Whether your small business is still in startup mode or is firmly established, building customer loyalty is a must. As you know, it’s easier, and a LOT cheaper, to get previous customers to buy from you again than it is to find new customers. That’s not to say that winning new customers isn’t important. In fact, if your company is in startup mode, getting new customers is a priority. But it’s important that while you’re working on getting new customers, you also have a plan to keep them. 

The best way to go about building customer loyalty is to do so by building a relationship with your customers.

Communication is Key

In every relationship. Before you started your business, you had an idea of who your customers were going to be. Now that you have a few sales (hopefully) under your belt, you should also be able to put a face and a name to your ideal client. Personalizing, or creating a buyer persona, of your ideal customer is a great way to “flesh out” that idea of who your customer(s) is (are). Doing so can help you craft the most effective communication with your customers and know the best times and places to reach them.

Of course, in order to communicate with your customers, having their email addresses is important, but it’s not the only way to communicate with them. A great way to build a relationship with your customers is to build a community. Use the social media platforms that make sense for your brand and your customers and spark conversations that engage your customers around subjects that matter to you both. Building a sense of community can go a long way to building loyalty. Moreover, posting on social media gives you the opportunity to show that you stand behind the values you believe in and having those values can also earn your customers’ loyalties (think Nike, Apple or Ben & Jerry’s) 

Just remember the golden 80-20 rule for social media content, 80% of your content should be focused on educating, inspiring or entertaining your customers with 20% of your content being promotional.

Offer Perks and Incentives

It’s important not to spam your customers when you do have their email addresses, but letting them know about new products, sales or an exclusive event can make your customers feel valued and, in turn,  value their relationship with your company. If you are considering an exclusive or VIP event, cucumber marketing offers this advice:

“Extend your store hours and/or offer customers a special incentive with purchasing. For those without a brick-and-mortar location, try hosting a ‘cyber’ event, such as a Twitter chat or a one-day only sale. Keep the event exclusive to your special customers and give them the royal treatment, go overboard with the VIP treats. Associate with some other brands outside your industry and offer them freebies and entertainment. Not only will you have a satisfied bunch of loyal customers, such events help to draw in crowds too.”

You can also consider offering a loyalty program, financing for large purchases and/or discounts for multiple purchases.

Above-and-Beyond Customer Service

Do you remember the last time you tried to call, email or live chat with a representative from a large corporation? Most people do because they are notoriously unpleasant experiences. From not being able to speak with a live human being, or waiting on hold forever to do so, to getting bounced around from department to department, a simple transaction that should take no more than a few minutes can sometimes stretch out over hours. If you want your customers to be loyal, and better still, to recommend you to their friends and family, your customer service should astound and amaze. 

Here are a few things you can do to provide the type of service that shows your customers that their business really is important to you:

  • Considering what was just said, make it easy for customers to reach a representative. That includes making your contact information clearly displayed and easy to find on your website and social media pages.
  • Hiring loyal employees. Of course, to do so you have to give them reasons to be and stay loyal and get them to buy into your mission. Happy employees who sincerely care about your customers and are willing to go the extra mile is a key factor in building customer loyalty.
  • Listen to your customers and address their concerns as quickly as possible. You may not be able to accommodate their every wish, but most people just want to be heard and will appreciate any effort you make to find a solution. Also, customer feedback can be instrumental in guiding your small business’s future direction.
  • Be honest. This includes admitting to mistakes on your end.
  • Send your best customers personalized thank you cards or custom drawstring pouches as goody bags.

Bonus Tip

Including your customers in digital marketing/social media campaigns is a good way to turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors who will help sell your products or services for you.