I’ve spent a lot of time lately exploring the question: What Causes Loyalty? One client believed it was punch cards. Another thought it was a product that works as expected. I disagree.
I see three themes from companies and brands that have fostered true loyalty.
1. Be inclusive.
Including customers in product development, promotion, and even strategy fosters a sense of belonging. Build-A-Bear Workshops sell teddy bears and stuffed animals. What makes them special is including the customer in the entire process, from what animal to choose to kissing the tiny heart and making a wish before it’s sewn inside. That creates more than a stuffed animal. It creates memories and a sense of pride and joy.
2. Be exclusive.
Yes, this may seem to contradict #1. Once you welcome customers into your community, make them feel like they are part of something just for them. Lady Gaga has done this exceptionally. She has named her fans (Little Monsters) and they feel like they are part of something. She offered them a sneak peek at her latest single, and they responded by making it #1 on iTunes in record time. While she includes anyone who wants to be a fan, she makes them feel like an exclusive group.
Yes, Apple innovates. They are not the only one. Comparing Borders to Barnes and Noble a few years ago, my money would’ve been on Borders. However, B&N invested in innovation with their e-reader, the Nook. This paid off in spades, allowing them to post a profit while Borders closed stores and prepared for potential bankruptcy. Innovate to where your customers are going, not just where your company is headed.
Here’s the dirty little secret about loyalty: it only lasts as long as it’s good for those being loyal. Once there is a better offer, we humans tend to decide WIFM (What’s In It For ME?) and jump ship. If you are not innovating to where your customers are heading, then you are inviting giant killers to take you out!
3 ideas to consider as you look ahead to what will cause your customers to be loyal year after year. What else would you add?