How to Build Lasting Business Relationships

LoyaltyOne president and CEO Bryan Pearson discusses five strategies for making sure his clients’ customers stick around

Photo by Pete Lacker

LoyaltyOne president and CEO Bryan Pearson has been with the organization (which today has approximately 2,000 associates and 20 offices around the globe) since 1992. Pearson is also an avid writer and reader of all things customer loyalty, data, and data management. He’s the author of New York Times bestseller The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy and The Loyalty Leap for B2B.

1. Take time to know who your customers are

LoyaltyOne helps Fortune 1000 organizations around the world figure out how to create lasting relationships with their customers to drive long-term growth. The company has a 20-plus-year history leveraging data-driven insights to develop and operate some of the world’s leading loyalty programs and solutions. These include the AIR MILES Reward Program, Canada’s premier coalition loyalty program; a majority stake in European-based BrandLoyalty, one of the largest campaign-driven loyalty marketers; a working partnership with Dotz, Latin America’s leading coalition program; and Precima, an organization that provides tailored, data-driven solutions that drive sales, boost profitability, and build customer loyalty.

According to president and CEO Bryan Pearson, the first step for a company looking to build loyalty is to know who its customer base is and what this group values most. A company can then use these insights to drive more customized communication and marketing programs that resonate with their customers. Pearson notes that LoyaltyOne uses this approach across its vast client portfolio, which includes some of North America’s most recognized retailers, financial services, and travel and tourism organizations.

While acknowledging there are various approaches to loyalty, Pearson outlines that creating the right mechanisms to capture and leverage data is critical in providing personalized and meaningful experiences for customers.

2. Build relevant experiences for customers through data

Pearson further explains, “Relevance is at the heart of building long-term, loyal, and profitable customer relationships. Companies should look at their customer data from the point of view of their best customers and then base their decisions on what is important to those customers. With the right data, you are able to use that information to strategically inform your business in a completely different way.”

3. Service the customers you already have

LoyaltyOne pushes its clients to take a look at what they’re doing to reinforce and build upon its most loyal customer base—a group that is often the most profitable.

“Be weary of the conquest mentality,” Pearson says. “Some of the most important and profitable relationships exist with current customers. It’s critical for organizations to understand who their current high-value customers are and how to motivate them accordingly.”

4. Set the example and reward the commitment

Pearson was quick to give credit to his staff when asked how his role plays into LoyaltyOne’s success. “We all share the same values when it comes to our business: collaboration, curiosity, simplicity, authenticity, and passion,” he explains. “Our focus is clients first, be out in front, innovate for today, and build for tomorrow. My role is to live that by example and to reward our team’s commitment to these principles.”

5. Balance for the win-win

LoyaltyOne often performs a juggling act between its clients and the clients’ end customer. Pearson compared it to the old game Labyrinth, where a player must use controls to navigate a small metal ball through a maze without letting it fall through any of the holes that reside on the board. One move too strong in one direction, and the ball could fall through. The same goes for LoyaltyOne as it tries to maintain balance by doing what’s best for its client while also making sure the customer has a good shopping experience.

“A challenge has been to ensure we continue to be on the forefront while making sure we’re not too far out in front of our clients or their customers,” Pearson says. “This enables us to continue to create excitement by pushing the envelope while also ensuring our solutions are tailored to our clients’ capabilities today while driving loyalty to help them grow. The key is keep your eye on the ball today, with your gaze out in front.”