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Retention Tips, Strategy

Want to Inspire Loyalty in your Customers? Try this Old School Tactic

Three words: quality, quality, quality

Adam Fout
November 14 2019

Brand loyalty in the modern age is fleeting. Brands can no longer assume they’ve bought your loyalty merely because you once purchased a widget or a gizmo. Likewise, customers won’t hop on board the long-haul retention train just because companies beg and plead and email them to death. So how can you inspire loyalty?

Amazon (along with many other smaller brands) has tried hard to compete using the power of the deal. They offer consistently low prices. But there’s a better way. Apple, as one major example, doesn’t offer discounts often. They don’t have to — they’ve established themselves as the luxury phone company. Thirty years ago, there was no such thing. And yet, their brand is slipping. People have finally run up against a wall with Apple’s pricing. Customers aren’t seeing the value like they once did. What’s the common thread here? What ties Amazon and Apple together?

It’s the quality of their products — but not in the way you might think.

Customers are tired of throwaway culture

There was a time in the world when things were built to last. For many businesses, this was a bad strategy — if you sell an item that lasts a customer their whole life, you eventually run out of customers. Every new product or model is going to bring nothing more than shrinking sales.

Enter planned obsolescence.

It works to a degree. Customers get used to the idea of buying a new phone or car every few years instead of every few decades. They’ve chucked the idea of a stove that you pass on to your granddaughter and instead have gotten used to buying a new one every time they move. This sounds well and good for the stove manufacturer, but there’s a cost. Ultimately, the brand suffers under this strategy. Your products and services evolve in the mind of the consumer. What was once a “sturdy, well-made product that lasts a lifetime,” something your customers would recommend to all their friends, is no longer a product built on long-lasting quality.

Worse, when a steady stream of similar-seeming products is churned out in 18- or 24-month cycles, people start to lose interest. Who cares about the next phone release when it basically looks the same and its stats are only slightly better? Not many people beyond a small core of fanatic customers. Many companies believe they can make up for this through hyper-personalized marketing or by launching deals, but in many cases, this only further degrades the brand.

What’s the answer to this conundrum?

Lifetime guarantees

Most customers are not exactly chomping at the bit to buy a new computer or cell phone or car every two years.

They want something with value. Value is communicated silently in several ways — and clever marketing copy is never going to hide or make up for these silent signals:

  • Price: higher price = higher quality in the mind of the consumer.
  • Presence or absence of discounts: when there’s no discount, value is communicated.
  • Quality: guarantees or demonstrations of quality (e.g., lifetime guarantees).

Customers are generally only happy with paying a non-discounted premium price if they are convinced of quality.

The other day I bought a printer. I know nothing about printers. I had been buying $50 printers every year for longer than I care to recount. I was tired of it. I went into the store and walked past all the printers until I found models in the $200 range. That’s where I started my shopping experience. I assumed the low-priced options were low quality (and I was right—I’ve got a fancy printer now that I’ll probably keep for decades).

When I went to buy a new mattress, I wasn’t interested in spending more than a couple thousand. I was persuaded to look at the top-end models because of an amazing offer — a 20-year guarantee on luxury mattresses. If my mattress lasts me 20 years, what brand do you suppose I’ll buy for the following 20? During those 20 years, what do you think I’ll be saying about my mattress to anyone who will listen? Do you suppose that I’ll be positive, and loyal, and generally stoked as heckfire that I got a mattress that’s actually guaranteed to last?

Most people are not professional consumers — they’re human beings. They don’t want to spend their life shopping for a new version of everything they own every six months. That doesn’t build long term loyalty. I don’t even know the brand of the last mattress I bought, but I promise I won’t buy it again — I’m already loyal to this new brand by virtue of their promise.

Are you inspiring loyalty in your customers? If this is an area where you struggle, get back to the basics — increase the quality of your offering and put your word behind it, like the good old days. Give it a lifetime guarantee. Promises matter, and when the product fulfills them, you’ve inspired customer loyalty in a way nothing else can.

Good luck out there, marketer.

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Adam Fout

Adam Fout, resident content and brand sorcerer at BlueSteelSolutions, guides brands through the mystical process of creating website and blog content that enchants customers and entices leads. He also writes fiction in his free time at My Website

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