The long game.

It's a great phrase that hints at what savvy leaders of great companies intuitively know: whether you have users or customers, your goal is to keep them coming back, over and over again.

Amazon recently had its Prime Day - sort of like the uber-perk of Prime membership (as if free shipping, streaming movies and music, guaranteed release-date delivery of books/games/movies you like, etc., wasn't enough). You know what that was? The epitome of the long game.

If you tell an associate at an Apple store that you're just browsing and you're not going to buy that day, they still spend as much time with you as they can, answering questions, demoing features, helping you get excited about technology. Why? The long game.

Companies that pursue the long game are often the businesses we most admire, especially when juxtaposed against those that are wed to a purely transactional model of doing business - and here's why.

Customers recognize and resonate with generosity...

Walk into a Peet's Coffee and you can hang out and check your email without getting hassled for buying just one cup. Sephora associates will take all the time you like to show you the latest in higher-end beauty products and what they can do for your skin, face and hair. Customers appreciate the generosity inherent in time and effort that's expended with little expectation of immediate reward. They like not feeling pressured into something they might not like a day or two later. And they remember the positive experience they had and choose to return.

...and the extras matter

Warby Parker will ship you several pairs of glasses so you can pick the perfect pair for you. Amazon offers Prime users not just free shipping, but the ability to read books like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings - and magazines like People - on their Kindles absolutely free. Similarly, you can even watch some premium TV shows and movies, or listen to streaming music, at no cost. And they keep adding perks.

Airlines like Virgin or JetBlue have invested to make the experience better - offering free satellite TV at the same time larger competitors like United are stripping away convenience factors - no longer allowing you to bring a carry on, pick your seat in advance, or even check in on line - unless you pay extra. No wonder JetBlue ranks at the top and United at the bottom of J.D. Power's satisfaction rating. Long game, meet shortsighted. Let's be clear: these extras are, in many cases, money-losing elements for the companies involved, at least in the short term. But they're thinking about the long term effect of building relationships with consumers who feel valued. Plus, it makes a serious contrast with all those competitors focused on instant gratification.

Content is compelling

At my company, Trip.com, we make money from hotel bookings, but people love us for the content that brings them together, helps them find the adventures that are perfect for them, and keeps them current on what's going on locally. Turns out simply helping people is pretty potent stuff. It's also a lesson for others in travel where it's particularly easy to default to transaction-only mode in our space. For example, maybe you only specialize in booking hotels, flights or tours. But in a mobile first world, loyalty is everything. Help your customer have an amazing vacation, and they are yours for life. The same can be said for many other kinds of industries - amazing experiences engender loyalty.

That's not to say some companies can't succeed with a purely transactional model.

When most of us walk into In-N-Out or McDonald's, we're not interested in hearing the relative merits of fries versus tater tots. We simply want to grab our meal and take off. That's fine. It's not that the transactional model is a bad one; it's more that it's limiting. I might equally go to a different fast food place if it's closer or more convenient, for instance.

If we look at the top companies by market cap, however, many have a long-game model - think Apple, Amazon, Alphabet (Google) and Facebook. Not coincidentally, these companies have a sexier reputation than their brethren in fast food, oil and gas, etc. They inspire more loyalty, people want to work there, there's an undeniable cool factor, and they generate more product buzz and excitement. These elements really work to make their products sticky in the minds of consumers; there's simply greater friction to make the switch to something else.

What's the best example of the long game you've seen from a company?