7 Handy Steps to Building Brand Loyalty in 2018

Illustration of a Venn diagram of customer, brand and strategy coming together to represent brand loyalty

It’s 2018, and brand loyalty is bigger than ever.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are so many choices that we get anxiety from trying to choose just one.

Don’t like a certain product? Just switch to an alternative.

Focusing on nurturing brand loyalty is a way to avoid all that–ultimately, the goal is to keep customers happy, so that switching won’t even cross their minds.

One popular theory sorts clients into four categories–true friends, butterflies, barnacles, and strangers. It makes sense, but it’s also confusing because the connection between them isn’t 100% clear. We rewrote the analogy a little bit, so read on to learn more about categorizing your customers.

Are your customers…

The dog-type?

There’s a reason why dogs are called “man’s best friend”. They’re just so loyal and lovable. Even on our worst days, our dogs support us with their cheery grins and peppy zoomies.

Dog customers (though the phrase sounds odd) are sweet and loyal and friendly and warm and perfect.  They are consistent sources of revenue AND referrals. And even better–they wait at the proverbial door to shower you with kisses. And money.

The butterfly-type?

Butterflies are pretty, but they’re fickle little things. They don’t have particular preferences about where they get their nectar, so once they stop by your flower, they might not come back. The revenue you earn from butterflies isn’t consistent.

The barnacle-type?

I used to think barnacles were lifeless, funny-looking growths on They aren’t. (Lifeless, I mean). They’re actually tiny arthropods, just like their cousins the lobsters (and crabs).

Barnacles hang out on baleen whales and tide pools, but they don’t do anything. Barnacle customers are just like that–they stick around (they’re loyal), but they rarely make purchases. Most of the time, they just steal all your freebies.

The scientist’s way of explaining the relationship between barnacles and whales is that they practice obligate commensalism: only one party benefits.

The rock-type?

You can water a rock with pH-balanced vitamin water and give it the best spot on the couch, but that won’t make it love you. Because rocks are indifferent. Rocks barely bring revenue in, and they aren’t loyal, either. They… kind of suck.

Building brand loyalty is the art of turning all your customers into puppies. Friends so loyal that they’d kiss your feet if you asked them to.

(But don’t do that. That’s bad).

The reason you clicked on this article is that you want to know how to do that. So we won’t dally any further: here are 7 steps you can take to turn your customers into lovable, loyal companions.

#1 Know who your customers are.

Always remind yourself who your customer is–identify the leads you should nurture, and structure your marketing strategy accordingly.

If you’re selling orthopedic shoes, your ideal client will look like someone who spends a lot of time standing. Nurses, doctors, and people who don’t mind having ugly shoes would be great targets. 

If you haven’t started your business yet, then you’re in luck: take the time to identify buyer personas so that you know which leads you should nurture.

No matter what your job is, you’ve probably heard about “finding a niche”.

All this means is that you should focus on your market instead of trying to appeal to everyone. Identify specific groups of people that your product can serve, and present your company as the solution for their pain points.

#2 Know what your customers want.

How are you going to sell if you don’t know what your customers need? It’d be like shopping for a new fridge and having a salesman try to push a new washing machine on you. (Thanks, but no thanks).

As entrepreneurs and managers, it’s easy to get lost in the thrill of lofty new ideas. Following them down a rabbit hole is exciting, but it’s also bad business–because it disconnects you from the people you’re selling to.

There are many ways to get feedback about what your customers actually want and need. Try:

  • Feedback forms
  • Dedicated research teams
  • Social media outreach

Be careful: one danger of caring too much about what customers want is juggling too much in an attempt to please everyone.

For example: if you’re an Saas startup who recently built a time tracker, you’ll probably get flooded with requests for kanban task boards, stop and start time buttons, granular projects and tasks, and more.

Trying to build everything all at once is like trying to prepare a Michelin-worthy 9 course meal in an hour: 

It’s just not going to be possible. Worse, it’ll siphon your time and $$$.

When you consistently address your customers’ needs, or better–introduce features so awesome they can’t live without them–their loyalty will drastically increase.

In their minds, your company will be the only solution for their issues–you do what no one else can, or you do something so much better that it’s just not worth switching. You can implement the marketing mix on a timeline in order to maximize your resources.

(By the way, if you’re in the market for a robust ‘n reliable time tracker, check out Toggl).

#3 Engage with your customers.

Sometimes your products are evenly matched with your rivals’, and you can’t compete because you have similar features. In that case, you can win your leads over by engaging with them.

Your users power your business–connecting with them on social media, through blog posts (just like this one!), and through creative launches helps them feel like they belong.

You can reach out to your fans and users through communities like Reddit or through a dedicated Facebook or Slack group.

Share your latest developments through those channels, or include special promos that reward people who subscribe to your mailing list. Poesie Perfume, for example, sent an e-mail to their subscribers about a weekend-only bespoke fragrance service they were launching.

