loyalty to businesses…where does it come from?

by John on January 12, 2011

Loyalty. Even at 7 months, our border collier is hugely loyal.

Our family has certain companies that we are extremely loyal to, for one reason or another. It could be that their product is simply the best; but in most cases it is something else entirely that keeps us coming back. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself: why am I loyal? What brings me back here? Perhaps it is the marketing nature of our business, but I ask myself that question all the time and I find myself with a few answers I’d like to share.

A couple of years ago, I had the great fortune of meeting the owner of Lenny’s Sub Shop in Cumming and Alpharetta, Bruce Longmore. Bruce is a former corporate man who decided to take his talents and put them to good use in the franchise world.

The first thing that jumped out at me and drew me to Lenny’s is the amount of time and resources Bruce gives to the community. Whether to the local high school, his employees, local charities or just a networking event, Bruce is always offering his time and talents <and sandwiches!>. We have clients who look at these opportunities as lost revenue, but Bruce looks at as doing the right thing. What is fantastic about this is that the marketing he receives and the loyalty he builds from each positive action grows his company more than any advertisement ever could.

The second thing that made me a fan for life is the way Bruce treats his employees. He truly empowers them to make his company great! In fact, one of his employees, Kris, was recognized as the employee of the year nationwide after being nominated by Bruce. The next time we stopped by for a sub, the first thing Bruce did was point to the plaque Kris received, hung prominently on the wall. Kris is the employee everyone dreams of. He knows each customer, greets them all with a smile, puts the company first in all he does and I expect to see him when I walk through the door. Bruce has truly empowered Kris to be the face of Lenny’s and his business has benefited on all levels from it.

Incidentally, Bruce was also recognized as the Lenny’s Franchisee of the Year, which is no small thing considering there are over 150 Lenny’s franchises in the country…but that day in the store, he celebrated Kris’s award first (definitely more loyalty points with me!).

So, what sets Lenny’s apart from the competition for me is the way I feel about the brand. This isn’t because of Bruce’s over-the-top marketing efforts, but because of the human element behind the company. Bruce has created true loyalty…simply by doing the right thing. Don’t get me wrong, the subs are so good I’d go there anyway, but my loyalty is inspired by the details…and the service …not just customer service, but community service.

It’s funny, as I checked to be sure I had the name of Lenny’s award correct, I came across a blog Bruce wrote <that I just now read>…talking about the importance of, you guessed it, giving back to your community.

I’m going to be writing about more great companies like Lenny’s. I want to dive in and figure out what it is that makes me loyal to some brands so that maybe I can identify some things I can improve on in my own business.

What makes you loyal?

  • http://www.rootsinalpharetta.com Lee at rootsinalpharetta.com

    Very cool article. Reminds me of another restaurant owner I know that I’m very loyal to. He doesn’t run the best joint in the world, but my family and I keep coming back because of the warm friendship and hospitality. Bruce sounds like he’s the same kind of guy.

    I kinda wish this fella would go independent and ditch the franchise. Obviously the guy has a lot of energy, passion and creativity. Imagine if he could direct some of that into a new menu created from scratch. I’ll bet it would be awesome.

    • http://www.indepthwraps.com John Westmoreland

      Thank you for the comment! I agree with you about the franchise situation, sometimes it can be tough to make it your own. Bruce has done a great job of making his franchise locations feel like your hometown sub shop. Again, this has a lot to do with Bruce’s approach and his staff.

      By the way, enjoy following you on Twitter. Your blogs have helped us find several new hidden gems in the area! Keep it up!

  • http://@Julian_Reid Julian Reid

    Great topic!

    Having met Bruce a number of times at his table during http://www.Business400.com events, it is easy to see how he attracts a loyal following. He had high-quality samples of his product there to share (FREE samples), but in addition to engaging several senses (taste, smell…) with his product, the friendliness of “simple chat” at his boot is hard to forget. I do not live anywhere near his business, but if I did, I’d certainly patronize it; and not only for personal meals, but for catering: Something he CLEARLY marketed at the Business 400 events.

