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Let me start by saying that I’m a Zealot for Publix, so posting on Kroger is certainly not something I’ll plan to do often. However, this article on loyalty got my attention.

They say the cost to acquire a new customer is five to ten times more than keeping a current customer. Kroger has done the math and dedicated themselves to creating loyal customers by creating more than people just looking for a discount.

Read the below excerpt from Tim Manner’s “reveries” blog. What do you think? Is Kroger creating loyal customers? Are they building Zealots for their brand?

“We don’t need to draw in others who don’t shop with us because the biggest opportunity is with our loyal customers,” says Kroger chief David Dillon in a Cincinnati Enquirer article by Laura Braverman (10/8/09). David says Kroger realized this almost ten years ago, and has been on a path ever since “to put the customer first, and permanently.” Most famously, Kroger engaged with London-based dunnhumby to build a database of 45 million shoppers, using the data to “create advertising campaigns and provide targeted coupons to its most loyal customers.”

Click here to read the full story

For more on Zealotry Marketing, visit us at GuestRelationsMarketing.com

What to do to follow through effectively with customers to create zealotry?

1. Collect data and use it.

First rule of effective marketing is to build a database of your prospects and customers. The more information collected the better. Analyse it. Learn from it and shape your subsequent tactics.

2. Personalize it.

No eblasts. This guest willingly provided you with specific details of their preferences and background. Approach them accordingly.

3. Integrate it.

The worst thing as a customer is to come back for another visit/transaction and have to repeat the whole dialog like its your first-time. Make the data you collected available to all employees. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Tyre. How is that software program working out?”

4. Respond in kind.

If you have asked for a response – survey for instance, or if a note or phone call has been made, then respond. Net Promoter suggests your top people should be responding to the negative comments, not merely those that are gushing praises. Addressing negative situations helps prevent negative word-of-mouth and often gains the respect of the person.

5. Don’t give them another card.

Promotional and loyalty companies will no doubt disagree, but do consumers really want another “loyalty/frequency” card to keep up with? It has become me-too marketing and most often has a negative payout. Again, a well-planned and executed database and directed strategy can accomplish more, at less cost and without requiring your customer to jump through hoops in order to be delighted.

6. Announced “loyalty” rewards are expected. Unannounced rewards delight.

An announced/promoted loyalty program is done so to help make the purchase in the first place. An unannounced reward is more of a true “thank you” for your loyalty. Is your objective one of discounting to gain multiple purchases or to thank your guest for attending, purchasing or sharing their experience with others?

Do you have “customers” for your brand? Most people (hopefully) will answer yes to this question. But a larger question still remains. Do you have “guests” of your brand?

What is the difference you may ask? Let’s take a look at the definitions for both.

A customer can be defined as:

1. a person who purchases goods or services from another.

2. a person one has to deal with.

A guest can be defined as:

1. a person who spends some time at another person’s home.

2. a person who receives hospitality.

3. a person who patronizes.

The verbiage clearly speaks for itself. Certainly we all have (and need) customers of our brand. Those that simply purchase goods or services; they’re in, they’re out.

But do we all have guests of our brand? Those who are patrons of our brands? A guest is welcomed, a guest is known, a guest is invited into your brand.

Simply having your employees think of your “customers” as “guests” could potentially make a huge impact on your service. Communicating to your customers as guests – from the methods & marketing channels you select, to the words you use – could take your relationship to a whole new level, as well as your business.

You will find those “customers” you treat as “guests” are far more likely to be the ones who are Zealots for your brand.  Amazing how a simple change in wording can lead to a complete mindshift for a brand.

A zealot is defined as someone who demonstrates excessive enthusiasm for a cause. In marketing terms, they are measured moreso by their satisfaction, than by mere usage patterns. They are willing to participate, often at their own expense, in programs to further the brand because of their belief in what it stands for.

Why hasn’t the intersection of marketing practices better connected with zealotry?  By definition, zealots can not be easily manipulated.  They already have preconceived ideas and are clearly not shy about expressing them.   Clearly they are individuals that will share what they know and feel. But, because they are actively involved in the brand, does their interest become too much of a good thing?  Are marketers in reality afraid of zealots – those who may know more than marketers desire – not only the promoted traits of the brand, but the inside workings and the less favorable characteristics? Is it a control issue? Is it one of understanding?

My take – zealots scare most marketers. Most companies want you to buy, but not get too involved.  That requires a greater commitment on the part of the brand. Not just better communications, but more listening.  And, a more authentic delivery.  Which means collaboration between marketing and operations.  Just doesn’t happen in a many places.

What is your take?  Is the concept of zealotry marketing understood and practiced?

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