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How to use inbound marketing as a tool for brand loyalty

We all want to believe that our customers only have eyes for us, but data demonstrates that trust relationships need ongoing nurturing

Do you have a smartphone? What brand? Is it the first phone you’ve bought from that company? For those of you who are on, say, your fourth (or fifth?) iPhone, you are holding in your hand a case study in brand loyalty.

What is it about Apple that keeps you coming back over and over? What inspires brand loyalty – and can it be bottled?

4085238682_99e9637ef5_zKnow your sphere

Brand loyalty considerations seem to differ, depending on the issues involved with each industry’s distinct ins and outs – factors that ideally should inform your social media marketing interactions and your branded content.

DIY market research platform Ask Your Target Market recently found that 22 percent of people in the U.S. own iPhones, yet only 6 percent of one-time iPhone owners no longer use the iPhone. That is the kind of loyalty that the rest of us can only dream of.

With a high price tag and long ownership cycle, return business is particularly important in the automotive industry. Experian Automotive released a report in 2012 (available as a downloadable pdf) finding that the car brand that enjoys the highest loyalty is Toyota, with 47.3 percent of buyers returning. GM and Ford were at 46.2 percent and 46.0 percent respectively – pretty close runners-up.

The Catalina agency, meanwhile, found that consumers bought their preferred brand of laundry detergent 66 percent of the time. For a product that only costs a few dollars and has a short ownership cycle, we see an overall significantly higher level of loyalty than the rates for cars. Yet it’s still a bit disheartening that one-third of all laundry soap purchases involve brand adultery.

With inbound marketing tools, brands have the opportunity to interact with their customer base, to continuously nurture these relationships – and to listen to whatever concerns or issues may come up, reacting accordingly with messages designed to maintain mutual engagement.

On quality, experience, identification, aesthetics and loyalty

Quality is an important factor in brand loyalty. With the exception of a few highly publicized slip-ups, Apple releases a stable, well-designed operating system that is consistent across mobile carriers. On the other hand, The iOS’s main competitor, the Google-designed Android operating system is released in different builds on different phones, with updates being pushed out infrequently. This leads to a inconsistent user-experience and doesn’t result in the fervent following that Apple users show.

colaThere is also an aesthetic identification component to brand loyalty. Why else would so many people stand in line to buy the latest iPhone when its new features have long been available on Android devices? There is something about a brand’s style that speaks to some people, and that style may be equally off-putting to people who are loyal to a different brand. How else would you explain the Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) decals that adorn so many Ford and Chevy pick-ups?

With a constantly evolving market, brand loyalty is at best a moving target. As a recent Inc. column puts it, “If you think you’ve gotten there, you’re mistaken.”

For inbound marketing that’s primed to yield loyalty, keep a focus on the high quality of your product, familiarize yourself with your customers’ aesthetic sensibilities, and keep your branded messaging aligned with the customer experience.

When your customers associate your brand with a positive emotional reaction, you’ve put yourself in the right position to keep their loyalty.

Photos courtesy of flickr users gadgetdude and kreg.steppe under Creative Commons licenses.

About Harry Rubenstein

Harry Rubenstein has been living and breathing web content since he joined his first startup in 1999. Harry serves as Product Director of Managed for Mimi and Co-Director of its parent organization Action Packed Media.