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Brand Disciples and the Secret to Loyalty

Posted on 11.01.2015

By David Trice, CEO of

There are brand advocates, and then there are brand disciples.

Advocates regularly buy your product. They're great, and your business loves them. They aren't, however, the shout-your-brand-from-the-rooftop and buy-every-product customers that all companies aspire to have. Disciples are not only voracious consumers of a product, but also those that adore a particular product or set of products so much that they proactively recommend them to others. Think about the people who will sleep overnight on city streets just to get Apple's latest iPhone - or the motorcycling enthusiasts who are hardcore disciples of Harley Davidson (buying its boots and bikes and participating in shows and social groups). These are brand disciples.

If marketers haven't figured out the importance of these brand and product disciples, consider this: According to Boston Consulting Group, nine out of ten consumers and more than 50 percent of business-to-business (B2B) customers trust recommendations from friends, colleagues and peers when making purchasing decisions. Disciples, however, can't be bought.

Trust is paramount to the value of disciples' recommendations, so it must be earned. When properly earned and cultivated, disciples can be turned into an unofficial sales force. They want to connect with a business in a real and authentic way, and companies must overcome any and all obstacles to that authentic experience. Failing to meet a disciple on his or her terms will have direct financial impact. Disciples require that brands treat them with the utmost respect, that they know them and understand their needs as well as a brand understands its own.

Understanding Disciples: It's Getting Complicated

Social, mobile, analytics and cloud technology are among the top trends driving the expectations of today's customers. As a result, customers are testing the boundaries of brand authenticity at every touchpoint. Efforts to meet the needs of disciples are made more difficult by today's functional and technical infrastructures, which can make relevant information about disciples unavailable to company associates when it is truly needed. Knowing where disciples are in their specific journeys can appear to be virtually impossible and has become a "Holy Grail" of sorts for many businesses.

Speaking their Language

The solution to overcoming these hurdles is for companies to focus on interacting with disciples the way friends and neighbors interact with each other - with true familiarity and understanding. When friends and neighbors interact, they do so with an understanding of the context of the interaction. This means recognizing disciples when they engage with a business, no matter whether it's on the phone, via text or from a tweet. When disciples walk into a store, sellers should know who they are and greet them by name. The goal is to deliver personal relationships at scale, enabling the entire business to recognize these customers at every touchpoint and engage them with deep understanding. The time is now for businesses to understand every customer touchpoint in order to identify and understand their true disciples.

To meet the needs of disciples, engagement must become the responsibility of the whole business, and promises made by the brand need to be met at every interaction with customers. By empowering an entire business to engage in truly personal interactions at every customer touchpoint, businesses can recognize and relate to disciples when it matters most - at the moment of engagement. This is the secret to building lasting, meaningful relationships with brand disciples in today's current competitive landscape.

David Trice is co-founder and CEO of, the leading experience-driven CRM for enterprise. Prior to launching, Trice was VP of CRM at Oracle, where he led the launch of Oracle's Fusion CRM.

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