Brand positioning's role in customer loyalty
Effective brand positioning has become critical in a competitively-packed market, according to Dave O'Hearns of UK-based Verve Brands, who explains not only the importance of positioning but how, why, where and for whom you do it.
Brand marketers must start, O'Hearns says, by reviewing their existing brand and what it stands for. In doing so you can get a clearer idea of its vision, values, promises, customer experiences (both functional and emotional) and philosophy. These things can change over time - as can consumers and their brand expectations - so some of this may need to be updated.
Marketers who have not yet identified those facets of their brand should start doing so immediately, because they will have no idea whether or not their brand is positioned correctly, and therefore whether or not anything specific needs to change.
Be the customer The next step is to think about your brand as a customer, and work out how they would like to experience the brand. Perhaps collect information from a sample of customers about their perceptions of each of your products or services to get a true reflection of how your business is perceived.
Determine the target market's preferred combination of attributes and examine the fit between that ideal and your current brand. The difference might be alarming but it will help you to reposition your brand correctly if necessary. You will also need to review your PEST and SWOT analyses to make sure the information you have gathered so far will work in the market place now and in the future.
Once you have all this detail in place you can start to gauge how effectively your brand is positioned and what needs to be changed to attract the right customers and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Keep it together A brand consists of a number of different elements so make sure that each is pulling in the same direction and creating the right vibe for your organisation. Break it down in to your logo, colours, typography, graphics, illustrations and / or images and tone of voice. Look at all of these areas to make sure they have togetherness and deliver on your values.
Look at the applications you use currently to attract, introduce, transact and retain customers, and what applications you could be using to talk to the right people and enhance your brand.
Customers tend to be smarter about brands and marketing than they were in the past, and they want to control the way they are communicated with - and when. Be aware of your target audience and understand their needs so you can communicate in the right way and at the right time. Allow your customers to have their say and interact with your brand; get them involved and get their feedback where possible. In other words, make them feel important.
Reward their loyalty A customer is more likely to stay loyal if they buy in to your brand and share the values of your business. Loyalty should be rewarded. Look after your current clients as much and probably even more than the new ones. Existing customers currently receiving a great experience will only tell other people about how good you are. They will become a fan of your brand and act as a sales team for you.
But attracting the wrong type of customer can have an adverse affect on your business. You will need to review your current database to see which are your best customers, and attract similar-minded people. Getting this wrong can mean attracting customers who do not appreciate your brand and maybe find the product too expensive at the point of purchase, or who find it's just not right for them. This will inevitably end up in your time being wasted, their time being wasted and a bad experience by all. These customers will obviously have the opposite effect to the good customers and tell other people how bad your brand is, just because your brand message was not concise enough and didn't talk to the right people, at the right time, at the right place.
Rewarding good customers that either spend regularly, pay on time, have been with you for x amount of years, or who make referrals for you is paramount to further success. A gift for doing something correctly is always well-received - even more than a cash incentive.
Providing rewards which are one step away from money can work well and even seem more personal and friendly. It can make your customers feel that you really know them and this makes them feel special. This idea is similar to taking a bottle of wine to a friend that has invited you to dinner (which is seen as friendly) rather than simply handing over enough cash for a bottle (which would be seen as offensive). A gift with no known value often outweighs a money-based offering if you really want to build customer loyalty.
The bottom line So, in order to nurture existing good customers, remove the "wrong types" of customers, and attract new ones with the same values as your good customers, you will need to examine where you want to position your brand, how you want it to look from the customer's point of view, how it should behave, and how it should talk to people.
Positioning your brand correctly will help your business grow and allow you to command the price you want for your products and services compared to your competition in your chosen market place.
Ultimately, every company wants to achieve true brand loyalty so that, when you produce a new product or offer a new service, existing customers will be more likely to buy in to it because of their previous positive experiences with the brand. This creates a cycle of buyer confidence, as they now know what your brand stands for - and what it delivers for them time after time - ensuring repeat business and greater loyalty. Brand consistency is vital to success in any consumer market. In fact, even in an economic downturn people will still tend to buy the latest offering from their favourite brand rather than buy a cheaper alternative of unknown quality.