How to Nurture Brand Loyalists - dummies

By Bill Chiaravalle, Barbara Findlay Schenck

If you want to build a successful brand, you need to consistently return to your business. Online or in-person, customers really don’t ask for that much. Here’s what they want:

  • They want to be served quickly, whether on the phone, at a physical location, or online.

  • They want their requests or problems addressed efficiently and effectively.

  • They want to deal with experienced, friendly people who they feel relate to and understand their needs.

  • They want clear communication from knowledgeable people.

  • They want solutions that make them feel heard, understood, important, and valued.

Here’s what they don’t want: They don’t want to wait. In person, they consider two-minute waits total service failures, and online they’re gone in a matter of seconds if a website doesn’t load and hook their interest at lightning-speed.

Increasing accessibility and interaction

Customers grow and stay loyal to brands that reach out to them with valuable, interesting, entertaining, rewarding messages that invite and foster two-way communication and ongoing relationships. Here’s why:

  • Social media is the great marketing equalizer.

  • Social media is the great brand truth-teller.

Scan this list of tips to successfully develop brand loyalty via social media:

  • Establish a social media voice people like and want to hang out with.

  • Listen more than you talk.

  • Be conversational.

  • Give credit.

  • Watch comments more closely than metrics.

Generating buzz that spreads virally

Viral buzz comes from developing passionate customers through messages that make noise, get people talking, magnetize interest, and spread on their own because of the nature of their content.

Buzz marketing is high-powered word-of-mouth that aims to get people to tell other people who then tell other people about your brand and its products and service, spreading the message like a virus that transmits on its own far and wide.

Digital communications have skyrocketed viral marketing up the list of branding priorities. These definitions help:

  • Word-of-mouth is age-old. It’s the result of one person telling another person an opinion or a recap of an experience about your brand, business, or product. Online, this can reach thousands — at least.

  • Buzz marketing involves planned efforts to place, post, or air communications aimed at generating high levels of interest, conversation, and excitement.

  • Viral marketing involves attention-seizing, brand-enhancing messages that break rules, make waves, and so highly engage customers that they follow your call to action and use easy-to-use sharing prompts that drive social-media exposure, more views, more sharing, and, best, more sales.

Takeaways from best-of-viral case studies

Keep these proven tips in mind when attempting a viral campaign:

  • Be cool and ride a trend. Strike a chord by tying your message into conversations that are trending on social media. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” videos garnered 15 million YouTube views in part by blending an iPad in a video that tied into the fascination with destruction and the popularity of the then-new tablet device.

  • Be provocative. In your communication, do or say something unexpected or stunning. An example: The bacon coffin, by the makers of Baconnaise and Bacon Salt, was announced on April Fool’s Day and was so amusing to those who “love bacon to death” that the news clip announcing its availability took on a life of its own.

  • Give something away. Hotmail is an example of a virally transmitted free deal. It broke rules by offering the first free email service.

  • Prompt interaction. Invite input, responses to poll questions, photos of fans wearing logo apparel, suggestions for next-generation offerings, participation in contests.

  • Make sharing super simple. Offers that gain value through sharing (Groupon deals are a good example) help early adopters bring their friends into your customer circle.

Loyalty program do’s and don’ts

Loyalty programs reward repeat purchasers with discounts, rewards, or added value offers.

Most loyalty programs take one of these forms:

  • Buy-ahead discounts: The business benefits from upfront revenue and by locking in customer commitment, but because a purchase is involved the customer tends to view the program more as a financial benefit than a customer reward.

  • Purchase-level gifts, rebates, or discounts: The business benefits from increased purchases, but because the programs usually come with fine print about what kinds of purchases apply and over what time period, the programs lack the kind of simplicity that generates widespread appeal.

  • Upgrades and special treatments: Surprise rewards that seem individualized and spontaneous deepen brand passion like no other form of loyalty program. About the only caution to consider is that customers will anticipate and expect acknowledgement again in the future.

Avoid any program that resembles a purchase-inspiring promotion with strings attached.

Recipe for a cult brand

Cult brands happen when customers take brand passion to the nth degree. They happen when customers adopt the brand as theirs instead of yours.

Today, brands inspire cult followings by using all or most of the following strategies:

  • Start with a unique brand identity and promise that customers truly want to be part of. Then spotlight and stay true to your brand differences and distinctions.

  • Offer products that customers not only can customize but that you prefer them to customize in order to adapt the products to their unique consumer preferences, no matter how far-out and unusual.

  • Create a brand experience that’s like no other and that never, ever, falls short of the customer’s expectation.

  • Emphasize viral marketing, buzz marketing, and good old-fashioned word of mouth over traditional advertising.

  • Create fans among your employees and customers, and support development of brand fan clubs, websites, forums, blogs, events, and any other channel that allows those who know and love your brand to share their opinions.

  • Create or at least support the formation of a community of brand fans who personify your brand by displaying it on personalized items, talking about it, and sharing their enthusiasm with others.