Amazon. Apple. Facebook. The brands with the most loyal customers are, more often than not, the most successful in their market. And it’s no wonder: loyal customers are repeat customers. They’re easier to upsell and cross-sell, and they’re less price-sensitive. They drive down the cost of selling and have higher customer lifetime values. Often, they’re brand evangelists (e.g., Apple fanboys) who can drive significant word-of-mouth business. Indeed, according to Bain & Company:
For more than a decade, our research has shown that companies with a high Net Promoter Score [which measures how likely customers are to recommend the company] significantly outperform competitors. For example, a recent Bain & Company study of 135 companies in more than a dozen sectors and geographical regions found that Net Promoter leaders in an industry grew more than two times faster than their peers.
How do you create more loyal customers? Obviously, you must take care of the basics. You have to keep your promises and value customer relationships. If your product doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do or you’re unresponsive to your market, you won’t have very loyal customers—and you probably won’t be in business very long. So, a good product and good customer service drive loyalty. And so do formal customer loyalty programs—airlines’ travel rewards programs, for example, or buy-X-coffees-get-1-free programs at the local coffee shop.
But most companies with rabidly loyal customers go beyond all that. They stand for something in their customers’ minds—like Harley-Davidson (self-reliance and freedom, with a hint of outlaw), Red Bull (a “no fear” approach to life), and Nike (self-empowerment through sports and fitness). They sell products that delight and amaze customers—like Apple, GoPro, and Disney. And, across the board, they invest in sophisticated content marketing programs that deliver real value to customers. This can include creating:
1. Content that’s especially entertaining, educational, or informative. For instance, Autodesk’s Line/Shape/Space regularly publishes original content of genuine interest to architects, engineers, and designers.
2. Customer community. Thriving brands typically have thriving online customer communities, whether they’re independently run (like many communities devoted to Apple and Apple products, including 9to5Mac, MacRumors, and Macworld) or the brand itself manages them (like the Harley Owners Group, a.k.a. HOG). Communities are great because the customer-created content they generate can do a lot of work that companies would otherwise have to do themselves.
3. Ways to recognize customers. Consider GoPro. Not only do its products delight and amaze customers (what could be more charming than starring in videos of you doing what you love most?)—it solicits submissions of customer videos, and includes the best in official GoPro branding videos, like this one.
The bottom line? If you want more loyal customers, you’ve got to go beyond average when it comes to content marketing. You’ve got to captivate customers and give them value—in ways that your competitors don’t.