Customer loyalty is a misunderstood concept in the marketing world. How do you sell something to people and simultaneously create brand loyalty?
Selling them something and then hooking them on replacement parts is a tactic doomed to fail. It’s about getting them to come back, tell their friends, and creating brand evangelists by welcoming them into your brand’s story while becoming part of theirs. The good news? Creating brand loyalty is a science. As Emmett Murphy and Mark Murphy found in their book Leading on the Edge of Chaos, a two percent increase in customer retention can have the same effect on the bottom line as reducing costs by 10 percent. At any cost, storytelling that takes on a customer-first mindset is a bargain. Here’s a look at how marketers can help a brand gain and retain customers.
Content marketers might wonder how they can help build long-term brand loyalty, since the obvious supposition might be that a brand’s product creates loyalty. However, brand loyalty begins long before consumers buy anything. Havas Media Group recently conducted a study on meaningful brands and found that the top 25 meaningful brands (measured by the value a company’s products add to consumers’ lives and the value the company adds to the community at-large) outperformed the stock market by 133 percent. Altruism is good, but a brand can’t be known as meaningful if its story isn’t told. Not only do companies with great stories outperform the stock market, they also enjoy 46 percent higher share of wallet than companies that consumers don’t perceive as meaningful. There’s a reason people are willing to spend more for goods that come from brands that project a conscious capitalism model—they join in the story of a brand doing something positive, and the product echoes that positivity throughout their lives.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom would always hound you about manners and first impressions? She was on to something. Brand marketers and consumers are engaged in a two-way dialogue to create a story that extends beyond the product, and both sides are wise to trust their first impressions. A recent study from the American Marketing Association noted that salespeople converted more sales when they made their pitches based on initial impressions of customers’ needs than when they had the opportunity to overthink things. Similarly, customers are likely to buy when emotions outweigh extended deliberating. When you make a positive first impression and tell an emotionally compelling brand story, your product or service practically sells itself. Customers who felt initially attached to your product are far less likely to be disappointed with their purchase than those that buy a product based solely on quantitative criteria.
Rap star Pitbull has proclaimed that his life is a movie in two different hit songs—once followed by the diss “and you’re just TiVo” and the other time saying, “call me Martin Scorsese.” Maybe he’s on to something, too. In a recent Content Standard interview, brand strategist and cofounder of UTA Brand Studio Larry Vincent said, “The dimension that gets overlooked [by brands] is the story of your customer. In their head’s is a life movie. The successful brands are great at becoming an essential part of that life movie. When the customer experiences the brand, the movie feels more real.”
Thinking about customers’ life movies is a great way to understand how your brand can stand out from the competition. Vincent goes on to note that people love feeling like heroes, and that small things like Uber’s user-submitted driver ratings are “a big part of why the brand’s customers are loyal and why it is growing so rapidly.” Letting customers participate in your story and helping them tell their own is one of the best ways to build brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is built on well-told stories. Consumers place their money and their trust with brands they feel connected to. Connections are usually made on an emotional level, and where high-design curb appeal ends, backstory begins. Socially conscious businesses can stand apart from the crowd by sharing their stories and inviting customers to participate with them. Companies like Dollar Shave Club make consumers buying basic goods feel like heroes for saving money while helping the hilarious crew of underdog razor purveyors slay industry giants. There are plenty of great stories out there, and everyone is dying to be a part of one. What are you doing to help them?
Interested building customer loyalty through stories? Check out Skyword’s free webinar, New Digital Media Strategies for Increasing Audience Loyalty.