Strategy Session: Brand Loyalty Goes So Many Ways

Strategy Session: Brand Loyalty Goes So Many Ways


How many times have you heard that it’s so much less expensive to sell to an existing customer than it is to find a new customer? The costs involved in finding new prospects far outweigh the convenience and return on investment in selling something to someone who is loyal to you, or to a brand.

Sometimes the easiest path to increasing your sales might be right in front of you. Someone who has bought something from you, in your store or on your website, and is happy with their product and whose trust you have earned, should be an excellent prospect for future sales.

Of course, new customers are also vital to your success. But ask yourself how much time you are devoting to mining your current customer list and reaching out to them about new purchases.

Years ago, many store owners filled out customer cards on 3×5-inch index cards. They wrote down the customer’s name and address, and the purchase, with a No. 2 pencil. They then threw the cards in a plastic file box, never to be seen again. It felt good to keep track, but the cards never saw the light of day.

Today, mining data and tracking customer sales could not be easier. Tracking a customer’s purchase life of photography products might be your most important marketing tool. Why? Because, in most cases, you know more about what your customers may need than they do.

Consumers are also usually store loyal, and in most cases brand loyal. Think about walking down a supermarket aisle. First of all, you probably visit the same supermarket week after week—not only because it’s convenient but also because you regularly have a good experience there. As you walk down the aisles, you probably pick up the same brand of toothpaste, coffee, breakfast cereals, laundry detergent and a host of other things. And when one of your brands comes out with a new product (say, Tide with Downy or Crest Whitestrips), you’re more likely to try it because you trust the brand.

For buyers, brands do a number of things:
•    They reduce customer search costs by identifying products quickly and accurately.
•    They reduce the buyer’s perceived risk by providing an assurance of quality and consistency (which may then be transferred to new products).
•    They reduce the social and psychological risks associated with owning and using the “wrong” product by providing psychological rewards for purchasing brands that symbolize their own comfort, status and/or prestige.

Are you tracking your customers’ purchases? Are you contacting them every 3–4 months, telling them about new products that are within their brand loyalty set? Are you inviting them into your store to take classes specific to the products they own?

A Nikon owner is more often than not loyal to Nikon, as a Tamron owner is probably loyal to Tamron. Of course, many of you already know this. So, are you contacting your current Nikon owners when new Nikon products hit the market? Or new Tamron owners when they introduce their latest all-in-one lens? Are you counting the months after someone buys a new Canon, Sony or Pentax camera and suggesting a new lens? Are you offering discounts on printing and photo books two months after selling a new mirrorless camera? Are you inviting your customers to classes targeted directly to them?

By the way, whether you know it or not, your store is a brand. You stand for something. It might be high quality. It might be customer service. It might be product selection. In fact, your brand may be your most overlooked asset.

The more often you put your own brand, and the brands you sell, in the heads of your customers, the more often they will think about you and your brand. And they might not have ever thought about making a purchase until you put it into their heads.

Kevin Lane Keller’s “Seven Deadly Sins of Brand Management” sum up the worst things you can do when managing and cultivating your own store brand:
•    Failure to fully understand the meaning of the brand
•    Failure to live up to the brand promise
•    Failure to adequately support the brand
•    Failure to be patient with the brand
•    Failure to adequately control the brand
•    Failure to properly balance consistency and change with the brand
•    Failure to understand the complexity of brand equity measurement and management

Product and store brand loyalty may be the key to your success, if you harvest it correctly. While you think about Nikon, Canon, Sony and Tamron as brands that earn your customers’ loyalty, your own brand’s equity may be your most powerful asset. You and your employees should all understand what the essence of your brand is. It should be what drives them every day.