Saturday, May 15, 2010

When You Reach Heaven: Missionary Marketing Trumps Customer Loyalty.

Continuing to follow the iPad phenomenon is like watching a NASA shuttle launch (except for the obvious “end-of-the-road” thing imposed by the current Presidential administration). I not only wrote about how iPad has gone to market below (“How Has Apple Advertised the iPad”), but I posted about the effect of missionary marketing on the AMAHouston blog.

This week I was asked if Steve Jobs’s work with the iPad – like the iPod before it – wasn’t simply an extension of customer loyalty marketing: exceptionally powerful but still within the realm of CL.

No – I do not believe it’s the same thing. Even though there’s a path through customer loyalty programs that will turn a client’s customers into loyal missionaries for the business, CL classically helps you build strong relationships with your customers “by identifying, retaining and growing your best customers.”

This is one definition of CL by motivational experts Maritz. If you accept it, it consists of outwardly directed programs that foment brand loyalty and, in theory, strong Word-of-Mouth promotion activity. An Artists’ Center post about customer loyalty yields a slivver of wisdom about the needful effort: “…one of the best and easiest ways to get raving fans is to impress the $#@* out of them with your thoughtfulness.”

Missionaries, on the other hand, are true believers. This is more than a degree of difference from CL – yes, it does encompass the actual, stand-up-and-shout passion of the users of your company’s product or service. It is also self-powered. The missionaries themselves provide the energy and the initiative in marketing the product/service.

Therein lies the huge advantage that CEOs like Jobs can bring to their marketing. It’s not just Apple, either. It’s Starbucks (whether you agree or not) and Costco. [A fine BusinessWeek article about this is fortunately still online here.] When you are fortunate enough to have such a product or service in your line-up, or can make one happen, then you really are knock-knock-knocking on Heaven’s door.


Richard Laurence Baron said...

Apple's "true believers" are an observable phenomenon. Michael S Malone, writing for ABCNews/Moeny in January, noted:

"Apple understands, better perhaps than any company on the planet, the importance of being not only perpetually innovative – but with a vast and loyal army of Apple fanatics behind it – to regularly take category-busting risks."

Laura Kamrath said...

Did you read the Time Magazine article about Jobs/The iPad? It had some interesting stuff about what makes the iPad different from the numerous PC tablets that have been introduced, but have flopped.

As for CL vs. Missionaries, I think that Apple is building a new wave of loyal followers...starting with the iPhone. Once you use the iPhone, you ... See Morerealize that Apple dreams up things you never could've imagined you would need. Then comes the ipad. They've focused on form over function...the thing just looks SO darn cool! And it works great too, but that's beside the point!

It's really a big toy, but can be useful for certain applications. In fact, Jobs himself admitted that he didn't know what people would do with it, but he was excited to find out! I'm about to read 2 case studies on Apple, one from 2002 and one from 2005. Should be interesting! (We'll need a new one for 2010 and the launch of the iPad!)