stand, a huge lightbulb went off.  Hey, if the shoe fits…

          • Anonymous

            Hey, different strokes for different folks. I just mean its not a onetime and done thing. It takes a while.

            Nothing bad thought about anyone who gets what I mean. Glad to hear it clicked.

  • This piece about it loyalty really being in THEIR court stands out to me in what you’ve written here, Jamie. Thanks for adding your views to this rich stew. I suppose, in a way, I’m lucky, in that I’m a one-person operation thus get to be directly involved in each stakeholder group directly. A disadvantage of this, though, is that I’m so deeply in the woods that it’s difficult for me to see what I’m not doing or what I could do differently, so I’ll come at your inquiry from the other end. Some things I’d like to keep doing that I feel are actually generating more humanized collaboration in my company are: seeking testimonials and using them, displaying the outcomes, particularly those that were powerfully valuable and unexpected, for others to experience; interview ideal clients and other collaborators to learn more about what’s important to them (really) and adopting some of their language in expressing these things within the organization; and conducting surveys and having conversations with collaborators before launching services,  especially in the interest of learning about their experience, tastes and preferences in delivery methods, again drilling down into what’s important to them and why.
    I’ll keep doing these few things to continue keeping up my end of deepening these relationships and will adjust as I learn. … and I’ll remain open to incorporating new behaviors as I come to know their value in building loyalty.

    • Doing. Learning. Adjusting. That’s awesome and is exactly what I’m getting at. There is obviously still OUR piece to THEIR loyalty equation. I just was cautioning that it isn’t always linear. The learning piece you mentioned is critical.

      •  oo! I and love what you’ve stated here: “There is obviously still OUR piece to THEIR loyalty equation.” The equation isn’t linear much at all. except in its pieces… I’m seeing something here about developing agility in multiple dimensions, but also about seeing myself as a constant that is by no means static, but increasingly facile at showing up with all I’ve got and learning all the while… Wouldn’t it be cool to develop/identify/define a factor that somehow measures ones propensity to evoke and build fierce loyalty?!?

        • Anonymous

          Working on that Lydia….working on that. 🙂

  • Carla K.

    So… Is that to say that the questions “How Can I Help You?” and “What/ How would you like our business relationship to run/be like?” valid questions to ask you current and potential clients? If the “ball were in ther court” and we llicit their response to those questions, would that be the collaboration to gain loyaly?

    • Hi Carla. Absolutely. Good questions are a cornerstone of collaboration, if you ask me. You may hit challenges if their answers to those questions are surprising–but it’s through that collaborative conversation that I think you’ll start growing loyalty.

    • Anonymous

      I think customers, clients, prospect – heck people in general are so starved for someone to actually ask their opinion that your questions are the perfect way to begin a collaborative relationship. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        You know what they say, opinions are like that thing you sit on, everybody has them…

        But nobody likes to listen to other opinions that arent the same as theirs, people are too scared of being different these days.

      • Anonymous

        I agree 100%, people are so starved for that question.  People are just starved in general for the human touch in general, so this is perfect & so timely.

  • Thank you for pointing out collaboration as an important route to loyalty! It just makes sense that we feel more attachment to things we helped to create.

    It seems to me that this can also tie into the importance of gratitude and acknowledgment of the support we receive, as mentioned in previous posts- is there already collaboration going on, once we stop and look? Collaboration on a project is a little different than offering support to an individual- it creates a sense of investment in the project, in addition to a relationship with the individual. Recognizing when we’re experiencing collaboration, not just personal support, lets us encourage others’ investment in our projects.

    • Anonymous

      Ooooo I love the idea of acknowledging when WE are experiencing collaboration in addition to creating collaboration. Awareness. Love it.

      • Thanks! I really think people want to collaborate (because people want to help create wonderful things!) but they’ll move on if you don’t respond to implied offers. All of us hesitate to offer things when we’re not sure it’s wanted, right?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jamie

    I like that you made note about loyalty being about more than just the customers a business wants to reach.

    Collaboration is such a big word but can be as simple as asking one other person about a new idea you have.

    Loyalty is a relationship, and it’s dynamic simply because people are involved. And people are forever changing.

    To answer your question: I think I do an okay job in collaborating with others but I will work harder at keeping this uppermost in mind, especially when others are affected.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Lori Finnigan (aka @DooneyPug)

    • Anonymous

      Yep – relationships with our clients and customers are just like all the other relationships in our lives. They grow, change, shift because the people involved grow, change shift. And it is the simple things that are the glue in relationships – no matter what kind you are talking about. 🙂

      • Yes, and this is why relationships (and loyalty, and collaboration, and network building, etc.) are basically a set of really important business skills that we need to be developing all the time.

  • Anonymous

    Jamie – I’m just reading material today on Samuel Adam’s Crowd-Craft project  where Facebook Fans got to collaborate on the recipe for their newest beer. So fun AND so smart this collaboration thing. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I love how you wrote “loyalty is a relationship dynamic.”  How easy to forget that loyalty is not something we do, it’s something we’re gifted with.  I love the concept of humanizing business.  It’s been such a long time coming & to be honest, I thought it was too rare a concept to actually take hold.

    So what can I do to encourage collaboration?  I love the concept of having the conversation where I get to know them.  I get to know what they’re all about, what’s important to them, what their deal-breakers are & what they would truly find valuable to do, be or have.  It seems to me that the more you allow people to become a part of what you’re building- your brand, your business & the like- the more they become invested in it and want to see it succeed and grow.  Sounds like by creating & nurturing relationships, you’re allowing other people to help you help them.  Huge win-win!

    Thanks for bringing out the human-ness in us & showing us the value of human-ness in business!

    • Thanks Annette! Maddie and I certainly hope the humanize idea takes hold. I know the business world has been anchored in a mechanical model for decades. But we’re getting a better look these days of the power of more organic and human ways of doing things. Building loyalty through collaboration is just one example.

  • Anonymous

    I think many people (and I see myself as I type this) are concerned that if they give up control, they also give up some if not all of the reason for their position. In fact, since you cannot be with your (subordinates/customers/clients) 24/7 it is optimal to cede control and build the collaboration you describe.  The people/organizations find success. Some that use the old approach find success as well, but it’s getting tougher especially as access to info becomes simpler each day.

  • My immediate reaction to this article and the question posed (“What could you do differently to collaborate with…”) would be to ask those very stakejolder groups you are considering.

    When we ask and listen carefully then we are already giving up some of our control.  We invite contribution, innovation and improvements. 

    Do people like to be invited?  My hunch is that they do and my experience is that I do not.  That’s a tension, but then I am thinking specifically about simply being asked to complete, for example, online questionnaires asking if I like their website and similar.

    The invitation, or Ask, has to be meaningful and has to connect on, I’m guessing, a Humanize -d level…

    Thanks for a great article and fascinating comments.

  • rmsorg

    @twitter-10284192:disqus  Love this post, my partner @TomAllinder:twitter  just put this to practice with a public company we are working with and yes, it requires more work, but in the end the shareholders are happy to be able to collaborate & have an open relationship with a human being and not a corporation/logo etc. 

    Thanks for sharing with us such a poignant post!

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