Four years ago LeBron James left his hometown of Akron, OH and his first pro gig with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a sweet deal with the Miami Heat. Cavs fans were devastated, and years of adoration were exchanged for unbridled loathing. Many latched onto the fact that LeBron has a “Loyalty” tattoo on his arm as a source of satirical ammunition.
However, for the duration of his time in Miami, he remained committed to the Akron/Cleveland area, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his alma mater. His marketing and business team is comprised of his same buddies from Akron who have been with him for the life of his career. LeBron is a family man who has retained strong ties with a close circle of friends, despite his fame and success. His move to Miami doesn’t necessarily make him a “disloyal” person. On the contrary, his lifestyle as a whole tells the story of a very loyal friend and community member.
There are two lessons here that it behooves businesses owners to take note of:
1) Even people who are incredibly loyal will make a move for a sweeter deal. Be sure the rewards you’re offering actually seem valuable to your customers. If they make you look like a cheapskate, you’ll struggle to keep customers committed. (IE: A 10% discount or less is considered cheap by most customers.)
2) Emotional connection counts for something. LeBron came back to Cleveland, in part, because of the historical and emotional significance of being “home.” Create an environment that feels like home, and you’ll have a much better shot at winning back customers who have been exploring elsewhere. Selling branded merchandise and/or experiential extras (like a private wine tasting for two, for example) is a great way of helping your customers feel like they’re in the family. Also, offering those as rewards for loyal customers is a great way to cultivate a stronger connection.
Bottom line: If you don’t put in the extra effort to keep your loyal customers around, they may leave you for the Miami Heat… or at least: your competitive equivalent.