While national brands do little for creating local brand loyalty having a strategy for creating brand loyalty at the store level is a must. For many marketers, most consumer messages have long been based on some sort of sense of urgency like, sale ends today or hurry only a few left. That may work if you are closing your business permanently but is not the most effective messaging for an ongoing entity. Take dealerships, for example. Even when the customer is in the dealership, everything is about the “big sale” and the threat of “buy now or lose this deal and how can we forget the infamous Seinfeld line, “what can we do to put you in this car today”?
The problem is, it is no longer effective. Consumers have become numb to these messages; the simple reason being that they don’t believe them! There’s always a big sale or a big semi-yearly event and consumers fully expect that, if they come in next weekend, or a month from now, there will still be a big sale and a good deal to be had. They believe this because they have all the information needed to confirm it through the many Internet resources available to them.
But what does this have to do with creating local brand loyalty?
First, by continuously throwing out these messages, you thoroughly destroy whatever credibility you may have built prior to your customer coming in. Rightly or wrongly, consumers are already jaded when dealing with car dealerships. This is simply exacerbated if they come in only to be met with high-pressure salespeople extolling how the dealership only wants to earn their business “right now!” Not in the future. Not for life. Not even for another day.
Imagine going on a first date and telling them that tonight is the only chance they get to have a relationship with you. You’d probably get laughed at right before your date gets up and leaves you standing there with a disbelieving look.
Relationships with your dealership are no different. In fact, it’s much harder for a business to build a relationship with a customer than it is on a personal level, especially with like brand competitors around every corner. And, by beginning the relationship with a message of “this is your one and only chance,” you send a message contrary to the one you should be sending.
Customer loyalty is built on emotion, especially on a local level, those national ads with folks singing and dancing through the showroom have do nothing to help your stores local brand. That’s why we spend our money on brands or businesses we love and that make us feel appreciated. Those brands don’t focus on immediacy, or messages of “right now!” Rather, their message is focused on long-term customer relationships by catering to emotions.
Think of the last commercial you saw that brought tears to your eyes. What about that business involved in philanthropic efforts that you care about? Or, if nothing else, the one that always delivers excellent customer service and fulfills its brand promise? Those are the businesses which build loyalty organically and enjoy a stable base of loyal customers built on a strong foundation.
The next time your dealership is tempted to push a customer into deciding “right now,” consider how that will affect the long-term relationship you have yet to build. If lifetime customer value means anything to you, and you would like to see hundreds of thousands of dollars flow into your dealership from repeat, service and referral business, you may want to reconsider your tactics.
Of course, if you are only interested in the immediate gross profit and don’t care about the future, you may find yourself in an eternal search for the next date. And that may be a very lonely journey unless you have a solid strategy for creating brand loyalty in your back pocket.