Why Rituals Improve Customer Retention Rates


How do you do 100,000 steps a week?

The short answer: With a lot of difficulty.

But seriously, 100,000 steps a week is a whopping 14,000 steps a day. And to get motivated to do something like that is close to impossible, right? Yes it is, unless you have a ritual.

So what is a ritual?

Religions understand this best. They make sure you come back time and time again to do something on a very regular basis. In the Catholic religion, this might be a ritual such as communion, or offering peace to each other. 

But other "religions" also have a ritual. A group of small businesses might start their Friday having breakfast, and then networking. 

It's also the reason why my wife and I end up doing over 100,000 steps a week, is because she wants to get to drink her coffee, and watch the sunrise.

Without the coffee, the sunrise (or the steps) are a lot less appealing

That's because the ritual takes centre-stage. Yup, you read right. It's not the product or service that matters as much, as the ritual itself. And we know this to be true, because you take away the ritual and a sense of disappointment wafts over almost instantly.

This means that without the coffee, the walk is not so interesting. Without the communion, it seems like the mass is very incomplete and the breakfast before networking becomes far more critical than you'd expect.

So let's stop and examine the elements of a ritual before we go ahead

1) It's recurring

2) It's not usually the main product/service/event.

3) Without the ritual, there's a feeling that something's missing.

Let's take some examples from Psychotactics to understand this concept better

In Psychotactics courses, we have a ritual. It's called Friday. And as you go through a course such as article writing, cartooning, headlines etc. you will find that Friday involves no assignment. 

So if you're writing articles all week long, you don't write an article on Friday. Instead all you do is share your learning for the week. Once you do that, you get a gold star.

Surely a digital icon like a gold star isn't that important, you'd think...

Yet week after week, participants rally around the Friday cooler to get their gold star. The gold star becomes a validation that you've done your assignments and you deserve your reward.

So does the gold star have anything to do with actual article writing or cartooning? Not at all. It's not part of the main product/service or event. And yet, it's a critical recurring phenomenon.

You may think it's silly to hanker after a gold star, but all of us want validation and this "award" ritual is what keeps customers coming back time and time again. 

In a few weeks, the clients expect the learning and the consequent gold star and if I should forget (I don't forget, but I might have in the past) they will remind me, because they feel something's missing.

A law firm I once consulted with would have a special wine evening twice a year and layout a super-spread. The Grammys and Oscars have the ritual of the after-awards party that no one would dare miss. So whether it's a tiny competition, a party, a gold star or even a fixed routine, you can, with a little thought set up a ritual of your own.

Some businesses may require the ritual to recur frequently. Others may require it to be just once or twice a year.

But make sure your rituals involve a group-even a small group

The reason why we end up at the cafe day after day, no matter what the weather, is because one of us will motivate the other to go. The same applies to the networking group or folks on any of the courses.

If the ritual is kinda solitary in nature, it's easy to die a quiet death, but the moment it's somewhat group-based, the members of the group feel the need not to let the others down. And so they show up and most often feel a lot better for having shown up.

100,000 steps a week is hard work

Even 70,000 is not easy.

But slip in a recurring ritual, and voilà, it might just work!


Sean D’souza



15+ years ago, fresh out of college with a degree in accounting Sean de Souza joined an advertising agency where he *met* Leo Burnett, a man who had spent his lifetime in the hard trenches of communication and advertising.

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