A customer is not just a customer. Some customers see the purchase experience as just a transaction. They may buy your product or service, but there is no loyalty, joy or affection. Perhaps you were the cheapest option that day, or the most convenient.
Other customers are reluctant, begrudging buyers, who might even wish they weren’t making the purchase. This is a bit like me when I fly on Spirit Airlines. I respect Spirit, but I would prefer not to fly on the airline.
Then there are a few customers that are true fans. These people love your brand. They buy with joy, stay loyal for many years and post positive reviews. They might follow along on social media and actually pay attention when you have product news.
It is hard to over-state the value of a fan, especially in our hyper-connected world. The customer lifetime value is often high – since they will purchase a lot and for many years. More important, the fan might attract others, perhaps dozens of people or more.
The question, then, is how do you create a fan? Offering a good product at a reasonable price is part of it, but rarely sufficient. You don’t fall in love with a brand unless you interact with it somehow. The same is true with people.
In recent weeks three different brands have reached out to me and, in different ways, transformed our relationship. Each one made me more loyal and more of a fan.
Not long ago I set up a savings account with Pure Point, part of MUFG, one of the largest banks in the world. I was looking for an account that paid a bit of interest where I could park cash that I didn’t need at the moment but I wasn’t ready to invest. It has all worked out well.
In July, just before my birthday, the good folks at Pure Point sent me a birthday present – two boxes of candy, packed in an elegant gift box. It was a surprise, the first time a bank ever sent me a birthday present. State Farm sends me a birthday card, which is nice. But a present? That is something notable. I was impressed.
Last week my wife and I went to early screening of the new film Downton Abbey at an event sponsored by Fidelity’s Signature Visa card. It was a festive gathering, complete with free popcorn and soda, gifts cards and a photo walk.
The event kicked off with a talk by a Fidelity executive, who thanked everyone for coming. He said the event was just a thank you for being a customer. We had a lovely time and the price was right. My favorite credit card is now my Fidelity card.
I am a fan of watch brands; I’ve always been intrigued about how firms get people to pay remarkable sums for an outdated technology. It is a world of exceptional marketing.
In September, Richemont, the luxury conglomerate, sent me an invitation to the grand opening of their new store in Chicago – a boutique featuring three brands IWC, Lange and Panerai. I went, of course.
The event was terrific: music, cocktails, lots of watch experts. It was a trendy, high-end affair. I mingled with watch collectors and company executives. Everyone was delighted to talk about the watch they were wearing, or the one they were considering next.
All three of these had a similar goal: to create product fans, to turn a customer into a loyal supporter.
The economics of these programs are interesting. The cost is high – and the incremental upside not immediately clear. Will I be saving more at Pure Point? Charging more on my Fidelity card? I suspect not dramatically, at least in the short run.
In the long run, though, these programs are powerful. I’m now a big fan of Pure Point, Fidelity and Richemont’s watch brands.