Customer acquisition tends to be a major focus amongst small business, yet this can be at the expense of a much more effective way to drive sales: customer retention. The problem is, getting more customers costs more time and money than encouraging your existing ones to make a repeat purchase, so this needs to be an important focus.
When the words ‘customer loyalty’ are used, the generic approach is often incentivised loyalty schemes. However, all those ‘buy five, get one free’ promotions (which are actually costing you money) are not the only thing you can do to create loyalty.
If you want to create a loyal customer base, reduce customer attrition, build a reputation and secure sales over the long-term, it’s time to clean up your approach to existing customers.
1. Keep in touch
If you don’t already have an email marketing campaign, start one. It can be a great way to let your existing customers know how much you value them, and to encourage them to repurchase from you. If you’ve got some insight into your customer base, pre-empting their need for your product or service is extremely effective. If you’re looking for examples of this done well, sign up for car-sharing service Uber, and pay attention when they next email you.
You could also create a blog and write often about the things that matter to your customers or get active on social media to communicate to your customers frequently. For maximum effectiveness, latch on to current events.
2. Produce great feelings
Most of the time, when someone is buying from your business, they’re spending their hard earned cash. Why not celebrate the process and your new sale, and make them feel like they’re winning at life by purchasing from you?
To create that feeling for your customers, try to think of ways to make them feel like they’re your most important sale of the day – congratulate them on their purchase, commend their decision and ensure they leave feeling like a million dollars.
3. Strengthen community ties
People like to be associated with social good. If you are able to, donate your services, returned items or damaged items to the community. Be part of building your local community. When it comes down to it, if your potential and existing customer base has the option of spending money with either yourself or your competitor, they’d much prefer to ensure they are supporting a business with a conscience.
A good example is Toms, which has a One for One™ policy to donate a pair of shoes to communities that need it each time a customer buys a pair from them – it’s creating genuine social good.
And it’s important to be genuine about it. Simply donating for the sake of giving an impression you’re philanthropic, is not a strategy most would be fooled by. Think about your goals, and make it a long-term approach that creates tangible benefits to the community your business operates in.
4. Make them VIPs
Your customer service should already be a process where sales and problems are taken care of easily and efficiently, but how valued do your best customers feel?
One of the most powerful methods to breed consistent loyalty with your top customers, is to lay out the red carpet for them. Let them cut in line by offering your sales and latest products to them first, give them an incentivised lifetime loyalty membership, or invite them to exclusive events. It’s about making them aware they’re appreciated and giving them an opportunity to experience exclusive treatment.
One company that is notorious for rewarding their most loyal customers is American Express, who consistently deliver a ‘VIP feeling’ to customers that use their cards often, including a 24-hour concierge and invitations to special events.
5. Love your employees
If your employees are happy, your customers generally will be too. Most times customers are able to see right through the smoke and mirrors and expose the cracks in your business when your employees are unhappy. This has a profound effect on how customers perceive your business and whether they’ll keep coming back.
Xbox’s Twitter-based customer service team has a licence to be fun, spontaneous and engaging with their customers. They have so much fun solving customer problems, they’re in the Guinness World Records for being the most responsive brand on Twitter.
Give your employees the VIP treatment, let them have fun, put them first, and trust in them enough to make decisions within reason. Not only will you create an atmosphere where everyone is cohesive and happy, but will be reflected in their dealings with your customers. Your customers will subconsciously remember the positive atmosphere and will want to come back for more.
Things you need to know:
All brands referred to in this article are trademarks of their respective owners.
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