Red Sox vs Lance Armstrong: Which lead does your program follow?


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Whether you laughed or cried over the firing of Terry Francona, you must admit the news was shocking. The Red Sox skipper was let go after finally securing the World Series title (twice!) for long-suffering Boston fans. Thanks. Don’t let the door hit the chew in your back pocket on your way out.

And now we have this new guy: Bobby Valentine. Fortunately, he’s used to Big Market Sports and can likely handle the fact that all of New England will second-guess his every move. For example, Valentine has decided that his pitching staff needs to work on fielding and, surprising for an American league team, hitting. His reasoning is based on a common coaching mantra – work your weaknesses!!

But other coaches, like my cycling coach, advocate the opposite. They say to build up your strengths so that nobody can touch your combined ERA, perhaps, or your final sprint speed.

The “leverage your strengths” approach won Lance Armstrong a record seven Tour de France titles. Armstrong concentrated on a single strength – winning the Tour – and ignored his weaknesses (racing the spring classics, for example). But “work your weaknesses” training paid off for Herb Brooks. He trained his 1980 US Hockey team by hammering the players’ weaknesses and pushing them to their legendary victory over the Russian favorites.

How does this play out in loyalty? Which is the better approach – leverage your program strengths, or shore up its weaknesses?

For example, grocery/fuel perks programs don’t do much about recognition or other soft benefits, but they nail it on their strength: straight discounts on daily spend. Groupon and Living Social both announced last week that they were adding programs to boost customer retention. Both programs have been criticized for emphasizing acquisition strategies instead of building user loyalty, and it appears that both have decided to attack that weakness and become more balanced.

Compare that to several airline and hotel programs, which offer a mix of discounts, recognition, special access and aspirational benefits. They may not get a lot of “buzz” but they are steady and reliable, day in and out.

Lance Armstrong and the 1980 US Hockey team have proven their success in the sports world. What’s your opinion for loyalty – is it more powerful to have a balanced program, or one that “owns” a niche? Which is better set up for long-term success? Does it depend on the industry, or type of program?

The jury is still out on Bobby Valentine’s new role. But really, he wins either way because we Boston fans are happy to win, but we also love to suffer.

Phaedra Hise
As Senior Editor, COLLOQUY, Phaedra leads the creation of new editorial pieces for multiple distinct content platforms in the COLLOQUY media enterprise: COLLOQUY magazine, the Enterprise Loyalty in Practice journal, COLLOQUY web site, COLLOQUY social media blog, COLLOQUY Network Partner content commitments as well as other LoyaltyOne vehicles.


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