It’s nice to get more traffic to your site, or more conversions in one of your advertising campaigns, but these alone can’t guarantee the long-term success of your company.
If you want to stick around for the long haul, you need customers who want to keep coming back to your brand—not a similar product from one of your competitors.
Brand loyalty is a familiar and important concept for most business owners, but it’s a tricky and elusive quality to pin down.
Still, if you do your homework, modify your business, and emulate some of the greatest leaders in brand loyalty with a unique approach of your own, it’s possible to make any audience loyal to your brand.
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Do Good Business
The first step to building customer loyalty is the most obvious—you have to run a good business. The best marketing team in the world can’t inspire brand loyalty for a business that neglects its customers or doesn’t offer a good product.
Take a lesson from Dunkin Donuts, a little-engine-that-could in the coffee shop space. When most people think of a major coffee franchise, they think of Starbucks because of its ubiquitous presence and massive brand. But somehow, Dunkin Donuts remains just as successful, sometimes in the same neighborhoods as the Starbucks giant.
The secret isn’t a secret at all—they offer good coffee at great prices, and keep things simple. Customers aren’t intimidated to go in and order, they pay reasonable prices, and they get high-quality products in return. Because of that, Dunkin Donuts remains popular—and its customers aren’t interested in going anywhere else.
Develop an “Us and Them” Mentality
If you want people to buy your products, you have to draw a bigger line between you and your competitors. You have to use your brand as a major differentiator and help your audience understand that being on the other team means they’re not on your team.
Apple did this in a powerful way with its “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” line of advertising and “think different” brand messaging. Buying Apple products was cool, and if you bought Microsoft or other products, you weren’t part of the “cool” crowd. Today, Apple still remains the top name in consumer brand loyalty, and there’s little question why.
For an even more practical example of the power an “us and them” mentality can have, look at the world of college football. Some teams have bigger, more devoted fan bases than others, just as some brands have more customers than others. When you look at the top team fan bases in college football, you see a striking trend—the most popular teams to root for tend to be ones with the strongest rivalries, like Ohio State and Michigan, or the Alabama Crimson Tide with Auburn or Tennessee, depending on who you ask. It’s the “us and them” mentality that encourages loyalty by default.
Build Trust Through Consistency
It’s also in your best interest to remain as consistent as possible. For the average brand, this means maintaining the same colors, aesthetics, tone, messaging, and overall experience across all platforms, from your company website to your physical headquarters to your Pinterest account. Consistency makes people more familiar with your brand, and therefore, more invested in it.
One of the biggest film franchises to date has been the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with just shy of a dozen wildly successful movies and a raving fan base to boot. A big part of its success has been its consistency—even though different writers and directors have taken the helms of different movies, the same universe, the same tone, the same characters, and the same overall experiences have remained consistent throughout, inspiring familiarity, trust, and loyalty from filmgoers.
A big part of its success has been its consistency—even though different writers and directors have taken the helms of different movies, the same universe, the same tone, the same characters, and the same overall experiences have remained consistent throughout, inspiring familiarity, trust, and loyalty from filmgoers.
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Listen to Your Customers
Facebook enjoys one of the best retention rates in the social media world. Why? Because they listen to their users. Almost every week, Facebook rolls out a new update. Sometimes it’s something small and hardly noticeable, like a design change on a rarely used button, and other times it completely changes the layout of the site, like with the introduction of timelines. Some of these are met with a glowing reception, but others are treated like the plague. So why has Facebook held such a high retention rate if its updates and additions only enjoy a mixed or moderate reception?
Facebook listens to its users when they like the new features and when they don’t. If they don’t like a feature, Facebook removes it and tries again. If they do like it, Facebook continues working along the same path. If you’re ever in doubt about how your business is doing, listen to the voices of your customers—they’ll tell you if they’re happy, or if something needs change. The only way to keep them loyal is to give them what they want.
Brand loyalty may be more difficult to acquire these days, thanks to easy price comparison shopping and the deterioration of face-to-face buying experiences, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Make your business as good as it can be, differentiate yourself from the competition, remain consistent in your branding, and above all, listen to your customers. The longer you do this, the more loyal your audience will become.