Are you invested in the loyalty exchange?

Loyalty is coveted by organisations because loyal customers come back more often, spend more money and tell other people they like you. And loyal employees stick around longer, are more productive and care more about what they do. This all sounds hunky dory.

And now the kicker, because there is always a kicker — all the talk about loyalty often misses the critical ingredient. You’ve got to give it to get it. It’s an ongoing exchange.

You give me something I value, a product or a service. You keep your promises in the process. I like what I get, and so next time I need something I’ll think of you. When I do, you give me something I value. You keep your promises. Now we’ve got a pattern starting — the beginning of loyalty. I need something else, and I come to you first. You keep your promises. Now we’re both invested in the loyalty exchange.

It’s a dance of give and get that plays out over time. There are no shortcuts to loyalty. You’ve got to work the small stuff on your side. Too many organisations throw a rewards program at customers and then stand back and wonder why loyalty doesn’t follow. Here’s a hint. Rewards don’t make me loyal. What you do every day does (or doesn’t).

When having a coffee with my mum this past weekend I was reminded that a deep sense of loyalty was the way my dad ran his business. He had relationships that carried over decades. It must have rubbed off because it’s always been important to me too. I stick, and when I’m loyal to someone, it’s not a convenience thing.

When I lived in the US, there was a photographer I worked with. He was terrific, did good work and was good to work with. He never let me down, and in return, he was my guy. Other photographers would come knocking on the door to ask to work with me, but the answer was always the same.

“Happy to look at your work but the chances I’ll use you are pretty much between slim and none – I’m really happy with the guy I work with.”

It was a loyalty thing. My guy was with me through killer deadlines; we stood shoulder-to-shoulder coming up with concepts and making them come to life. As much as I put him first, he put me first. There was just no way I was ever going to trade that for a lower price or a snazzy portfolio. Today, years since my career turned a corner, If anyone asks me for a name of a photographer in the US he is still the guy I recommend.

You can’t buy that; you can only invest in it and hope you get the rewards. When you do the result is a robust and resilient brand.

See you next week.

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