Yearning for Customer Loyalty? Here's How to Get It

"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." - Dr. John C. Maxwell

You hear about customers shelling out ridiculous money for a brand or company and wonder why when they can purchase the same thing for cheaper. You see people lining up for hours on end for the latest product a popular brand is launching (like the iPhone 5, or the new Jordans, for example) and, again, wonder why.

As an entrepreneur, they make your eyes turn green for a split second, don't they? (Don't be shy -- you can admit it.) You want the die-hard customer loyalty these companies have. Well, the good news is it is possible for you and your business.

Before we dive in, let's clear something up first -- something that might have been hindering you until now.

Most customers don't care about the company itself.

If you ask anyone why they're willing to spend such insane money on the iPhone, they won't tell you they're crazy about Apple. They'll tell you about the phone's features they find the most convenient or fun.

Even the Apple addicts (the ones who exclusively buy Apple tech) aren't doggedly loyal because they love the company. They're loyal because of the value the company's devices add to their lives.

People don't cough up hundreds of dollars for Jays because they like Jordan's company. They do it for the pride they feel in owning sneakers that carry the name of one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Here's how to earn your customers' loyalty.

According to the CEB's research survey, over 64% of consumers are loyal to a company or brand based on "shared values".

Translation: they're loyal based on what the company stands for.

Nielsen's Global Corporate Citizenship Survey concluded that 46% of global consumers are willing to pay extra for a socially conscious product or brand.

Here are some practical examples:

TOMS Shoes and Eyewear, though infamous for overpricing, follows the one-for-one model: for every shoe or pair of glasses purchased, the company gives a pair of shoes or glasses to people in need in developing countries around the world.

The Body Shop was born from a resolution to never test its products on animals, uses biodegradable chemicals in its products, and even established its own foundation to support human and civil rights, having donated $2 million to combat child sex trafficking.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters supports energy conservation, eliminating poverty and hunger in their bean suppliers' communities, reducing waste (their biodegradable cups are produced from corn); and was one of the first major coffee companies to use Fair Trade-certified coffee beans.

So, what does your business stand for? And will your customers get behind it?

If you haven't considered a social initiative for your business yet, now's the best time to choose one and pursue it.

According to Nielsen's survey, some of the top social causes customers follow include:

  • environmental stability
  • eradicating poverty
  • removing hunger
  • science, technology, engineering, and math education innovation

Of course, don't fall into the "greenwashing" trap and only espouse a social cause for marketing's sake. Our generation can smell a marketing campaign from a mile away and will avoid your brand like the plague if they sense your social activism is fake.

By the way, it helps to know a little about the socially conscious market: most of that 46% willing to spend more on socially conscious brands are actually outside the U.S. according to Nielsen (a vast majority of which are in the Philippines), and of that group, over 50% were between the ages of 15 and 39 years old; 37% were over 40 years old.

There's a common unspoken thread here that is also very powerful: exclusivity.

We're all hard-wired with a desire to belong, and people like knowing they're part of a specific group. Knowing that they're grouped with you in making a difference in the world gives them a more gratifying reason to stay with you.

In the wise words of Dr. Maya Angelou: "people will forget what you said, they'll even forget what you did, but they'll never forget how you made them feel."

So, what does your company or brand stand for? Tell me about it in a comment below.

Flickr photo by Jesslee Cuizon.

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