The Key to Unlock long-term, loyal customers

Learn what will separate your loyalty program from competitors in this expert article.

Gabe Caldwell

This post was originally published on AlignMINT Growth Strategies. Ali Cudby is the Founder and CEO of Alignmint Growth Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in strategies and tactics for post-sales customer retention and growth. (It’s spelled AlignMINT because once a mint plant is established, it grows like crazy - much like clients’ outcomes using Ali’s services) Ali’s expertise has served Fortune 500 corporations and startups alike. She is also the author of the #1 best selling book on customer retention, Keep Your Customers.

Your long-term, loyal customers are in jeopardy. Right now.

Your competitors are circling. They’re baiting their hooks, hoping to lure your hard-won clients away.

Whether your customers bite will be directly related to the relationship you (and your company) have developed with them. In other words, your objective is not just to land customers, but to make them feel loyal to your company.

Maya Angelou famously wrote, “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Those words aren’t merely poetry – they’re sales. 70% of a customer’s buying decision is based on how they feel in their interaction with you.

How are you making your customers feel? The more they feel valued, the harder it will be for your competition to entice them away from you.

Yet most companies prioritize new customer acquisition at the expense of retention. Companies spend 80% of their resources on getting new customers, leaving a paltry 20% for keeping them.

And that’s baffling, because loyal customers are significantly more lucrative.

Long-Term, Loyal Customers Are Lucrative

While I was writing Keep Your Customers, new research was published that quantifies the value of the most loyal customers versus the rest. The research revealed that the top 20% of a company’s customers deliver between 66% and 74% of its revenue. That’s a solid chunk of revenue coming from the top tier.

What they found next was the showstopper.

That same 20% of customers deliver between 105% and 113% of a company’s net income. The top slice of customers is so wildly profitable that they make up for the large number of customers a company serves at a loss.

Who Are Your Unique Loyal Customers?

With so much on the line, you must be able to identify your lucrative, loyal few in order to make up for the “meh” many. Once you know who they are, align your customer acquisition and retention efforts expressly to them.

After all, these customers are delivering over 100% of your bottom line, so focus your energy on them. The more clearly you speak to them, the better your messages will benefit your company. Not only will you get more customers who look like your lucrative loyals, but your overall sales and marketing messages will be more targeted and resonant.

The Keys To Unlock Customer Loyalty

You unlock lucrative loyalty by knowing your clients’ financial contribution, referrals, and engagement.

Financial contribution

Sure, loyal customers deliver revenue. But revenue alone is not indicative of loyalty. Beware the lazy loyals who may look good on paper, but only choose your company as a matter of convenience. Whales may deliver revenue, but if they’re expensive to serve or leave quickly, they won’t be particularly profitable. If you over-rotate on serving those big fish, you can miss opportunities with customers who are otherwise ripe to be lucrative for the long-term.

That’s why the focus is on financial contribution versus revenue. Look at share of wallet and customers who buy more frequently. Find the ones who are excited about your new products and services. They are more likely to see the value of your complete solution, which will make them more likely to be loyal – and profitable – over time.

In fact, a smaller customer can multiply their value to your company by making referrals.


Loyal customers don’t merely spend more, they tell their friends, colleagues and even strangers about their excellent experience with you. Those referrals have two advantages.

First, any time you can enlist your customer to do your prospecting for you, it’s a win. These days, people have more trust in the opinions and feedback of folks they know personally. Nielsen reports that a whopping 92% of people trust recommendations from people they know over any other kind of advertising.

Referred clients have been gift wrapped and delivered to your door, saving you time and effort. By making you more efficient, referrals also bring down your cost of customer acquisition.

Second, the act of referring reinforces the loyalty of the original customer. It’s simple confirmation bias – once they tell people how much they value your company, they double down on their own, positive, opinion. By making referrals, they make their own potential for long-term value even stronger.


Loyal clients are more inclined to engage with you, and engagement is yet another lever to drive long-term financial value.

“We see companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%,” according to Constellation Research, an advisory and research firm.

So what is engagement? It can show up in a variety of ways. Customers who provide feedback, share or comment on your content, and attend your events demonstrate examples of engagement.

Customer Loyalty’s Ultimate Advantage

Once your loyal clients are delighted with their relationship, they’ll be less inclined to take a meeting with your competition.

In fact, loyalty earns you permission to help clients solve even more of their business problems. You embed your products and services into their ecosystems. Long-term loyalty delivers the ultimate opportunity – true partnership.

Clients get your complete solution. You serve at a deeper level and reap the financial rewards. Unlocking loyalty creates a virtuous cycle for everyone involved.

Gabe Caldwell
Partnerships at Plain Sight Ventures
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