When a brand sets out to create a more loyal customer base, their first instinct is usually to introduce a loyalty program. While this will certainly help, it is only part of a broader strategy that will truly create loyalty.
That bigger strategy is known as retention marketing and it is the key to creating a community of customers who shop because they love your brand, and not because you have the lowest price or steepest promotion.
Let’s go into the three main components of retention marketing.
1. Empathize with why your customers buy
The first step to making your brand something your customers come back to again and again is understanding why they buy.
For example, think about what a simple watch purchase says about someone. If you buy a Rolex, you probably care about the look of luxury and prestige of owning that particular brand. If you buy a Casio Gshock on the other hand, you likely care about fitness, adventure, and the outdoors. Or if you buy an Apple Watch, there’s an aire of tech savviness to it.
Customers don’t buy products - they buy how owning a product will make them feel.
Customers don’t come to your brand because of your product. No matter how great your products are, they actually purchase from your brand because of how owning your product will make them feel.
One of my favorite brands is coffee accessory maker Fellow. Their minimalist and sleek design make me feel like a professional when I brew a cup, so I often buy a mug, kettle, or coffee canister when they debut a new product.
Think about your own favorite brand, and what inspired your last, or your first, purchase?
Understanding what really motivates your customers when they consider your brand is key, because it helps you learn what kind of marketing you should be creating for them. From there, you can make sure that everything you do as a brand resonates with your customers on a personal level.
2. Create marketing that adds value to the customer experience
People hate to be sold to, but that’s exactly what the typical online ad tries to do. The ads you see are purely transaction based, so drive web traffic they drive will only create transactional, one-time purchases.
Once you know what drives your customers though, you can start crafting marketing material that speaks to who they are as individuals.
As a gamer, one brand I'm particularly fond of is Steelseries, partially because of the awesome value-add marketing they create. Not only does Steelseries have fun and engaging social content, but they produce blogs that are useful and valuable to readers no matter where you are in the customer journey.
Value-add marketing builds relationships and doesn’t just push toward a purchase.
Value-add marketing goes beyond the transaction to create a relationship with each of your customers. Ultimately, it provides value to your customers whether they are going to make a purchase or not. You can create connections with your blog, reward programs, and more, to enhance the experience that both customers and not-yet-customers have your brand
3. Build a community of delighted brand advocates
After learning what motivates your customers, and creating value-add marketing that speaks to those desires, you need to wrap the whole experience together by encouraging the creation of a community.
To build a community that lasts, customers need to want to be part of it, which is where the three stages of community building come in.
For a community to be successful, customers need to want to join so they can actually get value out of it. That means the benefits of being a member need to be connected to what customers value. Additionally, for the part of your brand community that is powered by your rewards program, the rewards you offer need to be achievable in order for them to be driven to join.
Then, members need to be motivated to engage in actions that are valuable both for them as members, and drive value to your brand and the community. That can include social media follows, product reviews, as well as purchases. The key is to connect the value members receive with the emotions and motivations that they identify with both themselves and your brand.
Lastly, after being thoroughly delighted with your brand community, members need to be transformed into brand advocates by making it beneficial for them to share the community with their like-minded friends. That creates a community building loop that lets your community grow organically while providing both you and your most devoted customers value.
All three pillars work together to build loyalty
In order to create the customer relationships that drive long term growth, you need all three pillars to be successful. Individually, each pillar is not enough to create true loyalty to your brand on its own.
Let’s go through an example of all of the pillars working together in the brand experience of New Zealand fashion brand, Shine On.
It’s easy to see that Shine On has done their homework, and know exactly what their customers are looking for with their fashion purchases. Not only does Shine On make luxurious, but still affordable products, but they’ve built the Shine On brand experience around causes that their socially conscious customers care about.
They call the ongoing initiative Shine On Gives Back, and feature charitable organizations that their customers can donate. Currently, they’re supporting a charity that is conveniently called Shine, and encourage their shoppers to #supportshine and their domestic abuse support services.
By showing their visitor that they care about what their customers care about, they start to build emotionally connected relationships even before visitors are ready to make a purchase. Plus, when return customers come back to consider an additional purchase, they’re reminded about the good they are part of by shopping with Shine On.
Having realized that their customers are interested in great fashion and doing good, Shine On created lots of ways they can give their shoppers value across a variety of channels.
Not only do they have great videos on Shine On TV, and incredibly valuable product reviews on their website, but they also launched dozens of Facebooks groups just for “Shiners.” All these ways for customers to learn more about the Shine On brand, their products, and their vision.
Each piece of value-add marketing content provides another way for customers to connect with Shine On and form a long lasting, emotional relationship.
To wrap things all together, Shine On takes what their customers value and their value-adding marketing and pulls it into a brand community with the Shine On Rewards Program.
Not to be outdone, they cover each stage of community building with their program too. Customers are encouraged to join after seeing the great rewards, motivated to engaged by the incredible perks offered for moving up through their VIP tiers like free gift cards, and then delighted to share by a generous give-ten-get-ten referral program.
By taking each of the three pillars into consideration as part of their complete retention strategy, Shine On makes their brand a valuable community for their customers to be part of.
It doesn’t take an enormous marketing budget either - whether you’re as big as Shine On or just starting out, putting the pillars of customer retention in place makes achieving true customer loyalty entirely possible.