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For small businesses, it can seem like a no-brainer to focus on attracting new customers. But cultivating customer loyalty can be even more crucial. Repeat customers help build sustainability in your business model as well as driving profit growth and expanding your base organically.
The Harvard Business School has noted that increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases profits by 25 percent to 95 percent. That’s a big increase.
So as you work on expanding your business, don’t forget about customer loyalty. Here are seven ways you can do that.
- Tell Your Story
Reach beyond the products or services your business offers to highlight the human story behind it.
Who works for your company? What was your inspiration? Why should others pay attention to what you have to say? These are all questions you can have in the back of your mind while marketing to your customer base.
Don’t be afraid to peel back the curtain and share your personal experiences. Just make sure that you are telling a story because it will resonate with your community, not just inflate your own ego.
- Prioritize Customer Service
Quality customer service is not to be underestimated. Customers will continue to engage with businesses only if they have a positive experience the first time around, so every customer interaction counts.
If someone is dissatisfied with their product or service, make sure they have an incentive to keep engaging with your company, whether it is receiving store credit or unlimited returns. Companies like Zappos have gained the trust of customers by making it easy to return or replace a product, and easing those interactions drives overall sales.
Communication is the key to any successful relationship. Just as it is important to greet people with a smile when they enter a brick and mortar store, greeting customers who visit your online platforms is similarly invaluable.
You can connect with visitors to your website by using live chat software such as Live Agent that allows you to answer questions in real time and anticipate customers’ needs rather than responding when they are already dissatisfied. It is also easy to set up Facebook Messaging for customer inquiries and embed opt-in forms onto your website that allow customers to ask questions when they need to.
- Make It Personal
Email marketing and social media marketing platforms now allow you to share highly customized content and connect with your customers on a personal level. Everyone is more likely to pay attention to messaging that speaks directly to their interests or experience.
Email marketing services such as Mailchimp and Constant Contact allow you to personalize even your mass mailings by inserting your subscriber’s names into the greeting. You can also organize your contact lists into sub-groups based on your subscribers’ interests and send messages that appeal to them individually.
No one likes getting hit with a dearth of irrelevant emails, but if your messages are relevant to the audience receiving them and provide a real value in exchange for opening, you’ll stand out from the crowd. Providing value doesn’t only mean offering a discount; it can also mean including a meaningful message that speaks to your subscribers on a personal level.
- Go Social
Social media may feel like a low priority for busy business owners focused on the day to day work that goes into running a company. But social media increases your interpersonal connections exponentially. Pick your platforms based on what will best reflect your product, engage with your target demographics, and be consistent.
It’s better to have two active and up to date profiles than five profiles sparsely populated with content. Many customers will search for your service or product online before they ever see it in person, so maintaining a crisp and timely online presence is crucial. Maintaining your social media profiles is an assured way to keep your image fresh and relevant.
Platforms such as Nuvi and Hootsuite also make it easy to schedule social media posts and track their impact by generating graphs that reflect user engagement. But the most important thing is not tracking this data, but what you decide to do with it. Curate the content on your feed based on what resonates with your audience.
- Set up an exchange
Remember: engagement isn’t just about attracting followers and likes. It can be exciting to see those numbers rise, but it’s the digital equivalent of attracting a posse of window shoppers. Draw your followers into your community by giving them reasons to engage further.
You can use your posts to pose questions to your followers: “What are your favorite tricks for using our product?” “What innovation could best serve you?” This provides people with an opportunity to establish a sense of ownership over your brand and post selfies with your product, causing a ripple effect in your outreach.
Also remember to follow through on your end of the conversation by scheduling time to respond to comments, messages, and even repost some selections from your feed.
- Create Connections
We all like to feel as though we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Successful businesses foster a sense of connectedness amongst their companies, a community that associates itself with a brand’s identity.
You can build this by positioning your business as an authority in your field through posting meaningful content that doesn’t simply push your products but highlights research, information, and topics intriguing to your customer base. You can also provide customer loyalty levels so that customers can buy in to your company as members/investors. Offer a rewards program with different tiers that encourages people to keep returning to your business for a reliable service or product.
There are multiple tools at your disposal to increase your reach by building a loyal customer base. A mixture of common sense with a dash of digital savvy can increase your profits and drive sustainable growth in your business. Stay open minded and remember that the most important thing is engaging with your customers in a way that makes them feel valued.
JT Ripton is a business consultant and freelance business and marketing writer out of Tempe, AZ. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.
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