Mark Johnson | Founder of Loyalty360
Success leaves clues.
Finance Strategists sat down with Mark Johnson, founder of Loyalty360. He discussed the past, present, and future of the company, as well as the insight he gained from running the business.
Who is Mark Johnson?
Q: Who are you and what’s your background?
I am Mark Johnson, president and CEO of Loyalty360. I was born in Denver, Colorado, but moved to Cleveland, Ohio to attend high school. I graduated from Miami University with a degree in mass communications, then received my MBA from the University of Cincinnati with a focus on statistics. I added another MBA from Xavier University in finance. I went into bond trading after college and then worked for some software companies before starting my business 11 years ago.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence, and why did they have such a significant effect on you?
My grandfather was a tremendous influence on me. He ran a small business as a service station owner, and I really saw how he treated people. That taught me a lot. We enjoyed watching the same sports teams and we grew close that way. He would also tell me to find something to do in life that you truly enjoyed and had a passion for, and you would never feel like you were working. He was a frugal man, too. He used to always take me dumpster diving behind grocery stores, even though he had money. He had remarried, but I also remember that he had a very loving relationship with his wife. That was nice to see.
Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have told yourself when you were in your twenties?
I think the key is surrounding yourself with good people, especially those who might be smarter than you at certain things, and that want to work hard, too. I made the mistake years ago of not hiring people who had that mindset of working hard and growing; looking back, I should have spent more time finding the right people for the positions we had open. It’s always good to find people who will do absolutely what they promise you they can do. Some people just never live up to the promise of that, and some do. It’s best to find those who live up to, and exceed, your expectations.
Q: What is Loyalty360?
Loyalty360 is an industry trade association for customer loyalty and marketing professionals and their brands. We are an unbiased, market driven, voice-of-the-customer focused clearinghouse and think-tank that is committed to bringing loyalty to the forefront as a critical marketing strategy. Loyalty360 also powers Loyalty Management magazine, and we produce the Loyalty Expo and Customer Experience Expo for our members and the industry
Q: What makes your company different from its competitors?
Our association has become a trusted source for cutting-edge research, best practices, and networking opportunities. We are creating a lot of high-level content on loyalty and engagement, and that gives the Loyalty360 members the expert insights and guidance they need to understand loyalty better and develop programs that effectively engage their customers and employees, which builds stronger relationships. We’ve become a conduit between the brands that rely on customer engagement programs and the vendors who have the know-how and expertise to help them launch and maintain successful programs.
Q: What led you to start Loyalty360?
I was working in the customer loyalty industry and realized that there was no common organization that was effectively servicing the needs of the brands, vendors and the people who do this for a livelihood. I decided to start a trade association that really delved into customer loyalty, customer experience, CRM, data analytics, customer engagement, voice of the customer, loyalty/rewards programs, B2B/channel, customer service, digital/direct marketing, executive/brand profiles and payments/POS.
Q: What has the experience of building the business taught you?
A business has to keep reinventing itself to keep up with the challenges that the market throws at it. We always have to keep looking at new ways to help our members, and to guide them so that they are successful in what they do. We feel we give a tremendous amount of value to our members already, but by constantly reinventing ourselves and looking for ways to serve our members and their brands better, we continue to grow and flourish. I think we have done a very good job of constantly looking for ways to get better, and to work with others in the customer relationship industry to provide true value to them.
Q: Where do you see things headed for you in the next 5 years?
We want to continue to grow this association and company to be the preeminent marketing entity. I would like the customer loyalty industry to be one that has greater focus on it than there has been before. There are a lot of marketing associations out there, but not many at all that just focus on customer loyalty and engagement. I think that as brands focus more on how they market themselves by way of customer loyalty and engagement, then the association will grow immensely as the interest will grow. The association has been growing in our analytics and becoming analysts in trends and practices, and I think that will certainly grow, too, as the focus grows.