The best marketers have mastered the art of getting people—specifically, customers—to change behavior. Profitably. Predictably. And consistently over time. This is a remarkable talent.
I myself find it hard to get people to change. For example, when I tell my teenagers to, shall we say, adjust their behaviors, they seem to get irritated and usually don’t follow through—for some reason. I then escalate the strategy and sell the benefits of the change I seek. I review the current deficient state (about them), develop attractive outcomes (for them), and enthusiastically present those benefits (to them). This strategy demonstrates slightly better response, but its high wear-out factor generates a lousy ROI. So as not to threaten my self-image as a marketing artist, I resort to the time-honored strategy of compelling them to change with an offer they can’t refuse. This has great short-term response, but I suspect my kids’ long-term loyalty to that brand of parenting may be declining.
Telling. Selling. Compelling. How well have these worked for you? Or the better question: How often have you changed your behavior based on someone telling, selling, or compelling you? Because we humans are biased in our perceptions and worldview, these strategies don’t work very well to promote lasting change. Either the results don’t measure up to the effort required or the relationship degrades over time—not exactly a loyalty marketer’s dream. Human beings commit to change their behavior only when they change their fixed thinking and attitudes. In other words, when they are darn good and ready.
Over the years I’ve picked up a fourth approach to profitable, lasting change management. I call it “Dwelling”—living into the situation of those you would change, and making the wise decision to change yourself from within that experience. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
When we dwell in the situation of the other, three important things happen: First, we come to understand. Not merely “learn” cognitively, but also “feel” deeply and emotionally the other’s situation. Second, we change. We resolve previously unrecognized blind spots in our understanding as we “adjust our mirrors” to see a suddenly clearer reality. Third, and most important, the intended objects of our original change-management quest recognize how we’ve changed and become more willing to change along with us.
As a loyalty-marketing discipline, “dwelling” can be accomplished through a few straightforward actions:
Eat your own dog food: When I was a food-industry brand manager, I participated in tasting sessions to judge product quality. Those were fun when I worked in Cereals and Snacks. Not so much in Pet Foods, where one R&D scientist actually taste-tested his creations. That type of deep commitment became known as “eating your own dog food.” Most marketers visit their stores and may shop their brands. True professionals live into their brands as customers. That means staying in your hotels, eating at your restaurants, flying your routes, listening to your call centers, and using your own credit and payment cards.
Learn loyalty: Participate in your loyalty program. Granted, this isn’t always possible or desirable. You may be employed by a health care facility and be perfectly fit, or by a child-oriented retailer and not have kids, or by a brand of adult diapers and…well, you may not need your company’s products (at least not yet). In such cases, organize and join loyalty customer user groups. Dwelling transcends merely sampling your customers’ interaction with you, and then heading home for a cold one.
Seek status: Become a “best customer” to experience the loyalty features and benefits—and the hassles and limitations—encountered by your actual best customers. Build your balance, earn your status, redeem your rewards. Similarly, every one of your company’s senior leaders should be active in your loyalty program. I know a loyalty practitioner whose entire executive committee publicly tallies their monthly program activity in a friendly yet serious competition for top status. They of course have no trouble understanding their program’s design, or recognizing improvement recommendations when they see them. In fact, they themselves have initiated many enhancements.
When your best customers perceive that you care about your loyalty program not just as a marketer, but as one of them, you’ll have a better program. And you can look in the mirror and answer “yes” to the question “Would you be loyal to you?”
Jim directs the advancement of enterprise loyalty at COLLOQUY, an endeavor guided by his almost 30 years of managing in marketing, strategic planning, business development, innovation, and communications. Jim also assists with COLLOQUY’s loyalty workshops, seminars and conferences, and serves as an academic liaison for colleges, universities and thinking institutions performing research on Enterprise Loyalty.
Prior to joining COLLOQUY in 2010, Jim founded his own company and was a principal at BUILT TO LEAD, a leadership development practice based in Central Ohio. From 1997 to 2008 he worked at Alliance Data Inc., most recently as Chief Marketing and Planning Officer and as a member of the Executive Committee for the Retail Services division. Earlier, he served as Senior Vice President at Information Resources Inc., consulting with such clients as Procter & Gamble, Kraft USA and ConAgra frozen Foods.
A resident of Columbus, Ohio, Jim serves on the Advisory Board of The Initiative for Managing Services at The Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University, and is an MBA-level instructor in Services Marketing at OSU. He and his wife Lauri have three children.