MESH Interactive Agency Blog

How to Build Customer Loyalty with Your Marketing Program

Why trust is crucial, and how to translate it to cultivate customer loyalty.

When it comes to trusting people, you may not be like J. Jonah Jameson, the ill-tempered editor-in-chief of The Daily Bugle from Spiderman, who trusts no one but his barber. But, at its core, trust is key to any business interaction. For example:

  • You trust doctors to know what to do when you go to them with a health concern;
  • You trust food service workers to know how to handle and prepare food using standard sanitation procedures;
  • You trust a hair stylist to use sharp objects near your head without incident.

The list goes on.

What do all of these examples have in common? The people in them are all supposed to have greater skills than the average person when it comes to working within their craft.

As a marketer, this is made concrete by how you advertise your product. People implicitly trust you that your product will operate as advertised.

Customer advisory boards are set up for that very reason. You know you have the customer’s trust, and the board is one way of making sure you keep it, using their feedback.

For B2B, trust often comes in the form of data—specifically how you handle a customer’s data. Google did a good job with this. In 2012, the tech giant launched the “Good to Know” campaign, which consisted of a series of refined ads and promos informing users on how they can manage their data effectively.

But data isn’t “real” to many people. It’s not something you can physically graze with your fingertips and grasp in the palm of your hand. Trust is required to let other people manage it.

For example, for IT security professionals, customers take you at your word if you’re advertising an effective cybersecurity solution. Customers can’t physically see the actual solution. They can’t know for sure if it will work like you say it will.

Again, you need a certain degree of trust. What happens, though, when that trust is broken? What does that look like?

Certainly, the Equifax data breach of 2017 is a monumental cautionary tale. Events like it are a contributing reason why people tend to distrust marketers and salespeople in general.

For instance, your customers may ask themselves, “If these businesses can’t manage my data securely, what else are they lax on?”


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So it leads you to ask: how do you grow customer loyalty? How do you rebuild customer confidence after a slip-up of that magnitude?

Honesty is the Best Policy

In fact, one of the tips for sowing confidence and rebuilding customer loyalty is to be transparent about your product or service. Renowned copywriter, Joseph Sugarman, has something to say about that in his legacy, The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook.

Cited as the most important psychological trigger of them all, Sugarman says that consumers really appreciate honesty in advertising:

When I wrote a JS&A ad, I would include many of the negative features of my products. I would point out the flaws up front. And of course, I would explain why the flaws didn’t amount to much and why the consumer should still buy my product. Consumers were so impressed by this approach and had such trust in our message that they would eagerly buy what we offered.

Consumers really appreciate the truth… you can’t fake the truth.

More of Sugarman’s psychological insights can be found here.

Some brands have taken advantage of transparency.

For example, Panera’s “Food As It Should Be” marketing campaign promotes healthy food that tastes great. Panera calls this “clean” food. This is, according to them, food “with no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, or colors from artificial sources.”

And here’s where it gets interesting. Once a person, business, etc. offers you something of value, don’t you feel as though it’s only fair that you somehow pay them back for providing that value?

After all, there’s a reason why when someone does a favor for you, there’s an unspoken agreement that you’ll repay that kindness someday.

Well, it turns out that this concept is based in psychology, and it shows up when you’re trying to be charming and persuasive.

Buy Now, Pay Later

There is great temptation to get something now and pay for it later. You don’t have to go far beyond the example of the local bar for an example. It’s common for regular customers to have a “tab” at such places. That’s the epitome of “buy now, pay later.”

According to Robert B. Cialdini, the leading authority on the science of persuasion, in his landmark book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, there are six tactics you can use to get what you want. In this case, what we want is brand loyalty.

And when what you want is brand loyalty, using Cialdini’s Principle of Reciprocity is one way to get it.

According to this tactic, customers feel like they owe you something after being offered a valuable commodity. But receiving something is also a forced obligation. For example, consider free items. You’re conditioned to believe that nothing is truly free, and so you’re suspicious when something is “free.”

As such, you feel like you have to repay someone after getting value in return.

For example, you see this all the time in the service industry. When you receive stellar service at the hair salon, you may feel like tipping more generously than you would have otherwise.

While you may call it just “being nice,” or “being decent,” tipping more than you normally would in reaction to service sounds an awful lot like repaying for great work. It’s why you only visit certain stylists in the salon because they know how to cut your hair “right.”

