Creating “loyalty” across a customer base is not an easy task. Just defining what you are trying to accomplish can spark lively discussion among your marketing team.
Cutting through the marketing-speak, what are your true expectations for a customer loyalty initiative? Are you setting realistic expectations related to changed customer behavior that is measurable and profitable for your business? Or, are you seeking a more esoteric result tied to customer satisfaction, brand advocacy, even brand “fandom”?
My recommendation is that you thoroughly evaluate the objectives you hope to achieve, and tie your goals for customer loyalty to a measurable plan that will shape future behaviors. To have the best chance of success executing towards these objectives, you should also conduct a fearless self-assessment of your brand attributes, and your ability to deliver on brand promises. Understanding the nature, power, and reach of your brand sheds light on the type of customer loyalty initiative that will be most successful for your business.
One brand that seems to have followed this process to build a successful company is Hammer Nutrition. This provider of nutritional products knows where its brand magic is centered. In a publication that hit my desk this week, Hammer founder Brian Frank states “our continual growth, sterling reputation, and devoted following among endurance athletes of all kinds is unrivaled in the marketplace for three reasons – extremely effective products, superlative customer service, and volumes of free knowledge.”
Reading between the lines of Mr. Franks’s comments, it was eminently clear the path to customer loyalty is increasingly being created on a brand by brand basis. It is important to understand objectives and assess your brand strength, but decisions about programs, campaigns, and market execution should be customized for each organization. While there may have been “one ring” to rule Middle Earth, there is no such thing in pursuit of customer loyalty.
Hammer Nutrition is building customer loyalty through a packaged approach. The company offers incentives for first-time buyers and operates a referral program to recruit new customers via word-of-mouth. In the past, they have also run an Ambassador program which rewards competitors for sharing their use of Hammer products and wearing their gear at race events around the world.
This packaged approach to customer loyalty works for Hammer precisely because they DO have effective products, great customer service and provide great content for athlete consumption. If your brand can boast the same, then maybe you can emulate the Hammer approach. If not, you can find success through other methods.
The key is to find the path that is right for you and to be sure you can execute in a financially sustainable way over the long term. Remember that racing for consumer loyalty is a marathon, not a sprint.