AAM Marketing Ideas: Building Client Loyalty

From May 20-23, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) held its annual conference. Frequent contributor Sally Glick picked up some ideas that she will be sharing with us in the coming days, as she has done in previous years. Comments from those who attended—as well as from those who find these articles intriguing—are welcome in the comment section, below. Read more articles by Sally Glick here.

For my third piece in this series, I'm focusing on loyalty consultant James Kane, the keynote speaker at the AAM Summit this summer, who spoke on how to create unbreakable bonds of loyalty with clients. The topic, "The Loyalty Switch: How to make Anyone Loyal to You, Your Organization, Your Cause," was particularly relevant given that both CPAs and their clients benefit from longstanding relationships. The speaker presented interesting results based on more than 40 years of Harvard University research conducted on the brain, seeking to understand how it makes decisions and why it is predisposed to behave in certain consistent patterns.

The studies demonstrated that people have a drive to be loyal and are constantly seeking and interpreting clues from their environment that tell them when it is safe to be loyal. This behavior is documented by the Harvard researchers, but it is also common sense as we all strive to be comfortable in our relationships, to work with people we are well acquainted with, to remain with people we trust and like. These are survival instincts that have been honed over thousands of years.

Kane noted that people want to be recognized by their service providers, they want to be asked what they need, and they want someone to listen and act on their feelings and ideas. Clients search for providers who will do what they promise (demonstrate competency); are ethical, have integrity and values (demonstrate character); are dependable (demonstrate consistency); and will solve their problems (demonstrate capacity). Loyal clients are convinced that their CPAs make their lives safer, easier, and better. As a result, decisions regarding when to switch providers are usually precipitated by a significant change in their situation and relationship with their CPAs. According to Kane, if all things remain the same, people will remain loyal, but if there is a change, the relationship may be vulnerable.

Given this background, it is easy to understand that marketers and CPAs need to consciously use this data to build powerful relationships, based not on being adequate but on delivering high-quality service. People are not willing to be loyal to a firm that delivers passable or satisfactory service, but they will remain loyal and will pay for consistently great service, recognition, and attention.

Kane provides additional thoughts on the importance of loyalty, and the confusion surrounding loyalty, on his website.

About the author:
Sally Glick is CMO and principal of Sobel & Co. LLC. She was named Accounting Marketer of the Year for 2003 and was voted into the AAM Hall of Fame in 2007. She can be reached at sally.glick@sobel-cpa.com.

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