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Tame the Search-and-Switch Customer

Posted by: Diane Brady on March 25, 2009

Here’s a guest blog from Jill Griffin, a customer loyalty consultant, speaker and author. I asked her to talk about strategies for keeping customers loyal to your brand.

As you read this, one of your best customers is probably on Google, comparing you to the competition and contemplating a switch. Will your brand pass muster and prevail or, instead, get kicked to the curb because you come up short? This daunting scenario plays out countless times a day for most brands. Are you equipped to address it?

The power of search has ignited a new shopping behavior in your customer: the compulsion to compare your offerings against others. The experience of typing a few keywords into a search box, hitting the Enter key, and in about a second having a wonderland of relevant listings and links pop up is downright habit forming for today’s buyers. Couple this with the dire economy and every shopper’s live-or-die pressure to do more with less, and it’s easy to see why your brand must withstand an intense buying scrutiny unlike anything your firm has ever experienced.

How do you hold on to customers in today’s search-and-switch prone world? Here’s four ways:

1. Ace your buyer’s Worth It Test. What’s your buyer’s next best buying alternative, and what is your brand’s key points of difference versus this alternative? What tangible, convincing proof of these differences do you offer? How do you know this is the difference that matters most to buyers? Think of your customer as a human calculator of sorts constantly evaluating your brand’s worth-it value. You need to be scoring big points at every turn.

2. Get smart on switching dynamics. What prompts your customer to search? To switch? What experiences with your brand send your customer into the switch-prone zone? And what proven interventions help re-stabilize the relationship and keep them coming back? Don’t know? Find out. Your switch prevention success depends on it.

3. Keep your brand compellingly different. People don’t buy similarities, they buy differences. Yet, more and more brands are becoming indistinguishable from their competitors. For example, the 2008 Brand Keys Loyalty Index found two brands tied for first place in seventeen of its fifty-seven categories! That’s more ties than the study has seen in its 11 year history. Avoid this deadly trap. Infuse your brand with constant innovation. Otherwise, your brand sinks to commodity status and you’re forced to compete on lowest price.

4. Slash employee search-and-switch risk. Customers aren’t the only search-and-switchers. Your employees are at risk, too! Don’t get poached! Keep your best talent engaged and impassioned to serve. How? By managing your employee’s key moments of truth at every stage of their employment cycle. Map out an employee life-cycle plan addressing their personal and professional growth from the time you recruit them until they become seasoned employees. Design great experiences that nurture gung-ho behaviors.

Start now to turn search-and-switch customers into stay-and-spend advocates for your products and your brand. Your firm’s bottom line depends on it.

Reader Comments

John Nagle / Downside

March 25, 2009 3:06 PM

You've missed the strategy that works: lower prices.

Rick Miller, Jr.

March 29, 2009 10:02 AM

Something that can kill brand loyalty is whether your brand has a good, easy to navigate web site with relevant information that is easy to find. I've been a customer of my current bank for years mainly because their website is top notch and loaded with features compared to other banks. Some brands skimp on their websites and make finding information about their brand difficult, or load the Internet with fluff concerning their brand, instead of good information.

Jill Griffin

April 1, 2009 8:54 AM

Hi John. Thanks for the comment. No doubt, pricing is important. I advise my clients to avoid price war traps. A colleague of mine once commented, "When a brand depends on lowest price for its competitive advantage, it's at the mercy of its stupidest competitor." The "Worth-It Test" approach that combines compelling value at a fair price attracts buyers who will stick. Otherwise, you tend to attract buyers whose only concern is lowest price. These folks will leave in a flash for the next competitor with the lowest price. Thanks again for the comment!


December 23, 2009 6:20 AM

"2. Get smart on switching dynamics..."
Free HQ Tube wwwHQTube

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