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April 30, 2008

The Loyalty Trap

Assuming audiences who are predominantly affluent, marketers (particularly advertisers) salivate over two categories of audiences:

  1. A captive audience
  2. A loyal audience

Though there are still some who are in denial, in our attention-starved world, the first type is out of reach. The second type sounds good, but only until you consider what sorts of thinking this can lead to.

The goal of all marketers is to turn paying customers into loyal customers. But what does that really afford us? It is almost as if, upon bestowing upon a customer the title of "loyal," companies consider their work finished and move about trying to acquire new ones.

Loyalty is a crutch. Intentionally or not, it is used as an excuse to be lazy with respect to that loyal group's needs so that the company can focus on their own needs. Or at least what they think they need.

Don't fall into that trap!

Loyalty just leads to permission to behave in a certain way, including, if you're lucky, to communicate more frequently with the person than your competitors. That loyalty is good only for as long as you act in a way consistent with that permission.

Behave well, and you will have established a permission asset.

Be overzealous or neglectful, and you're almost certain to destroy it.  - Cam Beck

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Comments

I agree Cam. Too often it's the "good kids" and "nice guys" who get put last because "they won't care."

Something the airline and American auto industries made a habit of, much to their detriment.

Because even loyal customers become disloyal if there's a competitor who seems to want to put them first.

I actually think the airlines excel at rewarding their most loyal customers. They have extensive systems that, not only give them free flights, but also make sure that they get the best seats, upgrades, etc.

Ironically, this doesn't always translate into good customer service, however, they do reward their loyal customers.

Case in point--

I consider myself extremely loyal to Best Buy . . . as long as there aren't any competitors with better service and within 5 percent of price within a 5 mile radius of my house. As soon as someone better shows up, I'll be there.

More to the point, as a corporate trainer for a hosted lead management software company, our entire existence resides on NOT taking loyalty for granted. The minute a business relationship becomes "expected," rather than "we offer and will continue to offer you outstanding service" you are on the path to losing that relationship.

Alan and Paul - Thank you for the comments. I am not sure if the poor customer service issue isn't a part of this. The airlines have rewards programs, and I wish I could speak more credibly toward it, but I don't travel enough to have it apply to me.

Steven - Kudos to you. Your philosophy fits very nicely with my mantra on life in general and marketing in particular:

  1. In order to deliver effective customer service, you must first become a servant to your customers.
  2. To become an effective servant to your customers, you must first admire and respect them.
  3. Respect for others requires you put their needs before your own.
  4. Every experience is a learning opportunity.

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