Brands are constantly looking for ways to interact with their current customers, acquire new ones, increase their bottom line and keep their brand fresh. Brand loyalty is one of the most important things that can happen to a business. While there are several steps needed to keep a business afloat, brand loyalty ought to be a priority; and one way to do that is taking care of your bread and butter: existing customers.
Your current customers already evangelize your brand. They don’t just use it, they tell their friends about it, and they write about it on social media. Getting new customers seems like a natural thing to do, but ignoring your current ones in favor of those who may not be brand loyal yet, is a mistake that should be avoided.
How can brands achieve that level of loyalty?
According to a survey by Toll Free Forwarding, 75 percent of Americans think brands should implement better strategies to encourage loyalty.
Here are 5 things to do to achieve that.
Every brand or company has a corporate mission or conditions of satisfaction. My conditions of satisfaction are: have the ability to make money, grow professionally and have fun doing it. These days, brands are swimming in the pond of corporate social responsibility, something once considered a taboo for corporate America.
With all of the changes taking place in society -- culturally, politically and economically, more consumers are looking for brands that align with their beliefs. This is especially true of the younger generation (or millennials). Consumers are using their purchasing power to hold brands accountable for business practices that aren’t aligned with their beliefs.
A great example is Ben & Jerry. The ice cream kings have ingrained social justice into their brand – which lives by the principle of, “If you care about something, you have to be willing to risk it all – your reputation, your values, your business – for the greater good.” They aren’t shy about supporting causes that can be considered “hot button” issues or are afraid of repercussions to the brand even after getting arrested.
Using CSR to attract brand loyalty can be useful for small businesses as well. In order to create brand evangelists, a small business can tailor their marketing and social media strategies to a target niche. For example, if you’re a food brand, or a restaurant, that sells or uses locally-grown produce, use that as a calling card. People appreciate businesses that make an effort to be a part of the community.
Digitalization has affected every industry, including the customer service industry. Long gone are the days where people would write a letter and complain about a product or service they didn’t like. They can do so on social media, but consumers aren’t looking just looking for a place to complain. They’re also looking for brands to help and provide a quick response.
Consumers want brands to be responsive in as timely a manner as possible. If a product is faulty, they want to talk to the right people in order to rectify the situation. Brands need to be genuine, engage with their customers and listen to what they have to say. From Yelp reviews to social media posts, customers aren’t afraid to make their opinion of a product or company known.
A quick, well-thought out response can make a world of difference to an upset customer and rest assured they will tell their circle of friends about the positive experience they had with a specific brand – even if a product is faulty. A positive customer service experience can create brand loyalists.
Remember that show, “Cheers?” A line from the show’s theme song said, “You wanna be where everybody knows your name.” It’s similar for brands. It’s not about literally knowing customers by name, but about creating a culture where every customer feels like they matter, that they’re treated like family. That mentality is important to many – in person and on social media.
One way for brands to create a personal, emotional connection with customers is by tugging at the heartstrings with a childhood or pop culture reference, something that reminds them of home and/or family. Also, something that’s shareable. How many times have we seen on Facebook, or other platforms, something from our childhood? Almost always people share that content as they feel an instant connection.
Remember all the hoopla about the future date on Marty McFly’s “Back to the Future” last October? Brands jumped at the chance to create a sense of nostalgia that would have consumers pay more attention to a brand.
One of the reasons people attribute brand loyalty to is because they trust someone at a high, or visible, position within the company. A BRANDfog study found that when a brand executive has something to say, individuals on social media listen. In fact, 81% of respondents to the study said they have more confidence in the company when an executive is using social media.
We all think we’re experts at something because we’ve done multiple presentations or given several keynotes about a topic. Becoming an expert isn’t derived from speaking or research alone.
I once interviewed Gail Simmons after her stint on the Emmy-winning series, “Top Chef,” and she told me about a piece of advice she once received while writing restaurant reviews for a Toronto newspaper. Her editor told her, “If you want to pursue this (career as a chef), you need to go learn it. Just because you like food, doesn’t mean you know anything about it.” The same principle applies to every career path you take. You need to live, eat, and breathe your craft for you to fully learn it.
Knowing the ins and outs of the business helps build trust, which is the most important relationship you’ll have with your customers; and the most fragile, too.
Customers want to feel valued and what better way than rewarding them for their loyalty? A discount or special offer, especially if it’s unexpected, is cited as the top reason for brand loyalty. Brands are employing a customer service tactic called “surprise and delight” to reward their loyal customers and even creating new ones.
These “surprise and delight” campaigns aim to create a long-term loyalty strategy that covers a series of key touchpoints – social media, brand-sponsored events, in-store experiences, advertising campaigns, and mobile marketing. Take for example MasterCard’s “Priceless Surprises” and Bud Light’s “#UpForWhatever.”
Through its “Priceless Surprises” campaign, MasterCard’s goal was to connect with followers on social media to give them gifts and prizes such as a meeting with Justin Timberlake, an exclusive Gwen Stefani concert and VIP tickets to the Grammy Awards. Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever campaign features a fictional town, Whatever USA, inviting anyone to audition for a chance to fly there for a week of concerts and parties. These experiences are documented on social media and other digital channels, creating a place where customers can directly interact with the brand not wanting to miss out on other opportunities.
Customers aren’t a one-size-fits-all mold – they come in all different shapes, sizes, platforms and purchasing power options. Even if a customer isn’t ready (or can’t afford) to purchase your product or service, don’t dismiss them. Instead, keep engaging with them because they’ll be looking at how you interact with current customers, and if they see what they like, chances are they’ll become future customers that will remain loyal to the brand. Remember, “you need to build a brand around a community, not a community around the brand.”
Jeffrey Hayzlett is the primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives LIVE on C-Suite TV and is the host of the award-winning All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite Radio. Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, Hall of Fame speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders.