Customer loyalty matters, because selling more to current customers is easier and cheaper than finding and selling to new ones. Loyal customers tend to buy more, more regularly. And they will frequently recommend your business to others.
Here are 10 tips for you to consider if you are sincerely interested in having a business that is notable for its customer loyalty and referrals. I propose that these tried-and-true tactics with interpersonal strategies can deepen relationships with customers, establish greater levels of trust, and build stronger customer loyalty.
1. Understand the true purpose of marketing
Effective marketing is in large part about building trust and developing relationships.
The purpose of marketing is to "create and maintain a strong feeling with customers so they are mentally predisposed to continually choose and recommend you," according to Tom Asacker, author of A Clear Eye for Branding. Successful marketing also requires being relevant and unique, which brings us to Tip 2.
2. Identify and build your brand
We're not talking about your logo, marketing "look," or tagline, although you should have those tools in your marketing kit. Branding that builds genuine customer loyalty goes beyond what the eye can see. It's branding at the emotional, sensory, and gut-feeling level.
Your brand is what your business is known for, how you engage with customers, and what people can depend on you to consistently deliver. It's a compilation of your most-important strengths.
What should a customer who is referring someone to your business say about you? "They go out of their way to find resources and solutions for me." "The staff is warm and caring; you can feel it the minute you walk through the door."
Identify your brand, and leverage it to see customer loyalty and referrals increase. Don't be shy about showcasing your uniqueness and strengths.
3. Tap into what customers want
To appeal to a customer's needs or desires, you must first understand their motivations, values, and priorities. Each customer has unique needs and wants.
Being tuned in to what customers want and being sensitive to their evolving needs will help you become more resourceful and innovative over time. That is an excellent way to set yourself apart from other businesses and help you build memorable, lasting customer relationships.
4. Understand what customers actually are paying for
We like to believe customers are paying for our expertise. Yet most clients or customers cannot evaluate our expertise and so they simply assume we are experts by virtue of our brand credentials.
What customers can assess is whether they experience positive outcomes, if the relationship they have with you is meaningful, if they feel valued, and if they receive a high level of service. If you're selling a service, you're selling a relationship.
5. Outcomes matter
Practicing good interpersonal skills and maintaining solid customer relationships are important for developing customer loyalty. But what really matters to customers are results they can see, count on, and talk about.
Customers might come to you a few times because you have the right product or service for their needs, but they won't keep coming to you based on your business personality alone. Customers must trust you to help them; they must see results and learn something from you to make it worth their while to continue as your customer.
Remember, customers refer friends and family members with comments such as "I've never seen such great service before"—not "Customer service staff are great conversationalists."
6. Integrity leads to trust, which leads to a relationship
Integrity involves fundamental behaviors such as keeping your word, being honest, providing a consistent level of service, and being reliable. Businesses that demonstrate a high degree of integrity are seen as trustworthy.
Building trust requires the businesses to continually put the customer's interests ahead of their own and display a genuine "other" orientation. You demonstrate that by being interested rather than interesting, and by not treating every interaction as an opportunity to share your message.
All that adds up to doing business with integrity. Without integrity, there is no trust, and without trust, there is no enduring relationship.
7. What have you done for me lately?
One of the most common mistakes businesses make is focusing primarily on the early part of the sale. They wrongly assume that once a customer is happy, that customer will stay happy and continue to use the services.
Each customer's experience is the sum of every small experience that customer has while in your place of business. Ask yourself, If I were this customer right now, what would I really want in terms of product, care, and service?
Remember, your customer is always thinking, What's in it for me? What you do (or fail to do) at every point during a customer's course of care makes an impression.
8. Never take loyalty for granted
A successful external marketing campaign will encourage people to try you out, but only good outcomes and an authentic relationship with you will keep them coming back.
Customers' willingness to return to your business depends only partly on their need for your product or services. They can easily choose another business or provider, or even a different product, if they are not happy with what they experience.
Never take loyalty for granted. Never underestimate the power and value of the one-to-one relationship customers have with you and your staff.
Customers return to where they feel connected, where they have a sense of belonging, where there is mutual esteem, where they are treated with respect, and where their care results in positive outcomes.
9. Word-of-mouth marketing isn't new
Third-party endorsement or customer referral has long been the foundation of marketing.
What is new is that the bar for what customers expect in the way of service is higher today. Being good isn't good enough to get customers talking about you. Outstanding is the new good.
Polls repeatedly show the quality of customer service is on the decline across industries. When you consistently exceed expectations, customers become "raving fans." Those are the customers who refer their friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers.
10. Know and appreciate your ambassadors
In his bestselling book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says people who refer fall into one of two categories: connectors or market mavens.
Connectors are social. They have a gift for knowing people and naturally make connections among their network.
Market mavens are people who have "the goods." They have a desire to be of service and influence others. They are databanks of information, they know how to get the best deals and the best service, and they share information with enthusiasm.
According to Gladwell, "Word-of-mouth begins when someone along the chain tells a connector or a maven." Learn to recognize those customers, cultivate them, and express your appreciation accordingly.