Genuine loyalty creates an emotional bond that makes your company the first choice in the hearts and minds of your customers. Developing this tie requires a comprehensive understanding of customers — and what drives their behavior and forges their perceptions. The starting point is always customers and their data.

There is no single magical tactic that will drive customer loyalty. It’s typically the result of a combination of initiatives that may or may not require a structured loyalty card program.

Personal service, for instance, involves personal shoppers, relationship managers, and personal account representatives providing individual attention to high-value and high-potential-value customers. But while it provides competitive differentiation, it also requires strong employee loyalty and comprehensive training.

Another tactic, needs-based marketing, is about using customer information to place the right offer in the right hands at the right time. For instance, understanding where your customers are in their life stage can provide direction on needs, perhaps even before they realize the needs. To make it work, though, you need timely access to customer data and an overall understanding of key customer metrics.

Direct May 1 2004