My dictionary says that loyalty is “a feeling of devotion, duty, or attachment to somebody or something.” Of course, there are varying degrees of loyalty. Dogs are loyal to us on good days and bad. Many British subjects are still loyal to the Crown. And Chicago Cubs fans – now there’s a loyal bunch.
Wouldn’t it be great to find a loyalty panacea so that all our customers would be loyal to us forever in good times and bad?
Back to reality…
The concept of loyalty is worth examining to determine if it applies in your industry. Research shows that loyalty plays a strong role in the consumer sector.
Now I’m not a consumer expert, but I am a consumer, and I can’t help but wonder: does loyalty lead to consistent purchasing or does a great product experience lead to consistent purchasing?
I really like my favorite consumer brands and buy them repeatedly, when I’m thrilled with the product. I guess you could say I feel loyal to the products. But, if the product were to become mediocre or under-perform to my expectations, would I be “loyal” regardless? Not a chance. Would you?
I’m probably not alone here. What appears to be loyalty is most likely product satisfaction that leads to repeat business.
So, in the B2B world, what drives customer loyalty? Does it even exist? Most marketing gurus believe that marketing and (heaven help us) branding drives customer loyalty. And, they believe, loyalty leads to consistent purchasing.
Do you have loyal customers? Even if you think you do, if your product or service became substandard or mediocre, how loyal would your customers be? Not that loyal, huh? That’s what I thought.
Hopefully most of our customers will stick with us through the occasional hiccup or error. Great relationships can withstand hurdles.
The bottom line: In B2B, product or service satisfaction is what drives the long-term relationship. In B2B, I’ve found no proof that loyalty even plays a role. If you serve your customers well, they’ll continue to buy. If you continue to solve their pain for less than the pain is costing them, and you and your team are pleasant and easy to deal with, you’re probably looking at a long-term relationship.
Billions are spent every year in this country in the pursuit of customer loyalty. Unfortunately most of that money is spent in marketing campaigns. And although marketing dollars can create awareness and interest in your target audience, marketing can’t keep customers coming back to you again and again. Continued great execution can.
Do you think the pursuit of Loyalty is silly? If so, where should we be investing?