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Lemonade is refreshing, particularly on a hot day. With a little sugar and a lot of squeezing, sour lemons are transformed into a nice, healthy source of sustenance.

Similarly, profitable customer loyalty can be a healthy source of sustenance for brand equity and a powerhouse on hot days of competition. Numerous companies are nurturing customers with an array of sweet programs such as personalized marketing, advisory boards and references, customized offerings, privileges, and rewards. These are important contributions to your value proposition.

Squeezing the Lemons

But what about the rest of the customer experience? How about squeezing the lemons, or acting on the less-attractive feedback from customers, to transform ambivalent and at-risk customers into a reliable source of profit?

We're not talking here about alienated or costly customers, but rather the portion of your customer base that are fence-sitters due to inconsistent business processes or lack of a compelling experience with your brand. After all, if a large group of ambivalent customers has "sour feedback," then your delighted customers may eventually confront situations that spoil their currently sweet experience.

The average American company loses half its customers within five years.1 How can your company achieve sustained growth with image-building alone? By addressing the group that provides "lemon feedback," your company can transform negative word of mouth trends to sustainable competitive advantages that benefit your entire customer base.

This is an internal branding effort that aligns what's going on inside the company with what's being promised to customers. It adds customer experience substance to your value proposition.

Truly Great Marketers

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Lynn Hunsaker, MBA, is a veteran high-tech marketer, university instructor, and founder of the consulting firm ClearAction (www.clearaction.biz). She is also associate partner with Marketing Operations Partners (www.mopartners.com).