This devotion to a particular stylist runs parallel to brand loyalty. You can use this principle in your marketing efforts by simply being the best at what you do to keep customers coming back for more.

But that principle, for all its glory in creating brand loyalty, does create unwanted debt. Returning to the hair stylist example, if they were absent so you had to settle for someone else, you may not want to tip them as generously.

But you do anyway, even if you don’t want to because tippable workers in the service industry live on gratuity.

The key here is that you didn’t want to. You wouldn’t have done so normally. That’s unwanted debt, and it’s a sign of the Principle of Reciprocation working against you.

Asking For More Than What You Want

A way of getting around the unasked-for debt that tends to come with the Principle of Reciprocation is, according to Dr. Cialdini, to make a Reciprocal Concession.

That’s when you offer something of lesser value because you asked too much for prospects and customers to pay back in your initial proposition.

And while Reciprocal Concessions may seem like the same thing as the Principle of Reciprocation, since both concepts involve repayment, there is a crucial difference.

Going back once more to the hair stylist example, imagine the stylist cut your hair and made a mistake. As a corrective measure, the stylist might offer you a discount on your next visit.

Depending on the size of the error in question, you may turn the offer down. Everyone makes mistakes now and then. No big deal, right?

But then the stylist might then offer something lesser because “it’s the least they can do.” You’re more likely to accept that because they’re so insistent.

Genuine error or not, you can leverage the spirit of this as a marketer. And it would look like offering your product or service at a high price at first. Then, when the customer has a reason to say no to your offer, you undercut it by offering it at a lower price.

A form of this can be seen with the telecom giant, Comcast. Using an example from my own life, I recently received a direct mailing from Comcast that offered a bundled cable package with internet and phone. On the mailing, they emphasized the offer being significantly cheaper for the first year or two.

In Comcast’s example, you can see the art of the Reciprocal Concession at work. Comcast wants prospects and customers to subscribe to their cable package, but cost is a real barrier to subscription.

So, Comcast emphasizes that it’s cheaper for the first year but, of course, doesn’t emphasize that you’ll be charged their regular amount after that. It’s all there in black and white–completely readable, just not highlighted.

The big ask is the hefty cost of a cable subscription. The Reciprocal Concession happens when Comcast offers it at a lower rate so it’s more appealing, even if it’s only for the first year or so.

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Simply put, Comcast knows that a cable contract can be pricey (the big ask) so they anticipate your rejection, preempting it by presenting you with a revised offer right out of the gate (Reciprocal Concession).

As a marketer, you can use the Principle of Reciprocation and the Reciprocal Concession in the design elements of your website, or the copy of an offer. Indoor-cycling company, Peloton, can offer an example of how to use the Principle of Reciprocation and the Reciprocal Concession effectively.

Above, you see an offer similar to Comcast’s with Peloton advertising, “Ride now, pay over time.” The bike is affordable at $58 a month (Principle of Reciprocation). But Peloton knows the full-cost of the bike is expensive in addition to the gear and membership sold separately.

And so in a TV commercial for the same product and service, Peloton pushes the Reciprocal Concession, justifying the cost by saying, “Peloton is for anyone who wants it.” The company implies if its prices are too rich for your blood, you don’t really “want it.”

This creates a devoted following of customers who really “want it,” and will pay for what they want. Regardless, if you’re honest and transparent about what you’re selling, you can get enthused customers wanting to pay for what you offer, rather than needing to pay for it.

And that’s a crucial distinction that can help you achieve an enthusiastic brand loyalty for your marketing program.

In addition to trust, how have you cultivated brand loyalty? Send us a message in the chat below to tell us what works best for you.

Jayme Severance

As the Junior Copywriter at MESH, Jayme brings a quality craftsmanship and artistry to assignments he creates, as well as a bit of motion to the office as a freestyle dancer.

Marketing Agency

MESH is a digital marketing agency that has pioneered Account-Based Marketing via our proprietary Outcome Driven Marketing (ODM) methodology. We keep our focus on tightly integrating (or MESHing) lead generation, inbound, and outbound methodologies. We help you understand the hidden levers that impact your customers’ buying decision process, develop the right marketing strategy for your unique business case, and effectively execute and measure all aspects of your Account-Based Marketing program.