Finding Customers with No Brand Loyalty


For small or growing companies looking to take market share away from larger incumbents, it helps to find the customers in the market with no established loyalty. These are the customers that may have purchased from your competitors in the past, but there is nothing keeping them from jumping ship and trying something new.

The key question is, how do you find these people?

  1. Check online reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook for your competitors. Find the things that people are complaining about. That will help you determine where your company has an opportunity to better meet consumers’ needs.
  2. Consumer data providers can help you identify customers in the category who shop around and are more susceptible or offers and price. They will help you exclude customers with branded credit cards or on loyalty programs.
  3. Search Twitter, online forums, and discussion boards to find sets of customers unhappy with their current solution and make introductory offers to get them to switch.
  4. Research where your competitors are advertising and make sure your brand is showing up there as well.

The key for any new or small company trying to battle a larger incumbent is strong word of mouth. Once you find those initial customers who are willing to give your offering a try, do everything you can to wow them. They will be your greatest marketing resource going forward.

The End of Brand Loyalty

As marketers or small business owners, there is no better vision for our future than amassing a large number of loyal customers.

Strong brands used to rely on those brands to reach customers. Brands stood for something. They signaled to customers the kind of quality and service they could expect. They helped well-established companies fend off smaller rivals, because customers were more likely to go with brands they knew and liked versus taking a chance and trying something new.

Newsflash: that’s not the case anymore

Over the last five years, all indicators point to the fact that brand loyalty is in decline. Consumers are more likely than ever before to shop around, looking for the best value instead of choosing and sticking with a particular brand.

Why is this happening?

Theories abound on why there is such a strong decline in brand loyalty among consumers. I’ve managed to find three lines of thinking that combine to account for this on the aggregate:

  1. Consumers have more power than they used to. In our digital world, transparency is key. The ability to shop around is greater than it used to be. There is an endless amount of information out there for the savvy consumer, and they’re using to ensure they make the best possible purchasing decisions.
  2. Companies have eroded trust in the marketplace. It’s no surprise that this recent decline coincides with the recent financial crisis. Large companies in a wide variety of industries have been the perpetrators of great injustices against the public, their customers among them. Why would consumers feel loyalty to specific brands when they don’t feel that same loyalty in exchange.
  3. The pace of technology puts more pressure on companies to change and evolve. Customers have higher expectations, partially due to the proliferation of technology impacting all facets of their daily lives. Companies that move too slowly let competitors take the lead and risk losing once-loyal customers in the process.

What does it mean?

Loyalty is a two-way street. No longer is it effective or acceptable for companies to spend massive amounts of money on branding, with the hope of adding new customers who plan to stay for life. It just isn’t happening.

Companies need to change the way they think about their brand. They need to change the way they think about their marketing. And they need to change the way that they think about engaging with customers.

It’s not enough anymore to publicly claim that you “put customers first”. You actually have to do it.

That change comes from the top down. It involves a shift in culture that focuses on delivering unmatched customer experiences, in sales, in service, in product design, etc.

Maybe we can’t count on brands ever being as trusted as they once were, or on consumers to ever be as loyal as they once were. But the very best companies, the ones with the biggest upside in this shifting landscape, are those that truly act in the best interest of the marketplace.

The First Rule of Marketing

Don't talk about marketing. No that's not it.

Keep your promises! That’s what Seth Godin reminded us in a recent post.

While that advice has many useful meanings in many different situations, I took away one specific use case.

As a marketer, we are constantly making promises about our brand, about our products and services, in an attempt to attract customers. And often, we use the word promise or guarantee when we make those claims. So not only do we promote certain benefits, we trap ourselves into following through.

One of the easiest ways to ruin your brand image is not to follow through on the promises of your marketing message. If I’m buying a new camera that’s advertised as the be all and end all when it comes to taking professional quality photos, well then I better see professional quality photos right away. If I open a checking account with a bank that promises to be the most convenient, I better not be dissatisfied with the level of service I get.

The risk of making a promise is that sometimes there are things that are not in your control. And while fancy promises and guarantees might bring in $$, you have to be careful not to overuse them. The same message that was the reason you sold thousands of units of your latest product can be the reason you now have hundreds of pissed off customers ranting and raving in the public eye.

Keep your promises and you’ll build loyal customers.