Loyalty is earned, not granted. With friends, co-workers and companies. You don’t get loyalty by default, you get it by proving you deserve it.

My brand loyalty was recently tested and it came up sorely lacking. I’m very disappointed, but moving on…after this blog post, which I will send to them.

A longtime favorite clothing brand changed their t-shirts, my go-to staple for years. They were 100% cotton with 5% organic content and a nice branding, sold at a good price point. They changed to partly cotton and  spandex. The t-shirts went from not stretching, fading or pilling to those that fade, pill, fit less well and are thinner. The online reviews for these products went from 5-star raves to 1-star “never again” reviews.

I went into that store regularly to see the new colors, get more t-shirts and sometimes buy other products. The higher quality products brought me in. Now that they are lower quality, I don’t even bother dropping by. After years, they betrayed my loyalty and I owe them nothing.

The motivation is most likely greed: they want to lower production costs. But it begs the question, “You changed this product…so what else are you changing”?

The brand did not drive me to other products they sell, but instead TO OTHER BRANDS. If you’ve made these products lower quality, I imagine that you’ve lowered the quality of everything else in your store. I liked the quality you had before and will seek out another brand with that same quality, not consider other products you provide.

I wasn’t your biggest customer, but I was consistent for 25 years and recommended your products to others. So you’ve also lost any potential business I might have brought you by word of mouth.

To earn – and keep – brand loyalty, getting feedback from your customers is essential. Whether it’s through emails, blogs or social media, find out what they love about you. An added benefit – this can help you build out personas and improve database segmentation.

Marketo is a great example. They have a large (and growing) community where they actively ask customers to provide new product feature ideas. Those with the largest number of endorsements get put ahead on the development roadmap. At the same time, Marketo monitors the community and social platforms to find out what they can improve.

For B2B and B2C brands, the same rules apply: if you have a product your customers love, don’t take away the features that make them love it. If you receive negative feedback, respond and fix it. Marketing gimmick or not, an excellent example of this was a recent reversion to original formula by Maker’s Mark.

Solicit opinions on what customers want and how to make your product better…but don’t abandon the features they love to do so! If you matter to your customers, your customers should matter to you. Heed their voices, or they will vote with their feet.