Loyalty programs, reward points, gamification of business, social media engagement, word of mouth marketing. These are all tools meant to tackle one of the biggest challenge many companies face: customer loyalty.
In a discount-obsessed society brand loyalty seems hard to achieve. Faced with a multitude of choices and bombarded with cleverly designed advertising messages, consumers are constantly tempted to switch brands.
It comes as no surprise that 51% of CMOs list customer retention as a major challenge. What’s surprising is the rapid adoption of the latest trends and technologies listed above before covering the basics of generating brand loyalty.
This article is an invitation to business owners and marketing professionals to take a step back and reflect at what achieving genuine brand loyalty really requires.
Brand Loyalty To Do List
Offer an Excellent Product
Every successful business is based on a good product. There is no point in even thinking of customer retention when your product doesn’t deliver as expected.
Customers have certain expectations regardless of the product price tag.
Let’s look at the meat industry as an example. Everybody expects to pay more for organic meat than the regular one. However buying regular meat should still taste good and not make people sick.
How do you learn what the customer expectations are? Competition provides an excellent benchmark. It’s good practice to compare your product against your category leader. These are the expectations your will probably have to match, if not exceed.
This complements the point above about offering a great product. Many companies build their reputation on a great product, but fail to update their offering to keep up with the category dynamics.
Blackberry’s open letter to customers in which it asks the customers to believe in the brand does too little, too late, to fix the damage. The reality is the brand has lost its cache with the consumers, by failing to stay relevant. Regardless of the causes, open letters and other corporate PR messages will not bring Blackberry customers back.
Staying relevant require two things: knowing the customer and anticipating the latest trends in the category. The first requires research, the second long-term vision.
Provide Support When Things Go Wrong
Greek playwright Euripides said “Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends.”
There is no better opportunity to build brand loyalty than being there when it matters most. Smart companies turn complaining customers into brand advocates by quickly making things right for them.
Mistakes happen- it’s how the company deals with them that build reputations.
South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai is tied with Ford in the 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index issued by Brand Keys. An impressive comeback, given the initial bad reputation the brand had in North America.
The two initiatives Hyundai launched to support its customers during bad economic times might have had something to do with this achievement.
During the recent US government shutdown Hyundai announced a payment deferral initiative for government employees who were temporarily out of the job. The shutdown lasted for only 16 days, so this goodwill gesture will likely have minimal financial impact for the brand.
In 2008, during the global financial crises, Hyundai was the first automaker to launch the Job-Loss-Protection program. In essence, Hyundai promised a free, no hassle return of a vehicle financed by the company in case the owner could not afford the payments.
Rumor has it that it took Hyundai only 6 weeks to move the program from a great idea to the communication phase. The announcement was made during the Super Bowl game, on an 2.5 million dollar ad slot.
It’s really simple. Achieving brand loyalty mirrors building a solid personal relationship: a first good impression, a promise delivered every single time and strong support during good and bad times.