Most of us, when we want to grow a business, look to expand our customer base — and when we do that, the natural tendency is to broaden out, to try and appeal to more people.

However, there’s another way to grow: by going deeper.

See if you can bring to mind a company (or product) with which you have a seriously devoted relationship. It might be an app that helps your remote team stay focused and aligned, a coffee shop that’s as obsessed with the perfect pour-over as you are, or the insightful and creative consultancy that’s been helping your business thrive. (Heck, Lauren’s mom felt this way about an elevator company, back when she managed apartment buildings for low-income seniors.)

By “devoted,” we mean:

  • You look forward to hearing from them. They rarely feel like an intrusion in your inbox, because they show up with valuable contributions, not just things to sell you.
  • You feel seen and understood by them on some level. You believe that they’re genuinely invested in the thing you “hire” them to do1, whether that’s organizational focus, an artisanal coffee break, or to sort through complex issues and point out the bits that matter most to you. There’s a sense of alignment between your interests and theirs.
  • They do what they do brilliantly. You feel confident that your needs are well taken care of, and would recommend them to anyone because they consistently meet high standards.
  • Because you feel understood, appreciated, and well-supported by this company, you’re loyal. It would take a lot to lure you away to a competitor.

Now, cast your mind back to how you became a devotee.

We’re going to make a few educated guesses about how it might have happened: you heard about it from someone you know and trust. Or from someone with whom you share a niche interest. Or through a grapevine that’s used pretty much exclusively by people who are seriously into a specific combination of things — coding and art2, maybe, or natural wines and feminism3, or business and personal development4. Either way, our path to building this kind of close affinity is usually through the specific kinds of earned trust, respect, and overlapping interests that feel special, unusual, and maybe even a little bit weird.

Now, all businesses have customers who fall outside the devotee category — the ones for whom your products are a convenient option, a solid choice, but not necessarily something they feel emotionally and mentally invested in.

You need both kinds of customers — but we believe that you need your devotees more.

These people — your devotees, or as we’ve been calling them affectionately, your weirdos — are your people. They care as much as you do about the weirdly specific things you care about, whether that’s “code as craft and the digital commons,” or “sustainable viniculture and gender equity,” or whatever intersection of obsessions lives at the root of your company’s purpose.

Your weirdos aren’t just your most loyal customers — they’re also:

  • your most crucial sounding boards for new features, products, and service offerings;
  • your #1 source of new customer leads and referrals;
  • your “most likely to say yes to an up-sell” customers;
  • and importantly, they are part of your community, which means they will let you know if you veer off-course.

Bottom line: they’re the weirdos who care as much as you do.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Who are the (past or current) customers with whom we’ve had the highest degree of trust and mutual support?
  • What do they care about?
  • Why do they love our products?
  • What else are they passionate about?