We’ve talked about earning customer and brand loyalty in this space at various times over the past 10 years or so. But, like any good message, it’s worth repeating to remind retailers, like yourself, that you need to work at it.
The lead paragraph of our last special report on customer and brand loyalty summarized this effort. “There are two things all of us know about customer loyalty: it takes an ongoing, sustained effort to earn and maintain it, but almost no effort whatsoever to lose it.”
But I think there’s an important distinction that dealers need to make, and it’s the answer to this question: Is brand loyalty the same as customer loyalty?
Obviously, each one needs to support the other. If a brand is well positioned and perceived by its customers and potential customers, but the retailer selling it isn’t perceived well, where does that leave the brand? And what if an outstanding dealership is handling a lousy product? We all know the answers to these questions.
Today, I believe there’s very little noticeable difference in quality and innovation when it comes to the major brands of farm machinery. Some have always been good and the others, for the most part, have made up for any gaps in quality and engineering that may have existed previously.
That means it comes down to the dealers where most customer loyalty is created and on which brand loyalty is built.
This brings us back to a question I’ve asked previously: Who’s branding your dealership?
While attending an industry meeting several years ago, a speaker addressed this issue and summarized it by saying, “As a dealer, you need to figure out a way to get farmers not to remember what they bought, but who they bought it from.”
In other words, focus on customer loyalty to your dealership. The brand of equipment you carry should only support your efforts to develop customer loyalty.
That speaker was Scott Deming, a professional speaker, trainer, author and president of Scott Deming’s ESP. He focused on training companies how to create sustainable success and build cult-like brands.
Among his clients were two of the major farm equipment manufacturers along with some of the biggest worldwide seed and fertilizer companies. He said, “I understand the ag business and the distribution channel from manufacturer through the dealer.
“The fact is I can get your stuff anywhere. If all you do is market the brand that you’re selling and focus on the stuff that you sell, you have commoditized yourself right along with your product,” Deming said. “If you put the right price on it, anybody can sell anything to anybody — once. That doesn’t create loyalty. All it does is tell the customer he got a great deal.”
I told him about our brand loyalty survey and the fact that “parts availability” was ranked as a major reason a farmer would switch brands of equipment. He said what that told him was the farmers were looking for reliability. “You need to understand, when they say ‘better parts availability,’ what that means is I don’t have to worry, which means I can sleep at night, which means that when I call you, I trust in my heart and soul that you’re going to be there for me.”
That’s what creates customer loyalty, which is what every dealer should be striving for.