True Loyalty in Tough Times

The first notice most of us got of the current economic crisis came from TV and newspapers. Now, as the ripple effects of softening business move through the marketplace, just about everyone I talk to is seeing some sort of softening effect on their business. We are all vulnerable.

We can't afford to be sloppy right now, in anything we do. We can't waste resources. We can't let customers, in whose acquisition we have invested considerable sales and marketing resources, slip away, believing that new customers will show up to take their places.

In this economy, customer loyalty is one of the most important variables that will affect our success. It will be increasingly difficult to find new customers who can become big customers, so we have to get the most benefit out of what we already have. But ... we also can't afford to be sloppy with our concept of customer loyalty.

In so many cases, companies mistake promotional bribes for loyalty. But the kind of loyalty created by this type of approach is fleeting, and defenseless against a better offer from your competitor. (And you can bet that your competitors will be offering richer deals in the near future.) This type of loyalty, which I call transactional loyalty, can temporarily steer transactions in your direction, but keeps you very vulnerable in tough times.

The kind of loyalty you want to create in these times is what I call True Loyalty. When a customer is truly loyal, she is not loyal to your latest promotional offer, or to filling out her punch card to get her 10th smoothie for free. When True Loyalty happens, the customer is loyal to you. More specifically, she is loyal to her relationship with you.

This is a big difference. If a customer believes she is in a "We" relationship with you, her frame of reference is not the latest transaction, but the entire history of her relationship with you.

Soon, here at tompeters.com and at yastrow.com, I will share my thoughts on how to create True Loyalty. For now, what do you think? How do you avoid transactional loyalty, and create True Loyalty? Is True Loyalty a key to thriving in a tough economic climate?