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Frequent buyer programs are frequently misdefined as loyalty programs.   Zealotry is not about “frequency of purchase”.  Your best Zealots may not be heavy spenders or most frequent customers.  But, they remain extremely valuable in terms of referral.   True loyalty is earned by the brand, not bought by frequency of purchase.  Read on …


Let’s just get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as brand loyalty. Each of us likes certain brands and may even love them. We may buy them most of the time, or perhaps even every time. But the idea that we have a true bond with any brand, like the kind of commitment we have in real life with our friends and family, is a farce. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to create that kind of loyalty; most of us tell ourselves that’s the end game and it’s always important to aim high.

What it does mean is that we should take a harder look at how we go about creating what we call loyalty. We need to admit that coupons, discounts, points and prizes are just beanbags. We ought to spend more time thinking about the stuff that really matters to people, and serve that up each and every day.

That means products and services that really and truly solve problems and help people live happier lives. Providing a helping hand when someone really needs it, and smiling because we truly mean it. It’s not because the customer is always right (nobody’s perfect). It’s because it’s up to us to make it right. We may not get the same kind of loyalty we enjoy with our family and friends, but we’ll have more fun, and so will everyone else. Loyalty is what we make it. Your thoughts? ~ Tim Manners, editor.

“In this economy” must surely be the phrase of the year, but Major League Baseball understands it to be true. With falling ticket sales and decreased attendance, they are getting back to the basics and talking to the true, loyal, long-time fans of the sport – their Zealots.

The Wall Street Journal published a wonderful look today (Full Article Here – Loyal Fans Are Batting Cleanup) at the actions MLB is taking across the board to focus on the long-term strategy of recognizing the Zealots for their brand, actions that don’t just include price cuts, but also include value-added benefits like early entrance to games and invites to exclusive player gatherings.  “In an age of fallen circumstances and concerns about revenue, major-league baseball teams are training their attention on a long-overlooked and increasingly endangered species — those unfailingly loyal fans who buy tickets for every game,” states the WSJ.

It is true that loyal fans are often those that all brands most often overlook, especially in the “good times” when they can more afford to so. So brands reach for other targets, the short-term money makers who are true loyalists but will play ball (pardon the pun) for the time being.  “In the past, when attendance was rising, the clubs’ marketing departments focused on big-dollar sales, such as corporate suites and stadium-naming rights … Suddenly, clubs remembered that nobody matters more than loyal fan.” It is the Zealots that talk about baseball, that come to every game they can, that immerse themselves in the details of their team and share with their friends. And, at the end of the day – MLB teams are still in the entertainment business.

There comes a point when selling all their tickets to un-interested fans who don’t actually attend games or support their team starts to detract as a whole from the brand experience, from the sport of baseball overall. Building more Zealots for the teams and sport of baseball ensures long-term success for the brand as a whole.

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

A question we continue to toy with day in and day out. What creates zealotry? What makes people love brands, be passionately committed to companies, be loyal beyond belief?

Said another way, what are some core actions that cause consumers to be zealots for companies.  Feel free to use your clients and favorite brands to think through this.

One thing that stands out – unexpected rewards.    Earning points in a loyalty program doesn’t provoke much referral talk, but if Apple gives you a brand new computer because they are not solving the problems with your one-year old computer, you share that story. If your Starbucks barista gives you a coffee on the house for no rhyme or reason, surely you’ll be talking to others about your experience. And, if you were flying Southwest Airlines and as you checked in for your flight they casually upgraded you to first class because you looked a little frazzled today I’d aim to guess you’d be bragging to your coach-flying co-workers the next day back at the office.

That being said, two questions:

1. Is your company doing anything in terms of unexpected rewards to win over guests? Are your employees empowered to “do good in the brand?”

2. What other things do you think create Zealotry?

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