Many brands put much of their marketing efforts into obtaining new customers—and understandably so. But acquisition isn't enough. Customers who make a one-time purchase won't necessarily come back for more. If you want customers to return, you have to make your brand memorable by giving them the experience they feel they deserve. Taking the extra steps to make your customers happy is the secret to making them loyal.

You can build customer loyalty in various ways, but email marketing is one of the most effective. That may sound surprising and counterintuitive to those of us who don't like spammy marketing emails. Yet, email is the No. 1 activity on mobile phones, and strategic email marketing—done effectively—is one of the best ways to retain a loyal customer base.

Here are seven tips to make sure your email program encourages retention and loyalty.

1. Know your customers

The first step in creating emails that build customer loyalty is to know your customers, AKA your audience. As well-written and persuasive as you might think your emails are, you won't attract customers if your emails don't speak directly to your audience.

One of the most effective ways to understand your customers is to build buyer personas. Tough an abstract representation of your ideal customer, a buyer persona is based on actual customer data and market research. To make your buyer personas seem like real customers, you should consider giving them a name, a gender, a job, a salary figure, and other relevant attributes that your target customers possess.

Hubspot's MakeMyPersona tool is a useful platform for beginning your buyer persona brainstorming. Once you create those personas, you can tailor your email messages accordingly.

2. Start from a clean slate

Your new and improved email campaigns should, of course, eventually target all your customers. But before you discard your former email strategy, test and assess your new email campaigns to make sure they produce results as expected.

The best way to do that is to aim for a fresh start: that is, target new campaigns at new customers who haven't yet formed an opinion about your product. That way, you'll be able to analyze customer responses solely in relation to the new campaign, and your analysis won't become convoluted by a mix of campaigns.

When you deploy your new campaigns to these new customers, compare their effects to the effects of your old campaigns on other customers, and check for improvements in conversion.

When you've determined what makes your campaigns most effective, gradually start implementing those new campaigns across more and more customers, including long-time customers, and phasing out older campaigns and blast emails.

3. Target individual segments

Your new campaigns and messages should be personalized and tailored to each customer type. Platforms such as Optimove let you hyper-target your customers, sorting them into segments based on real-time customer data.

Different customer types should receive different emails based on their specific needs and their customer status. For example, you might have one email directed at businesswomen age 30-40 who have abandoned their cart, and a different email directed at businesswomen age 30-40 who have only browsed the site.

Though 37% of marketers say list segmentation is the most challenging email marketing strategy, you can strategically craft your emails based on your detailed customer segments.

4. Reward loyalty with incentives

You can also send emails that reward current customers for their loyalty. Offer your best customers early or exclusive deals, or make them part of a loyalty program that gives them points and perks.

Email is a great tool for reminding those customers of their special status. You can send them exclusive, highly targeted emails that offer perks and rewards, such as free shipping.

In addition, you can tell customers who've almost achieved that status that they don't have much more to go: Use motivational messages such as "You're almost there! Make two more purchases and you'll qualify for our silver status and get free shipping on all orders."

5. Send redemption reminders

Once you have segmented your customers and refined your highly targeted campaigns, encourage customers to return by giving them incentives. Email them about points or a voucher that they haven't redeemed yet. Or, if they've been absent for a while, entice them by telling them about a sale or sending a promo code with a special discount.

Ideally, these emails will make customers feel that they have to buy soon. Adding phrases such as "last chance," "deal ends tomorrow," and "24-hour sale" will evoke a sense of urgency. By using email automation tools such as GetResponse, you can trigger emails to send automatically when an incentive or deal is available for a limited time.

6. Close conversions with 'thank you' emails

Whether users create an account on your site, leave contact information, or make a purchase, you'll want to send a thank-you email to let them know they're valued and appreciated. Again, personalization is key, so make your email content feel as personal as you can.

Depending on your company's tone, you may want to try adding a fun comment or some humor that's relevant to your industry. You can also close the email with a handwritten signature from the manager or CEO to make the "thank you" feel more personal.

7. Delight your customers

Don't stop your efforts with customers after they make a purchase. Customer satisfaction is as least as high a priority as encouraging customers to buy.

In addition to thanking your customers, take steps to delight them, such as sending specially decorated birthday emails and discounts. Delighting your customers will give you the boost you need to stand out from your competitors and keep those customers buying from you.

Customer satisfaction means customer retention

Make customer satisfaction the priority in your email campaigns. A big part of what you're selling isn't just the product but the customer service.

When you provide high-value customer service by showing your appreciation with personalized emails, useful incentives, and creative extra touches, you make your product worth the investment and motivate customers to return.

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Seven Tips for Using Email to Build Customer Loyalty

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image of Yoav Vilner

Yoav Vilner is co-founder of Ranky, a startup marketing agency. He is also a tech blogger, growth hacker, and startup marketer.

LinkedIn: Yoav Vilner

Twitter: @YoavVilner