Brand loyalty is a true commitment by the consumer and the company. Ultimately, it comes down to the emotional connection a consumer has with the product or service. Every marketer's dream is to attain fanatics (and lots of them) who would pay any price (including twice that of your competitors), go to any lengths for your products (sleep outside in a tent overnight in the rain waiting in line before your retail location opens), and rave about them online and to their friends (including creating blogs all about how they love their XYZ widget).
We as consumers—scratch that; we as people—yearn for that emotional connection, something to feel passionate about. You rarely remember everything a speaker has said, but you will always remember how they made you feel. Charismatic people have a gift for making you feel emotionally invested from the first handshake or eye contact. Get your consumers to connect with you emotionally and you have loyalists, sometimes for life, who will commit to buying your brand exclusively.
For us as b-to-b marketers, the question becomes, Can business decision-makers connect emotionally to a b-to-b brand? Is it feasible to think that purchasing agents, decision-makers, or even end users, would dedicate a blog to you, wait outside your office building overnight, or even pay whatever price you tell them without being sent to procurement and battling strictly on price and competition?
How do you create raving fans in the b-to-b space? The closest I have seen a business decision-maker come to raving would probably be at one of our large trade shows where it seems attendees would do just about anything for a branded bouncy ball or stuffed animal. Even this we can attribute to the fact that it is just swag, and that they probably could care less if your logo is there.
So, the question still remains, is it possible to create an emotional connection with your business partners?
We are trying to answer this very question right now. We have seen raging customers, especially when something in the contract goes awry, but we have rarely seen raving. Over the years, I have seen that the emotional connection is highly dependent on the experience customers have with our people, from the sales rep to customer care and accounts receivable. If every interaction with your brand is a powerful one—heck, if it's a good one— then you begin to create that emotional connection.
If working with you as a b-to-b service provider is stress free, hassle free and even enjoyable, then on those days when everything else is going wrong at the office, they at least have solace in your relationship. Then, little by little, you can create that emotional bond.
However, even with an emotional connection, we are still making decisions for the business, not for our homes, so would they stick with you through thick and thin because they believe in the brand? For us, we tested that in 2008 and 2009 and proved that some will.
So can you create fanatics in the b-to-b world? We are still proving that you can, but for now we will call them advocates.