At the 2012 GRMA Conference, Loyalty and Putting People First

Jun 1, 2012

Seeing is believing goes the cliché, but after returning from the recent Global Retail Marketing Association’s Executive Leadership Forum , “experiencing is believing” might be more accurate. It also serves as an important reminder:

There’s no substitute for physical presence and web site descriptions can only do so much. Call me biased, with a lens that sees the world through loyalty eyes, but a major takeaway from many of the forum’s speakers returned to the importance of marketers driving loyalty.

Too often, though, loyalty marketers believe the loyalty landscape begins with the customer. But I was reminded that the mantra of putting people first must begin with your people – your staff, executives, peers and advisors, (informal or otherwise) that help corporate leaders set the tone of their business, building an uplifting, inviting and ultimately productive atmosphere.

Take sound, for instance. Julian Treasure, the world’s leading authority on business acoustics gave an exhilarating talk about how something as simple as auditory vibrations can positively affect a business and its staff, impacting sales by as much as 28%. On the flip side, wrong noises like those emanating from an aging HVAC system can turn people away and trigger negative emotions. Once your staff is happy and productive, sound is an equally important branding technique. Just think of all the successful musical jingles that have been used to market products. Folgers Coffee might sing about the “best part of wakin up,” but equally important are the sounds of scooped ground beans and the trickle of hot coffee into an eager mug. Considering that the brand has been around since 1850, it’s clear they’ve established a loyal – and generational following.

The Sound of… Loyalty
But once you’ve upped staff morale, keeping customers loyal comes down to another sound – listening to their feedback and needs. Sirr Less, VP of Communications for Whole Foods was quick to point out the word-of-mouth success of his organization. But he was equally swift in endorsing the power of digital marketing to gain a better shopper picture, opened minded to using both techniques in tandem.

Developing an accurate shopper picture also comes down to technology, not just digital versus non-digital. Did you know that by 2023, the average computer will be able to calculate as fast as a human brain? I didn’t. But Peter Diamandis, the Chairman and CEO of the X-PRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit organization and GRMA speaker sure did. That means it’s likely that some of the loyalty and information overload challenges marketers face today will be addressed and tackled simply as a function of technological advancement.

Passion Can Drive Preference
Ultimately, directing loyalty is about driving passion. It’s about physical energy, emotional energy, mental energy and spiritual energy. Encourage a loyal staff and you can be sure loyal customers will follow. Experience really is believing – whether you were at the 2012 GRMA Conference or a customer walking into a retail store, or interacting with that brand through a well-articulated mobile and digital framework.

While many readers may not have been able to attend, let this blog post serve as a teaser for additional blog posts on the GRMA web site. Experiencing is believing, but seeing isn’t too bad after all.