Remember the newspaper and television ads from the Sixties that showed a smoker with a black eye (obviously put on with makeup) who was determined to keep his brand of cigarettes, even if he had to fight for them? Do you remember the name of the cigarette? (Tareyton)
These ads, which ran from 1963 through 1981, were indicative of the catchy gimmicks that were popular in that simpler time in the world. As cute and silly as they were, however, the tagline exemplifies the concept that all sellers want their customers to embody.
Customer loyalty may seem like a lost concept to many suppliers in recent years. Now, the sellers have to fight to keep their customers from switching. Yes, the times have changed. I was told a story of a prominent retailer who had one of its executives deliver a supplier of the year award to a manufacturer that had obviously served them well. During a side conversation after the ceremony, the executive, however, described his idea of loyalty to that supplier as “lack of a better offer.” Brutal.
A loyal customer should be defined as one who has invested time and effort into building a relationship with your organization and positively chooses to conduct a major part of his or her relevant business with you. However, the supplier must be committed to its customers, as well, and make an aggressive investment in strengthening the relationship. In other words, the ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ approach won’t work anymore. Suppliers must be loyal to their customers and think the way their customers do in order to be successful.
Every organization wants customers that are so loyal that they would fight to keep buying from it. Harley Davidson customers come to mind, of course, because the employees of that motorcycle manufacturer have worked hard to create an ultra-loyal following that is committed to its brand. The biggest success stories in the next five years will be the organizations that proactively implement a strategy to build and sustain a relationship that delivers high value to their customers.
What organization are you so loyal to that you would rather fight than switch?