The Secret's Out

The Simple Things

Daly offers the following four commandments to develop truly loyal customers:

1. Naming names. In today's detached, "just-give-me-your-account-number" world, nothing is more well-received than individual, personalized attention. Even though you may already be courteous and friendly to customers, greeting them by name is valued 10 times more on the worthy-of-loyalty scale.

2. Custom care. Customers pretty much know what they do and don't want from your company. If you always ask and remember what they want on an individual basis--even if it's something as simple as knowing a dry cleaning customer likes light starch in his collars--then you have in place one of the key elements of a strong loyalty program.

3. Keeping in touch. You can't communicate enough on a me-to-you basis with your customers. And don't just connect to make a pitch. Clip out a newspaper or magazine article that pertains to a customer's business and send it to him or her with an attached note saying "FYI--thought you'd be interested." When customers know you take time to think about them, they don't forget it.

4. "Boo-boo research." Part of any customer loyalty program is taking the time to reach out to lost customers to learn why they went elsewhere. In many cases, just the contact and showing you really care about getting their business will win them back--along with their contribution to your profits.

According to Robbin Gehrke, senior vice president, executive creative director at Russ Reid Co., a Pasadena, California, advertising agency that employs relationship marketing and fundraising, relationship marketing has become the battle cry for a growing number of companies. Gehrke says the activities of her agency are aimed at making clients' customers feel a sense of increasing equity in the company, getting them to believe there was something at risk in abandoning their relationship or changing their loyalty.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Secret's Out.

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