Marketing Bootcamp

The 3 Characteristics of Brands That Command Customer Loyalty

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Brands that have inspired sufficient confidence in users that they don’t have to sell themselves continually have achieved that Holy Grail of marketing, brand loyalty.

However, just a handful of brands can claim to have that level of a loyal fan following. Even fewer have brand dominance in their categories. How do they achieve what most brands can only hope for?

Related: The One Thing Great Brands Do: Insights From a Branding Expert

1. Constant innovation equals continued success. Achieving success is easier than maintaining success. A smart idea backed with good execution can take your business places. However, most businesses remain one-trick ponies that are prisoners of their product category or original idea.

Great brands are built when innovation becomes a habit. New features, improved service, different product lines, path-breaking product ideas are what keep a brand ticking and customers engaged on a long-term basis.

Take Google. Google originated as an idea in a Stanford University dissertation paper submitted by Larry Page. It is now the iconic search engine offering email services, digital advertising, a complete analytics suite, cloud storage, cloud word processing applications, the world’s most popular mobile operating system to creating driverless cars.

Innovation is in Google’s DNA. Until recently, they allowed all employees to take 20 percent of their time off for working on personal innovations. The resulting array of innovations under Google’s belt have made it the most valuable brand in the world.

2. Great customer service fosters brand loyalty. Making the sale only begins the customer relationship. A few of the many, many elements that make up great customer service include keeping that customer happy for the lifetime of your product, troubleshooting problems in a timely and effective manner, offering maintenance for the product and dealing with the customer in a warm and friendly manner.

Great brands give customer service the same importance as product development. After all, customer service is that critical aspect of a business that can make or break a customer relationship based on a single encounter.

Related: Secrets of the 10 Most-Trusted Brands

Zappos’ legendary customer focus and service excellence has paid off rich dividends. More than 75 percent of its business comes from repeat customers. Here is a company that not only has great policies on paper that promise the very best service to their users, they actually walk the talk too.

Customer service calls fulfilled by customer care executives are notorious for being an expensive affair. The cost of live customer care averages at about $7.5 per call as against the cost of automated customer care systems that are pegged at just 35 cents per call.

Notwithstanding the cost, unlike most other ecommerce brands, Zappos ensures that it offers all callers the benefit of a live person at the other end of the line. Zappos made history in 2012 with the longest customer care call ever. A single Zappos representative completed a successful customer service call that lasted 10 hours and 28 minutes, led to the resolution of the customer’s problem and the sale of a pair of Ugg boots. Now that’s committed customer care, if it ever existed!

3. Happy employees make happy customers. Starting your own retail business (or any kind of business, really) requires lining up a lot of ducks just so. You need a great idea, technical resources, funding, good marketing, the right people and so on but the biggest factor determining the success of a venture is its people. With the right people you can think up newer ideas, get the better know-how and build your dream company.

It follows then, that keeping your people happy is paramount if you expect them to play such a vital role in your company’s growth. Offer a fair and friendly work culture that encourages openness. Put in time and effort to train your employees in the latest skills, offer them benefits that surpass competition to keep them motivated and make them feel valued.

A shining example of a company that takes care of its people is Google. From competitive salaries to flexible work environments (including 20 percent time off to innovate per week) to fantastic on-campus perks like free unlimited meals, free cars on demand, gyms, laundromats, sleep pods – there’s seemingly nothing more an average Google employee can ask for. Not only does this result in motivated and happy employees, it also gives Google some fantastic innovations like Gmail and AdSense that eventually resulted in millions of dollars of revenue.

Marketing gurus have formulae galore that promise to lead your business down the path of branding glory. Every technique or model is designed to chisel away the imperfections to reveal a gem of a brand.

Finding that magical marketing mix that is tailor-made for your brand will take some trial and error. Meanwhile, it never hurts to take lessons from the ones who have cracked the code for themselves!

Related: 15 Tips for Improving Customer Loyalty