By the time they made a public post about the launch, the offer was already sold out–that kind of community engagement 1) makes people glad that they’re on board and 2) inspires other people to join.

#4 Make promises that you can keep.

The giveaway is a tried-and-true business outreach strategy, and it’s a great way to build community–when done right. Oddly enough, some companies don’t deliver on their promises.

J&T, an Indonesian mail courier, held a mascot design competition in 2018. Though they promised Rp. 20.000.000 to the winner, they later announced that they hadn’t found a suitable mascot, and would instead reward 5 decent designers with Rp. 500.000.

This kind of bait-and-switch leaves consumers feeling betrayed. And it’s not just about giveaways: promising new features within specific timelines–then failing to deliver–can also lead to customer disappointment.

A good example of this is the iBackPack, a indieGogo campaign that managed to raise over $700,000 in funding back in 2015.

It raised another $75,000 with a Kickstarter campaign in 2017–but after a few months, most traces of the idea vanished. The YouTube videos of the prototype ran into an underground bunker and disappeared from the world. The Indiegogo and Kickstarter updates got swallowed up by black holes, never to appear again.

And $800,000 in investor money? Gone.

Don’t be like iBackPack, and don’t be like J&T. Make promises that you can keep by staying realistic about what you can focus on with the resources you have.

#5 Create memorable visual branding.


Which one popped into your mind? Apple? Arby’s? Wendy’s? No matter what company you thought about, chances are they have some killer branding. Customer recognition starts with a logo.

When you’re designing a logo for your business, don’t get too enthusiastic. If you try to be too unique, you might risk alienating–or worse, confusing–your customers. But on the opposite end of this scale, failing to be unique could get you in trouble for plagiarism. That’s the worst kind of branding.

You can start creating a memorable visual brand by making a brand book, or by hiring someone to do it for you.

A brand book will unify all of the random design elements floating around in your head, and translate them into tools you can regularly use.

Over time, your customers will learn to recognize your distinct brand. If your designs are so bad that people think monkeys drew them, try working with freelance platforms like 99designs–or, search for a more personal agency that shares your core values.

Customers like to buy from businesses whose visions align with theirs. So clearly define what you stand for, and stay consistent about it.

#6 Build a great experience around your product or service.

If you’re the owner of a business, then you want to make money. And who doesn’t? Money is pretty handy in life.

To make money, you need to make it as easy as possible for clients to throw money at you. Keep your cart or “check out” page visible, and reduce the steps a customer has to take on their buying journey.

If you’re a copywriter or consultant, help clients schedule calls or communicate with you using online tools like Calendly or Drift.

Long e-mail chains are exhausting and reduce the chance of conversion.

And sometimes, all it takes to convert a lead to a customer is a few minutes addressing their concerns–so make it easy for them to contact you via your website (on-site chats and quick contact forms are good tools).

Once you’ve eased them through the purchase, make sure that their experience with the product is amazing, too.

That’s where product design comes in, and that’s a whole other beast–how do you design a product that’s effortless to implement? Because be honest: we’re lazy.

Many SaaS companies who target entrepreneurs struggle with keeping their products user-friendly. For example: people who use time trackers often stop and start projects–it’s rare for people to get everything done in one sitting.

That means a good time tracker has to be designed with stop-and-start functionality–but not all time tracker apps have that.

(Psst–Toggl offers stop-‘nn-starts, and we also have a Chrome extension so you can track your seconds no matter how many tabs you have open)

#7 Never compromise on value. 

One of the first things consumers look for when they stumble upon a new website is the “features” page, especially for SaaS sites. They want to know, “How can you help me do what I need to do?”

Take an inventory of all the features you’ve lovingly crafted for your customers, and clearly list them on your site. How can you market them in a way that makes people think, “Heck, I really, really want that”? You can highlight the most relevant features with images or larger text sizes.

If your product is hard to explain, you could also create demos–Wordpress theme developers, for example, usually create demo sites to support their lists of features.

If you’re a business owner with physical products (ex., a clothing range), boast about their unique selling points in your product descriptions.

Once you outline the value, deliver it, too. Innovate new solutions to problems your clients have, and try not to do away with features that your customers love.

Here’s one last tip before I sign off: say “thank you” to your consumers without selling them anything. (You have social media and tempting promotions for that).

Instead of asking them to buy something, just send them an e-mail, or acknowledge them in an announcement about a recent success. If you have a local business, you could even send physical “thank you” cards.

In the rush to scale and build a fanbase, many businesses focus on driving new leads into their sales funnel. But it’s equally important to say “thanks” to loyal customers. So pay attention to them, especially if you’ve been in business for a long time–new customers will pay attention to that, and be even more likely to like you.

August 30, 2018