Want Customer Loyalty? Be Loyal To Customers

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 2, 2015

First, let’s ask a big question: Is it a good idea to relentlessly pursue customer acquisition when they leave as quickly as they arrive? It’s time we give acquisition-retention formulas a serious overhaul and shift strategies. Now, let’s ask another big question: How do we change things up? 

Put the focus on what consumers value. Let’s look to improve what we give them in return for their time and attention. Here are some areas to concentrate on: 

Customer experiences are the new value exchange 

Increasingly, consumers’ experiences inform how loyal they are to a brand. Hundreds—even thousands—of experiences, both direct and indirect, help shape their perception of a brand. When these experiences occur, brands have to be ready for anything to make the most of them. They must make every experience have value. It’s a big challenge, but the brands that seek to create valuable experiences will find that the payoff is a more engaged and valuable customer. 



To achieve this, map the journeys customers make as they engage with your brand. Begin by writing a strategy to manage those experiences that carry the most impact. 

Don’t focus on customer loyalty--Focus on being loyal to your customers 

Conventional wisdom says that loyalty is something that customers earn. Brands offer points, games and rewards, thinking this is the way to consumers’ hearts. But the opposite is true. Customers are loyal to brands that show loyalty by listening, understanding and giving their customers a sense of ownership. 

Many brands that customers are passionate about, such as Disney, create loyalty through affinity. The most loyal Disney customer wants the brand to make the magic come to life and let them experience it. Disney makes sure it is providing its customers with more experiences so those customers get more of what they want. 

Creating loyalty can also be as simple as making customers feel in the know. Look at In-N-Out Burger and its secret menu—it’s one of the best loyalty programs around because it shows customers that they understand them and want their experiences to be the best they can be every time. The takeaway here: Identify ways you can recognize and reward your customers—even ways without costs. Remember, even the small things matter. 

The rules of marketing are being reimagined; Now it’s about content 

Consumers no longer want to be sold to. They want something that interests them; then, they expect your brand to be able to anticipate their desires and needs. Consumers will get answers to their questions, but they may not be the ones you want them to hear. You may think you are the steward of your brand, but if you’re not managing your customers’ experiences on an everyday basis, you’re most likely not the only brand voice they are hearing. The key is to manage and be out in front of the content. This requires a deep understanding of your customers in a manner that gives you a window into how your brand can impact their lives. People relate to a good story—a story in which the customer is the main character and the main character always gets what he or she wants. You need to connect your brand’s experience with the customer’s. 

Provoke action to bring about interaction. Creating the right content that is both relevant and available when it matters is the key to success. 

Use data to look forward, not just measure history 

Data is the record of history. But it can also show patterns and be used to predict. What if you could know which consumers would become your most profitable customers and the strongest advocates? Data is at its best when used to make informed decisions, but it is not single data points that will get you there. Look at several sources of data to help you see how a person thinks, shares, posts, shops and engages. This connection of data sources enables you to know your customers beyond what they have done—it allows you to see what they are planning, seeking and intending to do. Through this powerful base of knowledge, you can better prepare for the series of experiences your customers will encounter within your brand’s ecosphere. Knowing not only “who” but “why” allows marketers to create affinity and passion within their brands’ customers. 

Data must be a living part of your idea creation. Connect your data with many other sources to get a more complete picture of your customers and to identify opportunities. 

The true value of a customer is not always sales 

What’s a good customer worth? Most people say it’s the sum of what they spend with you. This might be one of the biggest myths in marketing. For instance, let’s a say an SUV owner fills up at a certain gas station two out of five times. But a hybrid owner gets his gas at that same station five out of five times. On paper, the SUV owner might spend more, but are they really more loyal? A simple customer value score based on dollars makes the SUV driver the better customer, but what if the hybrid driver has converted two friends to the brand? The time has come to look at customer behavior in a more holistic manner to determine actual value. 

Measure your customers’ value in respect to their engagement beyond sales. How your brand ranks against others in their choice priority is a true measure of loyalty.

3 comments about "Want Customer Loyalty? Be Loyal To Customers".
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  1. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, September 3, 2015 at 10 a.m.

    Dan:  Many great points but a few questions.  Doesn't success on the loyalty front require top management to re-think relationship "investments" and sometimes over-ride the efficiency experts and pressures to constantly report quarterly growth?  Yes you can use big data but the impact of somebody just remembering your name is pretty powerful too.  Secondly, do you think most of the affinity/loyalty programs are too brand-centric rather than customer centric?  Jim

  2. Daniel Olson from The Loyalty Consultants replied, September 3, 2015 at 1:52 p.m.


    These are great questions. I would say that for any organizations to reach success on the loyalty front requires a commitment from not only top management but the company as a whole. Since customers will build their opinion and assessments of a brand based on the many expereinces they have with a brand, managing these expereinces becomes a company wide initiative. So it does come down to "little things count"  as you say remembering a name or even acknowledging their value as a customer. On the second question most programs are designed to grow the business and bring in more revenue, as they should be, but many times only effect around 30% of a customer base. So i agree with expanding programs to include non purchase engagement as an addition to purchase as a program focus. This allows for progams to be more customer centric and appeal to more customers than just a points earned for purchases type program.


  3. Shep Hyken from Shepard Presentations, September 6, 2015 at 7:09 p.m.

    I’ve always believed that before you can expect your customers to be loyal to your company, you have to show loyalty toward your customers. It’s a two-way street.  This article has some great ideas and sound advice on how to deliver loyalty.

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