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We all have a company or two that we can’t fathom life without. What are the few companies that you would be extremely upset if I told you, “You can no longer do business with them, ever again”? When I ask my audiences this question, the same brands always get mentioned: Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, & Amazon besides local mom and pop shops.

Now the important part is, think about what they have done and what they consistently do to make you so loyal, to make you feel that you cannot live without them. That is power. That is brand loyalty. The more people you can make feel like they cannot live without your brand, the closer you are to making price irrelevant. The key deciding factors to being a brand people cannot live without are:

1. Great service/product

This is a given. It is the price of admission that your product or service better be damn good. However, this is typically not even listed in the top three reasons why people love a brand. A company is in trouble if they are relying on their product or service to differentiate them in their market. Today, every product or service is eventually commoditized.

2. Consistency

This is huge and cannot be over emphasized. More than anything else, customers want brands to be brilliant at the basics. Forget the bells and whistles; just be consistent, reliable, accurate, and friendly in every interaction. Don’t make it dependent on which location or which employee your customer deals with.

3. Ease of doing business

Think about Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom, and Uber. Amazon is the easiest and most convenient company for purchasing, from one-click, to returns, to their customer support. Companies like Zappos and Nordstrom do not have return policies. Bring it back in a year; you don’t need your receipt. Does your company have policies and rules to make your life more convenient? How easy is it to speak to a human being? How easy is it to find a phone number on your website? Is the buying experience for your customers convenient for you or your company?

4. Employee evangelist

Great brands have employee evangelists of two things: 1) what they do and 2) the brand they do it for. When you shop at world-class brand, you see a strong similarity; their employees love the product, love helping and discussing the benefits of different types of tea, and they love working for Teavana.

5. Educate versus sell

The best brands teach their employees to educate customers versus sell to them. I love technology and the moment something new is released I have to have it (worst thing a consumer can do). One time, when Apple released a new Ipad, I ran into the Apple store to upgrade. When the Apple employee asked me what I wanted, I said, “I currently have the Ipad but I want the Ipad 2.” He could not have had an easier sale. However, he asked me what I used my Ipad for. I said, “For email, surfing the Internet, social media, and I read articles and books on it.” He said, “Do you play games or watch movies?” I replied, “No, never.” He said, “Don’t get it. It won’t be worth it. The big difference between the Ipad and Ipad 2 is the resolution that you would only appreciate if you played games or watched movies.” I couldn’t believe he talked me out of spending $500. I was actually bummed! I said, “Well maybe I will start playing games.” No seriously, I would have bought anything in the store from this employee after that. He wasn’t about selling me, he was about educating me and making sure I spent my money wisely.

6. Personalized experiences

Every regular customer at Starbucks has “their order.” It is unique from anyone else’s. It usually is something long and complicated like a “grande, single shot, 4 pumps sugar free peppermint, nonfat, extra hot, no foam, light whip, stirred white mocha.” Did you know there are over 80,000 ways you can order your Starbucks drink? What is easier than that?

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