Customer retention isn’t just about more selling

By Mark Di Somma

Persuading customers to keep coming backIt’s occurred to me recently that the interesting changes in customer attitude that accompany brand commitment are not necessarily on the radar of enough companies. Consider this. Before we know them, our key concern as consumers with brands is truth. Can we trust them? Are they all they say they are? Why should we believe them? What makes them better than the brand we use now? Most brand communicators get this bit. They know how to fashion a story that talks to our world view and to our need to see value … well, sometimes. They know how to intrigue us. They can persuade us to call or to visit. They’ve learnt to hunt.

Where so many of them fall down is the next phase.

Because after the search for truth comes the need for affirmed faith. Once we are passionate about a brand, we need different things as consumers. We certainly don’t need to be sold to anymore – at least not like we were sold to at first. Now we need to be positively reminded that we’ve made the right choice. We need affirmation that this brand is something that makes more than sense, that it still has places to take us, things to show us, ideas to inspire us …

And that requires a very different message than the one most of us continue to get. “Go on, buy some more” is the message that comes at us. But “Come on, let us show you some more of our world” is what more of us actually want to hear.

Things are this way because brands are generally pretty good at widening the funnel at the top end. They’ve good at introducing new lines, new variants, new dimensions – in order to attract new customers. Competition’s taught them to do that well. What so many of them fail at is the next bit. Broadening the appeal for those who already believe.

And the result is that so many who have given their faith soon feel that they shouldn’t have done so. Because theres no big reward for their decision to lock in. They’re still being treated like prospects. Except now, they’re prospects with a sales record. Perhaps that’s why loyalty figures continue to sink. Because brands don’t quite know what to do with those who agree with them. They can’t relax. They feel an overwhelming need to keep peddling instead of working harder to expand (as in augment) the experience.

Could be we’ve completely overplayed the science of customer loyalty. Underneath it all, it’s a very, very simple concept. Sales don’t make people stay. So customer loyalty is not about keeping or bribing. It’s about doing all you can to widen the gap between “belong” and “so long”. Excitement, companionship, stimulation … these are the reasons why customers linger.

Photo of “boomerang” taken by Robbie Sproule, sourced from Flickr

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