Tag Archives: brand loyalty

How to Build Brand Loyalty – 5 Basic Steps

Building brand loyalty involves being able to attract customers, keep them coming back, and have them sing your praises to other consumers.  Their loyalty depends on how well you take care of them and lasts through the reputation you build for your brand.

Step One:  Produce and provide a quality product or exceptional service.  Quality is a major determining factor when it comes to the price equation.  Consumers will purchase an inexpensive product and remain loyal if it’s useful and offered in a consistent fashion.  French fries come to mind as an example.  Fries are relatively cheap to produce, yet customers develop a fondness for how and where they get their favorite fries.

Step Two:  Meet or exceed the customer’s needs.  Beyond food, shelter, and clothing, you should know what your customers need.  Do they want the prestige of owning your product or using your service?  Do they seek certain performance standards?  Do they need to fill a basic need or pick up a bit of luxury?  The deeper knowledge you have of your client’s needs, the easier it becomes to meet and satisfy those demands.

Step Three:  Deliver what you promise.  Failure to deliver what’s promised opens the door to lots of business headaches.  How does your delivery person deal with an irate customer when your order taker says the pizza will be there in 30 minutes and it takes longer than 90 minutes to get it there?  Does “Oops, I’m sorry!” help build brand loyalty?  The other side of this brand building step is to avoid promising what you can’t deliver.

Step Four:  Take care of your customers.  Customers will remain loyal to your company and its brands if everything about it provides them with more pleasure than pain.  If a customer likes how well your vehicle handles, how easy it is to get in and out of, how much storage space it provides, and how good it looks sitting in their driveway, the odds are fairly good you will cultivate a loyal customer who brags to others about your vehicle.

Step Five:  Ride for the brand.  Once you’ve settled on a brand identity and begun to implement the strategy that goes with it, stick to it!  Understand that it make take time to become ingrained in the consumer’s mind, so allow your advertising and other marketing efforts to work before pulling the plug and shifting gear.  When customers know you make the difference they’re looking for and remain consistent, their loyalty is easier to maintain.

These are five basic steps on the path to building brand loyalty.  There are others, of course, and we’ll share more in coming posts.  Keep in mind that what may seem simple can be rather complicated.  Your task, as a business owner, is to remain focused on doing what you’re good at.  Engaging a business and/or marketing consultant can be an effective way of growing your business and achieving your dreams.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand 

Image Is Important

There was a time when you would see a shop owner sweeping the sidewalk in front of the store before opening for the day.  The reason was simple:  Image.

Customers care about the image of the businesses they patronize.  Why would they purchase the same jeans from a discount store when there’s a certain prestige in saying you got them at a higher end store?  Image.  The owners of a business should also care about their image for that same reason – because it’s important to their customers and prospective customers.  Think about it.

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you eat at this restaurant if you saw how the kitchen looked?

Would you patronize a fast food restaurant if wrappers, napkins, and straws littered the floor whenever you stopped in?  Would you be a regular at a grocery store where the produce section displayed rotten tomatoes or moldy fruit?  How about a machine shop where it looked like the floor hadn’t been swept in a month?

The inside appearance of a business is important for building brand loyalty.

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

Would you feel more confident if the kitchen looked like this one?

The image your business conveys to the public on the outside, including in your brand identity, logo, and your advertising, is even more critical to the long-term success of your business and your brand.

If you have  a delivery or service vehicle with signage that advertises your business, how does it look?  Is the paint or decal faded?  Is the vehicle showing some rust or have a few dents?  What does that tell your customers?  Any lights out in your neon sign?  Are you flying a faded, tattered American flag?  Are veterans one of your market segments?

Do you showcase your location in your ads?  Are you proud of what your building looks like?  Take an objective look at your website.  Does it convey the kind of image you want people to have of your products and/or services?  Think about the last time it was updated.

Your website, like your place of business, should convey an image that gives your customers the confidence to send their family, friends, and referrals to you so they can become customers as well.

It’s often the little things that make a huge difference when it comes to the image your business conveys to the public and your customers.  What message does it convey to shoppers coming to your grocery store if there are no carts available because they’re scattered around the parking lot?  Yes, rounding up the carts and returning them to the corral is a menial task for some employee, especially if it’s raining, but those carts are usually the first contact those consumers have with your business.

If you’re not sure what the first impression is that people have of your business, try first to visit it impartially – as though you were a client yourself.  What’s the feeling you get?  Think about engaging a consulting firm such as Brand Irons to find that out.  First blush is one measure, but that impression may go much deeper and require talking to your customers about why they patronize your business.

Something as simple as sweeping the floors could enhance business.  Think about it.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Consumer Oriented Marketing

Rule #1 – The customer is always right.

Rule #2 – When in doubt, see rule #1.

Sound familiar?  As a business owner, you know rule #1 may be false but that the customer’s perception is that they are always right.

Customer Focus

In either case, the consumer is the lifeblood of your business.  The more focused you can be on exceeding the needs of your customers, the more profitability you enjoy.  You will build brand loyalty and have repeat customers as well as solid referrals for years to come.  Think about what you would have without any customers.

Here are some steps to consider in becoming more consumer oriented in marketing your business and your products and/or services:

  1. Know what you’re selling.  You may believe you sell insurance, but your customers are buying peace of mind and the ability to sleep well at night.  Think about what your customers are purchasing.
  2. Know your customers’ buying motivation.  This relates to #1, but goes further by analyzing whether they’re purchasing on price, convenience, satisfaction, previous experience or some other factor.  Think about why they buy from  you.
  3. Know your customers.  How often do they come to you?  What other demographic information do you have about your market segments?  Do you know where they live, or what they do for a living?  Can you address them on a first name basis?
  4. Know how to reach your customers.  Traditional advertising methods such as radio, TV, or newspaper ads may fail to get their attention.  You need to know what appeals to them and how you can best get your message through to them.
  5. Know what you want.  If you want loyal customers, treat them like they want to be treated.  That’s the platinum rule.  If you want referrals, ask for them.  If you want volume and traffic, that’s a different call to action.  Ask them to do what you want.

In many cases, your consumers want you to listen to them.  That is the foundation of the rule about the customer being right.  They may expect that you will refund their money or take back the merchandise or hear their complaint, and those all relate back to them knowing you will listen to them.

Some of the most innovative new products and services have originated from listening to consumers and their suggestions.  Keep an open mind and listen!

At Brand Irons, we walk business owners through a proprietary process that helps them identify their products, markets, value propositions, and viable distribution channels.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Have You Reached The Top?

How do you know if your business has reached the pinnacle?  Is it when you own the niche for your product or service and the accompanying majority share of the market?  Is it when consumers come back and sing your praises throughout the land?

A lot depends on how you define the top.  When a mountain climber reaches the top, there’s only one way to go, down.  A business, on the other hand, can reach the top and remain there for quite some time.  You might even compare it to the children’s game, King of the Hill.  The stronger and smarter you are, the longer you stay on top but you can always be knocked off by a surprise move.

When you define what the peak is for your business, you may discover you have already reached it.  If, for instance, the acme is achieving five million in sales for your product or service, your financials may show you’re already there.  What was the goal in your original business plan?  Have you looked at that lately?  What do you do if you’ve achieved the goal you originally established?

The obvious answer would be to diversify and find another mountain to climb, or to re-define the peak you seek to achieve.  If you achieved five million, can you do 15 or 20?

From a marketing perspective, the journey to the top involves taking the right steps, having a support system behind (and with) you along the way, and bringing others with you.  There’s a story somewhere about the person who wants to climb the mountain and struggles to do so, but when she helps others reach the peak turns around and realizes that in the process of helping another get to the top, she has done so herself.

Back to marketing, though.  When you do the right things and achieve the objectives you set out to reach, your continued success – the ability to remain at the top – depends on building brand loyalty.  If your customers love being on top, #1, with you and you foster that admiration with them and your prospective customers, your place on top of the mountain can remain strong for a long time.

Last week’s blog referred to Ford and Chevrolet.  Both remain strong on the automobile mountain because they have taken care of their customers, but also because they have not been afraid to take risks and innovate with new designs and different vehicles.  They’ve made mistakes along the way, no doubt.  Ford with the Edsel debacle and Chevrolet with the recent government assistance program.

The lessons to be learned are that if you remain focused on your customers and what they want, you can weather set-backs and still reach the pinnacle.  Mountain climbers have challenges along their path to the peak; it’s not a flight of steps up to the heights.

If you are King of the Hill, enjoy it while you’re there!

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



Ride for the Brand

There’s a lot of sense in James Owen’s Cowboy Ethics that relates tomodern business ownership, such as living each day with courage, taking pride in your work, and always finishing what you start.  Make sense?

Your entrepreneurial spirit and drive to succeed gives you the courage to greet each day, and that belief in your product or service imbues that sense of pride.  Napoleon Hill writes about winners never quitting and quitters never winning, so finish what you start.  A half-hearted effort is just that, half-hearted and hardly worth doing at all.

Other aspects of the cowboy code were/are to do what has to be done.  If a fire has to be put out before you leave for the day, put it out.  If you’re in the food service business, you clean up the garbage whether you want to or not.  It has to get done.

Circle B brandAlong the same line, a solid principle is to ride for the brand.  As the business owner, you live, eat, and breathe your brand – your business, products, and services. You represent your brand.  You are selling it, even when you don’t think you are.  The vision you create for your employees and customers should convince them to ride (act and be loyal) for your brand as well.

Think of Harley-Davidson as an example.  Harley owners ride their motorcycles because they love the bikes, and they are extremely loyal to the H-D brand.  Dealers and employees perpetuate the concept of riding for the brand.  It’s the brand loyalty every business owner aspires to, or should want for their products and services.

Cowboys were hired on by the trail boss to ride for the owner of the cattle they were herding; the brand.  Their life, in many ways, depended on their loyalty to riding for the brand.

The cowboy way of life and sense of ethics may seem archaic in a high-tech world, but the values these pioneers in the expansion of our country held still have merit.  What follows is Owens’ entire list:

  • Live each day with courage
  • Take pride in your work
  • Always finish what you start
  • Do what has to be done
  • Be tough, but fair
  • When you make a promise, keep it
  • Ride for the brand
  • Talk less, say more
  • Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  • Know where to draw the line.

Happy Trails!

What’s In A Brand Name?

Okay, here we go with the marketing analysis of what constitutes a successful brand name.  Is it the identity or the product behind it?

Allow me to start out with a professional football team that has made a least one Super Bowl appearance.  For many years after that early appearance, the team compiled an unenviable losing record.  A former client who played for the team provided some insight that relates to the team’s brand.  When he signed with the team, the attitude of the players was more about when they were collecting their paychecks than if the team was winning.  The end result was the team rarely won and was losing its fan base.

When the attitude began to change that if they played well, fielded a competitive team, and won more games, there would be more fan support and their pay would be greater, lo and behold, they started making the playoffs.  They are now a serious contender consistently in their AFC division.

In this case, the product behind it was influential in the success of the brand.

Changing to a different product and a current client situation, there are many people who like to drink strong alcohol.  In a lion’s share of cases today, the identity carries more influence in consumer patterns than the product.  Significant advertising dollars are spent to create an image of the product that attracts consumers to drink and purchase the product.  Think of the pirate concept behind a certain brand of rum.  If you like, drink, and purchase that brand, are you buying the marketing concept or the rum?  A discerning palate with an acquired appreciation of rum is less likely to consume that product when there are better rum products out there.

In these two examples, one is more about the product and the other more about the identity, or brand.  The more closely these two can be married for your product or service, the greater likelihood you are to successfully market it and build your brand to the level it is capable of achieving.

How do you do that?

First, you must know your product or service from a different perspective; the viewpoint of your end user, the customer.  You might think you sell camouflage hunting clothes, but in reality you are selling the ability of a hunter to blend into the surroundings where they hunt to increase their odds of bagging their prey.  Your customer, therefore, is looking for a pattern similar to their hunting ground in a garment that is comfortable, quiet, and offers them the best chance of success in the woods.

Second, the better you know your customers, the more you can motivate them to use your product or service.  Once they’ve bought, you want to keep them as customers and build loyalty to your brand.  You want them to identify with your brand name and recommend it to others because of what they love about it!  McDonald's LogoEven though it may not be the healthiest fast food restaurant on the planet, consumers flock to McDonald’s because they a) recognize the brand; and, b) know the products will be fairly consistent in quality and price wherever they see the golden arches.  Brand loyalty strengthened by an identity that is reinforced by the product quality; you know what you’re going to get when you order at McDonald’s.

Third, build your brand.  If you have started a business and sales are lagging, it may be your identity – the perception consumers have of you – that needs to be adjusted.  Make the adjustment, but only after you’ve had someone help you with viable consumer research.  Talking to a couple of friends is market research, but comprehensive research and analysis goes a bit deeper.  Do some test marketing.  Get people’s perceptions of your product and the identity you put forth; it may reveal you simply need to change the color scheme to increase sales.  Get feedback from your customers.  What do they like or dislike about what you provide?  Some answers may enlighten you – what I refer to as a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) – while other suggestions may be of little merit.  You have to make the ultimate decisions.  Your brand is your ticket to adding revenue to your bottom line.



What is a Brand?

A brand is an illusion; a perception in the mind of a consumer.

Every consumer is different, so a brand can mean one thing to one person and something totally different to another.

Consider some examples:

If you drink red wine, and maybe have a glass every day, do you buy the same brand every time or do you try different reds?  Do you drink a red because you heard it was good for you?  Some of you may enjoy how you feel after a glass or two.  All red wines are perceived to – in a branding sense – have medicinal purposes or go good with certain foods.  If you, as the consumer, lock in and buy cases from a certain winery, you have bought the illusion it’s the best red wine … in your mind.

Red wineWhat convinced you it’s the brand to buy?  Was it a commercial or advertising message?  Was it an influential bartender?  A good friend who also loves it?  The perception that you should at least try the brand, followed by a bottle you really enjoyed, are the steps that would have created your brand loyalty.

My grandfather drove a Ford automobile.  My uncle managed a fleet of vehicles for a multi-national company; all Fords.  My dad drove Fords, although he was the trading sort and brought home a variety of makes and models over the years.  This family history created the impression with me that Ford was the vehicle to own, so I’ve been loyal to the brand because of that perception.  Three of the vehicles I’ve purchased new have been Mercury products; a former, now defunct, division of the Ford Motor Company.  The kicker is that the illusion has stuck, largely because of history.

Yes, a brand is an association with a corporate product or service.  Business owners will pay exorbitant fees to a big name accounting firm because of a perception, which might be that “they must be good because they charge so much.”  In reality, accounting is about debits and credits so any certified public accountant (CPA) should be able to service your account as well, if not better, than the higher priced firm.

Is one brand of milk any better than the next one in the cooler?  Only in perception … and probably price.  Think about it.  Where does the milk come from?  A cow.  What the cow eats may change the content of the milk, but it comes out the same way and is processed and bottled according to federal standards.  And here’s a secret that applies to other products as well:  Some milk processing plants bottle milk for a private label as well as for their own label.

From a business marketing perspective, the more people you can convince that your illusion – your brand – is what they should believe in, purchase, and remain loyal to as long at they need or want it, the greater will be the profits on your bottom line.

Illusions can work like magic if you create the right ones.  That’s where professional help such as Brand Irons comes in, to strategize and help you create the most effective marketing for your product and services.

The Consumer Mindset

This is a topic that has always been fascinating to me as a professional business and marketing consultant.  Marketing is about perception, so the mindset of consumers begs a whole series of questions.

  • What do consumers buy?
  • Why do they buy?
  • Why should they buy from a certain seller vs. a different one?
  • How do you reach the consumer when they’re ready to buy?
  • How do you convince or encourage them to buy when you want them to?

These questions seem simple, but the answers are rather complicated.  Keep in mind that the average consumer wants to avoid being sold; they prefer to make purchases on their own terms.  My hair stylist told me she finished her Christmas shopping early in 2012; she bought everything online.  Her terms.

There are several factors that influence the consumer’s mindset, such as the budget (is the product or service affordable), the level of need (is it a necessity or a luxury purchase), and the deal (is it a bargain at the price offered or is it better to wait), among other variables.

Let’s start with the level of need.  Remember the heirarchy of needs?  It starts with basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter.  If your business offers products to meet these necessities, the theory holds that your business should survive and succeed.  The consumer, in most cases, wants toilet paper so you should have little competition … except there are different levels of softness, sheets per roll, and other variables.  What determines the consumer’s decision to buy in this scenario?

Here’s where other factors come in.  Is the consumer looking to stock up because the supply is running low?  Is there a good price on their favorite brand?  Are they totally out and need whatever they can find at whatever the price?

With other necessities, such as electrical power and a water supply, the consumer has little choice since the market is dominated by monopolies.  Utilities provide cost savings through the control of grid systems which enable individual users to share the cost of a major development.  Going “off the grid” for your energy needs is an expensive project for the same reason it is costly to develop your own water capture and filtration system.

Another aspect of the level of need is whether the purchase is vital or merely a luxury.

This can be where the budget factors come in.  If a woman needs a pair of pants for work and the same slacks are available at a discount store for 30% less than at a name brand department store, where does she buy the pants?  She may buy them at the department store for the “prestige factor” or save the money buying them at the discount store and saying she bought them at the other place.

As the retailer, your advertising is going to depend on which store you own or represent.  The discount outlet can be effective marketing the pants as “department store quality at 1/3rd the cost” whereas the department store is likely to focus on the quality of the name brand with a message along the lines of “available exclusively at.”

Another influencers in the consumer’s mind is brand loyalty.  If the woman needing pants has always purchased her work slacks at the discount store, she will most likely purchase the next pair from that store.  And if she’s loyal to the department store, she will buy there despite the price difference.  The deal is less a factor when the power of the brand trumps the perceived value.

So what have we learned about the consumer’s mindset?

While advertising tends to lump consumers together, the individual makes his or her own buying decisions based on their psyche, budget, personal preferences, and perceived value.  As a business owner, it is essential to understand your customers as much as you possibly can so that you and your products or services, remain relevant to them and their desires.

If you’d like some assistance with some market research on your consumer’s mindsets, please contact Brand Irons.