A few weeks ago my Dad, “Fuzz,” as many know him, was honored by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) as one of its biggest fans.

He’s been attending the High School Basketball Championships since he was only nine years old starting back in 1949, and over the years has attended the Championships 57 times, missing only twice since 1960.

I have personally attended this tournament with Fuzz probably twenty times, and my sons have recently started attending as well. I have to admit, it’s a bit strange for me and my family to go because the tournament is held in Columbus, Ohio and we live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That’s another story altogether.

For years, I have watched the OHSAA honor various people from Ohio who have contributed to the success of the program, mostly coaches and administrators as well as former players such as LeBron James. I thought it was odd they never seemed to recognize anyone from the group of people who really made this tournament what it is – the fans.

Early this year I wrote to the entire OHSAA leadership team and shared the story of Fuzz, who as a young boy attended his first State Championship with his father, a high school basketball coach himself. From there, he began a 65-year love affair with the tournament that despite his age and aching back he commits to watching in person every year.

I was surprised when I was contacted by a marketing intern at the OHSAA who took an interest in the story and decided to run with it. They had us shoot a short video of my Dad that they played on the jumbo-tron at Value City Arena and at halftime marched Fuzz out to center court with the President of the association.

This was truly a great day for my father and my family. I also believe it was an even bigger event for the association itself, as it’s finally starting to recognize that while this tournament is really a great event for the kids and coaches who play, it’s also very special and touches the lives of so many fans in so many different ways.

It was then I started to wonder how many other organizations, in their pursuit of the latest shiny object, a profitable earnings report or the bottom line, probably fail to recognize what has actually caused their success in the first place – their “fans” – their customers.

How many times have you heard a company say that their main focus is to be “customer-centric” or “customer-focused,” and yet every decision or choice the organization makes has absolutely nothing to do with the customer? How often do we see a new policy or procedure put into place that seems to be designed to hurt existing customers, or a new product or service that is only intended to create new business, oftentimes at the expense of current clients.

Look, as a business owner myself I get it. Creating new business opportunities and business development is the fuel that makes the machine go. I also recognize, and every study tells us, that it’s much easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than it is to always have to find new business to stay on top.

It doesn’t take much these days to let your loyal clients know they are special and that they are appreciated, and it certainly doesn’t take spending much money, or any money for that matter. Think about yourself as a loyal client or customer, and I bet every once in a while you would probably appreciate a real, heartfelt ”thank you!”

I will tell you if you can say it on the 50-foot jumbo-tron, it certainly has a nice impact!

Ask yourself this week:

How are you recognizing your biggest fans and your best customers?

Where have you allowed your pursuit of new business to hurt your existing business?

Who has reached out to you recently who you may have neglected over the years?

What can you do this week to tell your most loyal clients, customers and fans that you recognize them and you appreciate them and all they have done for you and your business?

Please post a comment below and tell me how you and your organization recognize your biggest fans.

Thoughts for the week:

Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans.

-Ken Blanchard from the book Raving Fans

One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. –Jim Rohn

It takes months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one. –Unknown

Customer Satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless. –Jeffery Gitomer

Basketball players have systems, but they have to be able to go beyond the system or change the play, when it can help the team and score points.

-Ken Blanchard from the book Raving Fans

Never be afraid to try something new, remember amateurs built the Arc, and professionals built the Titanic. –Unknown

Satisfaction is a rating, loyalty is a brand. –Shep Hyken

Looking forward to our next conversation!