More On Loyalty

October 17, 2006

Can a product or brand transend it’s role of just a brand? Can it establish a “relationship” with its customers? I believe to achieve real loyalty, it not only can but it must! What do I mean by a “relationship?”

I compare it with one-to-one human relationships. Why can’t a brand have a dialogue with its customers? Why can’t it offer unexpected surprises to its “heavy users?” How you ask? And, as importantly, why? Let’s deal with the why first.

If a brand establishes a “real” relationship with a customer, where the brand provides true value added over and above its reason for being, then that customer is far less likely to switch to a competitor. When you have a good friend, don’t you call them often, socialize with them, send them cards and/or gifts during special occasions? The more you do, the better the relationship. The same can be said for Brands. The closer a brand gets to its customers the longer term the relationship.

How depends in large part on the product and the category. If you recall I cited my experience with BMW; I also remember purchasing a SAAB some years ago. Soon after, I received a coffee mug from the President of SAAB North America. The mug said “make this the last one for the road.” I was quite impressed by this unexpected gift. Unfortunately for SAAB, that was the last communication I received. Had SAAB sent me something on a frequent basis I would have been more likely to consider SAAB once again with my next car purchase. Providing customers with added value timely information and/or unexpected gifts is not hard. Just remember that a current customer has a significant “lifetime value” to any brand. Indeed, if I ran Bentley in the US, I would call every customer on some regular basis as well as send them unexpected gifts. While this is possible with a high end luxury car, it is certainly not reasonable to call every toothpaste user. But it is possible to identify the heavy users and then find a way to communicate with them with value added information.

So, think about your personal human relationships and seek ways to duplicate those relationships between your Company or Brand and its users. I think you will be quite surprised at the reaction you will get and the resultant long-term profitability you will enjoy.

Rich

Bizvice: Strategy, Marketing & Entrepreneurship

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