“Our customers are really loyal.”

I remember writing this quote, word for word, in my notes, exactly as it was said.  My team and I were meeting with a new client, assessing their business. The company’s revenue was way down — for the first time in their history they were having trouble making payroll — and I noted the interesting disconnect between “our customers are really loyal” and “our business is really suffering.”

Could their customers really be that loyal, if the company’s business was suffering?

Shortly after this meeting, my team and I conducted a series of focus groups and interviews to assess the interests and attitudes of this company’s customers.  The research showed that the customers had strong, positive views of this company; in fact, one of my associates remarked, “Their customers are in love with them.”

At the same time, we were doing an analysis of the company’s business performance, and two numbers stuck out: Repeat business was down, and referrals were much less than we would have expected based on the love the customers expressed.

In other words, there was a huge difference between love and loyalty. Customers may have loved this company, but they weren’t acting like loyal customers.  They were not demonstrating that love through their behavior.

If you want to benefit from the good feelings your customers have about you, it’s important to turn love into loyalty. It’s important to encourage your customers act loyally. 

Customer loyalty manifests itself in many forms. Here are examples of the actions loyal customers might take:

  • Increasing their purchase frequency
  • Purchasing a wide range of your products
  • Purchasing more each time they buy
  • Giving you the “first look”
  • Giving you the “last look”
  • Referring you to friends or colleagues
  • Calling you for advice before they make big decisions

To turn love into loyalty, the first thing you want to do is become clear about the actions you want your customers to take.  Ask yourself the question, “If our customers not only loved us, but were committed and loyal to us, what would they do?”

Use the list above to help you get started; your list might overlap with this one, but it will certainly include other customer actions that are more specific to your business.

Next, match this list up to your current sales and marketing plans, and look at those efforts geared towards current customers, i.e., those for whom you want to encourage loyal behavior. Are your sales and marketing efforts effectively encouraging these customer actions?

Sales and marketing are the things you do to persuade your customers to act in ways that drive your results, so the next thing you want to do is work to ensure you are conducting appropriate sales and marketing efforts to encourage these all-important actions that represent loyalty.

It’s a really nice feeling to know your customers love you. I know my client, whom I described above, felt good about it. But they felt even better once they worked to turn that love into loyalty, and enjoyed the fruits of more productive, more profitable customer relationships.


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