Customer loyalty. It's the Holy Grail of business, and there's all kinds of advice on how to build it. But despite our best efforts, few companies can claim to have a truly loyal customer base. I'm not talking about customers who have a preference for a specific brand or who tell their friends about good product or service experiences, I'm talking about customers who would travel hundreds of miles to engage with a brand or camp out overnight for that company's next new release.
That's the kind of loyalty typically reserved for Apple.
By now we're all used to seeing lines of people for the newest iPhone or iPad.
Apple does make great products, they also spend millions of dollars to create and promote the “Apple mystique” in their advertising, their stores and in social media.
What about smaller organizations?
What can a small business do to build a loyal customer base without spending millions of dollars?
I took my lessons not from Apple, but from a small independent band in Cincinnati called Over the Rhine.
Over the Rhine (OTR for short) is, at its core, Linford Detweiler (piano/guitar) and his wife Karin Bergquist (vocals/guitar/piano). They've been recording together for more than 20 years, and have released more than 15 albums. You won't see them on the MTV Video Music Awards or headlining Madison Square Garden (although you may have heard some of their songs on various TV shows), but if you go to one of their shows you will see the kind of loyalty that most organizations can only hope for (I know, I've been to 6 of them). Take a look at their Facebook page and you'll see all kinds of posts from people about what their music means to them and how happy they are to have a chance to see them perform (and the lengths some of have gone to in order to do so).
So how do they do it, and what lessons can you learn from Over the Rhine?
So the next time you think about customer loyalty in the context of your own business, think of Over the Rhine and ask yourself these questions. It may also help to plug in your headphones and listen to some OTR.
What do you think? Have you learned any business lessons from unlikely sources such as musicians, artists, athletes, teachers, or others?