    Two other “restaurant-type” owners have EARNED my loyalty: Bill Norman, of Norman’s Landing in Cumming (Exit 13 – GA 400) and Frank Cole of the Frosty Frog in Hickory Flat. Why these two? For years, when I lived in Cumming, I’d take customers / clients to Norman’s Landing for lunch ON FRIDAYS. You see, Friday is BEER CHEESE SOUP DAY at Norman’s, and they have the best recipe on this particular planet for Beer Cheese Soup. Nevermind that they also have best-tasting tomatoes / veggies, a great daily seafood catch, and the BEST key-lime pie you’ve EVER had; it was the ROUTINE of KNOWING that Friday was “Beer Cheese Soup Day” that built LOYALTY into my patronage. Or at least, that what my CONSCIOUS mind tells me about why I was “loyal”. On a SUB-conscious level, I sometimes think that the fact Bill Norman – the OWNER – ALWAYS came by our table to ask about our meal – MAY have something to do with my “loyalty” as well. Alas, I don’t live near Cumming anymore, but I understand that Tuesdays have been added as an ADDITIONAL day for Beer Cheese Soup, so I limit my Cumming business visits to Tuesdays and Fridays now! :-) Frank Cole at the Frosty Frog in HIckory Flat is the same way: A smiling face to greet customers, loyalty programs, and quality products: If I’m traveling down Highway 140, my car is “addicted” to driving in there for SOMETHING. Couple of weeks ago, it was just a praline. But with his diverse selection of meals, goodies, and coffee, it could have been anything.

    As for BIG company loyalty, I’ve become loyal to Apple. No, Steve Jobs doesn’t greet me when I make a purchase, but his “loyalty” programs are “sneaky” powerful. He got me started with iTunes for my PC years ago. When my cell phone broke a couple of years back, I did my “left-brained” analysis of iPhone versus BlackBerry, and Apple took the risk out of my decision with the 14 day money-back deal. I was hooked. Last year, when the 3rd of my PC’s started performing with the efficiency of the U.S. Federal Government, I took another mitigated risk and tried a MacBook – almost KNOWING that I wouldn’t like it. Boy, was I WRONG! The Apple “loyalty” tactic? They started with something small (iTunes) and over 6 years, have converted me to a loyal fan that will NEVER go back to a PC.

    Again, great topic! I look forward to reading what OTHER consumers are attracted to in terms of what makes them loyal to certain businesses.

    • http://www.indepthwraps.com John Westmoreland

      Good to hear from you Julian! I agree with you on Norman’s Landing! I have been going there for a long time as well and have always appreciated what Bill Norman does to give back!

      I will have to try the Frosty Frog the next time I am on 140.

      As for Apple, I too was a die hard PC guy until about three years ago. I reluctantly bought a Mac out of frustration from the slow speeds we were experience designing wraps for our clients. It took us about a week to buy a second Mac. Now we have three Macbook Pros, four Ipods and an Ipad in the house. We have also been patiently waiting for the Iphone to get to Verizon and on February 10th we will complete the Apple collection over here. Apple has done a great job of creating true brand loyalty. You don’t see many cars running around with a Microsoft sticker on the window!

  • http://www.lennys.com Bruce Longmore

    John and Torri…you make me blush. As I’ve helped these schools, habitat for humanity, United Way, Rotary and the rest I wasn’t thinking about just giving…I was thinking about RELATIONSHIPS!!!! How can I build lasting relationships??? In the corporate world it’s different…you build relationships but it’s vertical and not necessarily long-lasting. As a community leader, when you build relationships it lasts a lifetime!!! It makes you feel so much better!!! So much more worth while!!!

    Donna and I love the relationships we have been able to build and we look forward to building many more. We love Lenny’s and we love using Lenny’s to help others!!! Thanks for your wonderful blog John and Torri!!!

    • http://www.indepthwraps.com John Westmoreland

      Glad to mention you Bruce, you certainly deserve it. You and Donna have done a great job creating a true icon in the community. We actually stopped in for a sub today and couldn’t have been happier when we saw the long line as we opened the door. Apparently we aren’t alone in the way we feel about Lenny’s.

      Thank you for all that you guys do and for setting such a great example in the community!

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