Creating Customer Insistence: Six Steps to Success

by Diane Berenbaum

"Insistent."  According to Webster's Dictionary, it means "adamant in asserting a demand or opinion; persistent." And when your customers are insistent on buying your particular brand or product, then you've reached the highest level of loyalty—the degree of brand loyalty in which a customer strongly prefers a specific brand or vendor, and accepts no substitute(1).

And, despite what many companies have been thinking for years, just "customer loyalty" is no longer the holy grail, the ultimate in success for any company or brand. After all, the number of customer touchpoints is ever increasing, and right along with it are customer expectations. We‘re now accustomed to a great experience whether we're buying a cup of coffee or buying a luxury car. In fact, customers no longer tolerate less than perfect service, and their finicky purchasing patterns can make or break any brand or company.

Progressive Stages of Loyalty

Loyalty usually fits into one of the following stages, according to William M. Pride, O. C. Ferrell, author of Foundations of Marketing:

Recognition—A customer's awareness that a brand exists and is an alternative for their purchasing power.

There is no particular affinity or preference at this point. The awareness can be positive or perhaps even negative; in other words, they are aware of the brand, but would not necessarily want to buy or use the product/service.

Preference—the degree of brand loyalty in which a customer prefers one brand over competitive offerings. Note that, although you may be the preferred source, the competition still has the opportunity to lure away your customers. While stronger than mere recognition or awareness, preference is not as strong as the next and final stage.

Insistence—when customers have an allegiance to a particular brand. Here, they strongly prefer a brand, demand it and are determined to buy it, regardless of the attractions of competing brands. As noted above, they are "adamant" and "persistent," and would not buy from any other company. This is the highest level of the scale, where all organizations need to be with their customers if they want to excel.

Chances are you know what and who I am talking about. There are some coffee drinkers who will only go to Starbucks, and do so on a consistent basis. I know of "regulars" who merely walk into their local Starbucks, get in line, and before they reach the counter, the barista has his/her special coffee concoction, prepared just as they like it.

And, then there's Apple. It has fiercely loyal customers who truly love the brand. These customers are such strong advocates and rabid fans that they are known as evangelists. "It's like having a good friend," noted, Marketer Marc Gobe, author of Emotional Branding and principal of d/g worldwide. "That's what's interesting about this brand. Somewhere they have created this really humanistic, beyond-business relationship with users and created a cult-like relationship with their brand. It's a big tribe, everyone is one of them. You're part of the brand."

The Key to Creating Customer Insistence:  Emotional Attachment

How do we create this kind of insistence, when no other brand or product will do? By now we all know that satisfaction with a product or service is no longer enough. Case in point, Gallup Organization researchers William J. McEwen, Ph.D., and John Fleming, Ph.D., found that extremely satisfied customers were just as likely to stop doing business with banks as customers who were less satisfied. And, that extremely satisfied customers of supermarkets, on average, spent no more than less satisfied customers.

But, Gallup did notice a measurable difference when customers were emotionally connected to the company with which they were doing business. It is clear that these emotional attachments, when customers believe that no other brand can offer the same experience, are directly linked to loyalty and insistence.
According to some experts, emotional attachments occur with people for the following six reasons(2):

  1. The brand stands for something that is important to them
  2. The brand connects with them on multiple levels across several senses
  3. The brand is (or at least appears to be) unique
  4. The brand is admirable
  5. The brand interacts with them and does not disappoint them
  6. The brand makes me feel good
Harley-Davidson has become a cult brand, and even an American icon, by using an emotional appeal. Richard Teerlink, retired chairman and CEO, said the bike represents to America, "the adventurous pioneer spirit, the wild west, having your own horse, and going where you want to go." (Executive Excellence 6). Harley-Davidsons are considered more than motorcycles—they are legends. While their competitors promote their product technology and features, Harley promotes a feeling of "personal freedom and independence."

With this in mind, let's explore how an organization can shift to focus on this key factor of success: customer insistence.

Six Steps to Creating Customer Insistence

  • 1.  Start with a commitment to creating the insistence experience. This means not only leadership buy-in and support, but their visible and ongoing involvement, allocation of necessary resources, financial backing and time to let the plan work.
  • 2.  Gain a better understanding of what feeds these customers' emotional attachment. Define the higher level human needs that inspire these customers to go to great lengths to do business with you. Craft your marketing plan and design the customer experience to create the desired emotional connections to your brand.
  • 3.  Define and map out all of your touchpoints so you can ensure unified, personalized, and relevant customer experiences across all channels. Define what a successful touchpoint looks and feels like. Consider how to proactively serve your customers on a personalized level, at each of these points of contact, while making the most of your resources.
  • 4.  Treat your associates like your most loyal customers. Listen to them, nurture and develop them. How can you expect them to deliver exceptional service and connect with customers if they don't feel that kind of support from their leadership team? And, be sure to provide them with tools and training so they know how to exceed expectations and "love" their customers.
  • 5.  Identify and solve problems along the way to ensure consistency. Constantly assess and improve your systems and processes so that they are aligned to deliver on your brand promise.  All it takes is one mediocre experience to damage your brand and reputation.
So, insist on creating customer insistency. Accept no substitute.  And, you'll not only increase your brand loyalty, but your profitability and sustainability as well.

(1) Marketing Education Resource Center
(2)Customer Manufacturing Group (CMG) Inc. v1.o
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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