I enjoyed Blue Bell ice cream for my birthday. That might not mean much you, but consider this: I’ve had Blue Bell ice cream at almost every special event for the last 20 years, and you can’t get Blue Bell ice cream in California. My mom shipped it to me! How did Blue Bell make such a loyal customer out of me?
Strong Branding. I can still sing their jingle, and it’s been the same ever since I can remember. Their logo and packaging have remained unchanged, and their product has stayed the same. They add new flavors, but overall, it’s the same brand I’ve known since I was little. If you are constantly changing your brand, customers get confused. They think, “If the brand is changing that much, what’s their product doing?” When you pick your brand identity, make sure you consider the long-term message. The advertising may change, but the heart of the message needs to support your brand identity. Consider the Coca-Cola branding debacle. When they came out with “New Coke”, it failed miserably. People thought of Coca-Cola as “classic”, and didn’t take kindly to be forced into “New Coke”. They knew nothing about “New Coke”, and sales fell. When Coca-Cola went back to their “classic” standard, sales rose.
Build Trust. Getting customers to trust you is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. People are generally risk-averse, so it’s much easier for them to stay with a company they trust. Why try some other ice cream when I know Blue Bell always tastes great? If you can’t build trust directly, build it with a thought-leader. I may not know enough about hard-drives to trust a company’s word, but if my husband trusts that company, I will trust that company. It’s not just about a reputation of quality, it’s about sticking with customers so that they’ll stick with you.
High opportunity cost. Make it hard for people to leave! If you consistently offer exceptional products, prompt customer service, and fair prices, why on Earth would anyone want to leave? I’ve owned two Hondas in my life, and I’m quite content to own Hondas for the rest of my life. The car runs great, the salespeople are knowledgeable, and the maintenance is easy. It’s a high cost for me to try out another brand of car and another dealership. You need to exceed expectations, so that it’s very difficult for anyone to decide to leave.
Become a habit. The more involved you are in a customer’s life, the harder it is for them to leave. Create more touch-points with your customers, and make your product or service part of their everyday life. When I go to the store, I grab the same brands over and over, because that’s what I’ve always done. Habits are hard to break, so once you become a habit, you’ve most likely scored a life-long customer. Additionally, if it was a habit for a parent, it can easily become a habit for a child. You can save on acquisition costs and retention costs by becoming a mainstay in a household. When a new household is started, they’ll continue in the buying habits they built as a child.
So, are your products a mainstay? Do your customers keep coming back?