We've talked before about the importance of building customer loyalty, and it's no accident that the first of the 13 Touchpoint Leaks is "Forgotten Customers". It's been said before, and it will be said again. But actually cultivating loyalty in practice is not always easy. So I've asked Accredited Consultant Ben Wheeler to give us his tips on how to encourage customers to stay loyal to your company. ~ Bryony Thomas
The numbers and the wisdom speak for themselves. We all know that selling to existing customers is far more likely to generate revenue than beating a path to new ones – and it’s a lot less expensive too.
You often hear the mantra – ‘Loyal customers buy more– and are more likely to recommend you to others’. If that weren’t enough to scream ‘LOOK AFTER YOUR CUSTOMERS’, the Watertight Marketing methodology starts by looking at the importance of loyalty.
In simple terms – there’s no point in wasting your money marketing to new customers until you have first plugged leak #1 – Forgotten Customers. After all, forgetting your customers is a surefire way of losing their loyalty. Without customer loyalty, you have a hole in your bucket.
So, if the reverse of a forgotten customer is a loyal one, how do we go about looking after our customers in a way that will delight them – and your bottom line in equal measure?
I have grouped my suggestions across four areas that affect customer loyalty– with one simple and effective approach at the end. Many are practical ideas you can easily implement but I’m going to start with something a little deeper – culture.
Creating a culture that builds customer loyalty
Just as you wouldn’t build a house on sand, there’s little point in investing in customer loyalty initiatives if you haven’t addressed the foundations. So ask yourself these questions about your business. If you recognise any negatives, change them – they are undermining your chances of customer loyalty.
1) Embed customer loyalty as part of your business strategy
What kind of business do you want to be? Sales are definitely important... but, do you focus on the next sale to the extent that your existing customers are quickly forgotten?
If you fail to deliver the promises made in the sales process, don’t return calls and expect new customers to work it out for themselves – they will quickly feel short changed. They might look like customers once they are on your client list but do they feel like they are your customers? Probably not. Many of the suggestions that follow will help you put in place processes to embed customer loyalty and overcome this. (See: Treat your customers like cats)
2) Before you focus on your customers, focus on your people
Your employees are the face and voice of your business. How your customers feel about your business is often influenced by their interaction with your people. Are they engaged in your business? Do they feel a sense of pride and ownership? Much of this is down to you as the business owner. If you are consistent in your decisions and actions and fair to your employees - you’ll build their loyalty to you and the business. As Sir Richard Branson says… “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.” (See: How's your Commercial Karma?)
Customer loyalty starts with building human relationships
Make it personal. Making a customer feel like you recognise them and are taking the time to pay them special attention really helps to build a relationship – with the loyalty that follows.
3) Get your customer’s name right
What’s in a name? Revenue. Seriously. There’s nothing more likely to show your customer you don’t care or feel like ‘just a number’ if you get this wrong. These days many of us use CRMs and email marketing systems - so, if that’s what you use to keep in touch, make sure you have their name right, especially their first name. Audit your CRM or email lists. That customer you addressed as Dear xxx, could have been just about to place a repeat order.
4) Send something personal, printed and handwritten
The Watertight Marketing book was written for the small business. How often have you heard the line ‘they are small enough to care’? Small businesses have the advantage that they can get to know their customers far better than much larger businesses. The personal touch that comes with being small can be used to great effect to build loyalty. So, as an alternative to an email, how effective would a personal note be? Very effective – and affordable. Consider getting some branded cards, write some personal messages (remembering special occasions etc) and show you care.
You can't build customer loyalty without communication
If you maintain regular and clear communication with your customers, they are more likely to remember you and buy from you in the future.
5) Thank and educate your customers in what they can expect from you
With building an email subscriber being so important as the means to communicate with customers, it is surprising how often this becomes such an impersonal process. Opportunities to build loyalty can be missed right from the start when the customer (or potential customer) hears nothing after they’ve signed up. Think about a sequence of emails that start with thanking the customer for their interest and then explaining what they can expect to hear from you – and then deliver it.
6) Be generous with your content (and share your customers' content too)
What keeps customers coming back to your website or reading your newsletters is often the value of your content. The Watertight Marketing blog is all about offering something that will help our readers take ideas into their own businesses. But we don’t stop there. Additional guides like the A-Z of content marketing ideas offer valuable resources that both build loyalty with existing customers as well as helping to attract new ones. What content could you offer your customers?
But your own content is only part of the story. Your customers work hard to produce good content themselves and you can make a very positive impression with them by retweeting and sharing their posts on social media. It shows you are taking the trouble to notice them, you respect their efforts and it builds loyalty.
Customer loyalty must be built on great customer service
Customers remember being treated well. It might be a helpful conversation with one of your employees or a case where an issue had been resolved with a little flexibility - or just simply by listening. Positive customer experiences like these lead to repeat business.
7) Well-trained employees
Do your people fully understand what you do as a business and what the services and products you sell do? Good training makes that customer experience a whole lot more satisfying. Investing in training doesn’t just help your customers - it can be a positive learning experience that builds a sense of team and engagement too. Ultimately that’ better for you and your customers.
8) The power of listening
The customer is always right, right? Well, even if they aren’t you have to find a way to make them feel like they are. This is where good training comes into play. The ability to listen and build empathy is a hugely important skill – not just in keeping the customer happy and resolving the issue in question. It shows the customer that you recognise them as an individual. Listening to the customer also creates the opportunity to sell intelligently, based on their needs. If the customer’s needs are being met, they’ll keep coming back.
9) Create opportunities for feedback
Every customer likes to feel that their opinion matters. So, how do you create opportunities for them to give feedback? While there is value in an annual customer service survey, asking them ‘little and often’ is a more way to show you care.
For example, each client of a Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant receives a monthly questionnaire with just one simple question… How satisfied were you with what your Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant did for you this month? It’s an easy process that takes very little time for the client to complete but shows that we welcome feedback and reminds them that they aren’t being taken for granted. Services such as Survey Gizmo or Survey Monkey will help you gain customer feedback, often at no cost.
Complexity is a killer of customer loyalty
Finally, you’ve done the hard work – you have built your customer base. If you are doing (or plan to do) many of the above suggestions, you will be well on your way to keeping them loyal. But there’s one more thing you can do throughout – and it can be the most effective of them all.
10) Make it easy for them to remain a customer
We are all inclined to do the things that are easier – and that applies to our customers too. So how can you make it easier for them to buy from you?
Perhaps offer them a discount from their next purchase, or, through segmenting them, maybe you can offer them repeat offers closer to their needs. It might even be a case of remaining easy to get in touch with. You might want to direct all enquiries via your website but is that what your customers want? Have you considered a virtual receptionist if you are away from the office?
Ultimately, you have a relationship with your customers and whether it’s a good one - or a bad one is down to you. If it’s a good one there’s no reason for them not to feel loyal to you – but remember, as our previous post covered, they can choose to leave you any time they want.
© Watertight Marketing Ltd
See these other posts on building customer loyalty:
- Customer marketing: how to make sure your customers don't feel forgotten
- 3 tips for customer retention that any business can achieve
Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant
Ben is a freelance marketing consultant, based in Bristol. If you want to reach new customers and need help with your marketing content and communications, you’ll enjoy Ben’s ideas and enthusiasm.