By Danielle Whetstone
Brand loyalty. That emotional connection that influences a consumer’s consistent dedication to a brand’s products or services. Translated into real life: That irrational, psychological force that inspires an overly frugal consumer (yes, I mean cheap. That’s me) to consistently purchase Apple products. Not because they’re better (you heard me, Apple haters!) or more affordable, but simply because I like Apple.
Every business understands the value and importance of brand loyalists. These customers not only bring in a steady stream of revenue and generate higher profit margins, but they are self-commissioned ambassadors spreading the good news about your brand. And, they happen to be the most costly customers to replace. During these economically challenging times, as many businesses are looking for ways to cut back budgets and adjust operations, nurturing your most loyal customers should not be on the chopping block.
That being said, marketing can’t simply continue as usual. This is when the hard work of understanding your customer base comes in. Consider not just who your customers have been, but what’s important to them now.
1. Take time to reassess your demographics. Dive in, beyond age and lifestyle, and understand how they’re responding to a changing economy. There may be several groups that make up your base: from those that cut out all extraneous expenses and only spend on the absolutely necessary, to those who are wealthy and seemingly unmoved by what direction the economic tide turns. Being able to anticipate your customers’ course of action will help inform how you market to them.
2. Similar to the point above, understand how your customers view your products or services. Are they essential, are they a luxury, is it something special they can still reward themselves with once in a while, or something they’ll save for when times are better? Again, understanding what drives your customers’ decisions is key.
3. Consumers appreciate discounts, and while reducing your price point will likely attract more customers immediately, keep in mind that many of those drawn to your discounted prices will jump ship for a more frugal alternative when the economy improves and your prices increase. Be strategic about incentives and loyalty programs and find ways to leverage them for converting those customers – old and new – to valuable loyalists.
4. Be sympathetic. Your brand literally only exists because of your customers. Ensure your messaging and communication with them is sensitive to the challenges they may be facing. I recently heard of friends who have lost jobs during this difficult time. To add insult to injury, their bank charged additional fees because they no longer have direct deposit. While surely that policy was agreed upon by the customer, because of the unsympathetic gesture, you can be sure those are lost customers, and the bad rap that is generously shared on social media is not doing any favors for them. Remember that brand loyalty is an emotional connection and emotions are fickle. Bad reviews have no fury like a scorned customer.
During challenging times, obviously all your customers are vital, but keeping your focus on these essential, loyal customers will not only help you weather the storms, but keep your brand strong for the long game.