Tips for Creating Customer Loyalty
When you own your own business, you learn quickly that existing customers are more profitable than new ones. In general, every 5% increase in customer loyalty leads to about 75% more sales, an overwhelming argument in favor of going the extra mile to please your established patrons. Since 80% of your projected sales are likely to come from 20% of your current customers, how are you making sure that satisfied shoppers keep coming back?

Engage Customers on Their Level
As you know from your shopping experience, what makes a business worthwhile isn’t solely the awesome product or convenient location. The way the people there treat you is what makes coming back so attractive. It feels good to walk into a business where you’re on such a first-name basis with the employees that they’re already preparing your order as soon as they see you. To attract loyal humans, you have to approach them in a “human” way. Treating everyone with kindness is too vague of a goal to be effective. Instead, try these tactics:

  • Identify your "fascination triggers" with the public — trust, passion, rebellion, alarm, power, mystique, and prestige — and use them to their fullest advantage.
  • Once you’ve fascinated consumers, let them take the lead in how and when you interact. Many customers are only going to find time for you while they’re on the go, so be ready to meet them there with mobile-friendly communication and support.
  • In addition to optimizing your own app for their lifestyles, respond to all tweets, emails, reviews, and Facebook comments as quickly as you can. A same-day reply is best if possible.
  • For even more happy customers, find personalized ways to connect with them that fit your business culture.
These aren’t the only ways to interact with your customers. Remember to ask them how you’re doing! Customer feedback is an indispensable part of any loyalty strategy.

Incorporate Customer Feedback
Helpful feedback can be hard to obtain, simply because people are more likely to report bad experiences rather than the good customers have come to expect. You have to get creative and outdo yourself in service if you want something more helpful than an unflattering review (or worse — one or two stars with no explanation). In combating low customer responsiveness, there are several ways to reach out: Offer incentives to anyone willing to analyze your services (even if their experience was less than perfect). Hire mystery shoppers. Bring in a third-party feedback collector who knows how to make the survey process more fun and engaging.

Once you start a discussion with your clients, show them how and why you’re implementing their suggestions. This feedback will take one of two forms: cerebral or experiential.

  • Cerebral feedback is how they react to your product concept — how strongly your design and pitch makes them want to try it. If your product is unappealing, you will receive poor cerebral feedback.
  • Experiential feedback comes from actual interaction with the product, enabling users to tell you what’s not working or what streamlining touches they found convenient.
Adjust for both types of feedback as you refine your operations. When a customer sees you fixing a problem that they pointed out, it’s going to be hard for your competitors to lure them away.

Other forms of consumer reaction include personal mentions, such as blog or twitter posts where the writer praises (or reams) your product. Content like this may not always be tagged, so you might consider using a tool like BuzzSumo or Social Mention to track where your name is trending on the Web. Remember that every public post someone writes about you becomes part of your reputation.

On one hand, this is a good thing: you want lots of mentions. You also want your current and potential clients to know that you value transparency. On the other hand, sitting back and letting people talk without ever contributing your voice is the wrong kind of transparency.

Don’t let critics, trolls, and malcontents run roughshod over your brand image. When damage control becomes necessary, respond to bad reviews with honest explanations and offer to make amends. Talk to unhappy customers in private in order to maintain control of the situation — it could be difficult to keep your cool if the angry friends and relatives of a disgruntled customer start jumping in on your comment thread.

Before an issue ever reaches a fever pitch like that, be proactive. Be an authority figure in your industry through thoughtful, high-quality content. Ask customers up front if they’re experiencing any problems that you can solve for them. Take the reins of your reputation.

Increase Customers’ Brand Retention
Brand retention is all about making sure your customers have such a great experience with you that they never want to go anywhere else. One highly effective way to do this is through loyalty programs. Though you should still strive to provide exemplary service to everyone, loyalty programs offer the special touch that moves your business from being the first option your patrons think of to being their only option.

In a loyalty program, participants could receive perks like early access to new products, larger discounts than the general public sees, points to redeem for free items, or any other fun things your business can support. Loyalty punch cards serve as a great tangible reminder for pleased customers to keep coming back so they can earn their free perk.

As fun as loyalty programs are, they will be next to meaningless if you don’t provide an unforgettable personal experience. Find out what your target demographic most wants to see in your field (their “pain points” — needs or inconveniences in their lives that you could solve) and come up with unique ways to meet these needs. Use design elements and slogans favored by your niche market to let them know you hear them. If you aren't going the extra mile to connect with your customers, a loyalty program won't add enough value to your clients' lives.

What strategies have you implemented to increase your customer loyalty? Try these tips and watch them work for you!
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