While I often argue that social media marketing is an excellent way to build brand loyalty, it occurred to me recently that the benefits of such consumer commitment may not be immediately obvious to all marketers.
Clearly, customers who are engaged with a brand are less likely to leave for a competitor. That is the main perk of consumer loyalty but some marketers may question whether that is enough to justify the effort (and therefore budget) needed to build those relationships. After all, that cash could have been spent on developing a new customer base.
Well, I think the benefits of loyal customers go far beyond simple retention. Here are a few of my perceived perks. As always, please feel free to add your own, or to disagree.
Word of mouth
Loyal customers will chat to their friends about you.
I have a colleague who has really engaged with the Innocent smoothie range. She has been genuinely charmed by the quirky marketing campaign the large corporation has rolled out to maintain its small-firm persona.
This means that most days she will read the bottom of her daily bottle of juice or smoothie out loud – because the company has printed funny messages like 'open at other end' and 'in emergency break dance'.
I usually balk at paying a couple of quid for a drink but I can't deny I am drinking more of the stuff since she started mentioning it daily…
People will pay more for a brand they are engaged with, perceiving it as superior to other market offerings.
A cereal producer may make both its own-brand food and the supermarket's economy range – and there may be no difference at all between the two. However, customers will almost always prefer the costlier, branded option.
If you build brand presence, using many of the same tools you will use to build brand loyalty, your range can also enjoy this consumer preference and the potential to charge a high-end price this presence allows.
I have listed this as its own perk, instead of under word of mouth, as it is such a hugely powerful result of strong consumer loyalty.
Some highly loyal customers will carry their love of your brand to the web. They may align themselves with online fan groups and communities, write positive consumer reviews, blog about you or sing your praises in forums.
These are very special people. Customers will understandably find feedback from real users much more trustworthy than any marketing copy you publish.
If even one of your fans has enough online sway to become a super-advocate - a massively influential character - then he or she
will be converting people to your brand simply with their own enthusiasm.
Increase existing sales
Once your customers feel loyal to your brand, they feel they can trust it. This means they are far more likely to increase the amount they spend with you.
As well as potentially increasing their purchase of your product or services, these customers will also be interested in any further offerings. So, if you launch something new, you will have an existing bank of keen consumers.
Engaged, loyal customers will be much more willing to chat to you than other customers – particularly if you increase their company love by rewarding them for their time.
This means you can analyse these customers' behaviour much more easily than you can other users. You can survey them and find out what created this brand loyalty in the first place – meaning you will know what tactics to employ when driving up brand awareness among other groups.
Making highly loyal customers feel they can communicate easily with you and that their feedback is informing your direction will enhance their commitment to your brand, as well as providing you with important information.
Kevin Gibbons is Director of Search at SEOptimise