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The marketing experts on Entrepreneur's Team Digital provide answers to your common questions about building an online presence. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #TeamDigital. Each week, we'll spotlight a different topic, and twice a month we'll host Google Hangouts (our next is Wednesday) where Team Digital will chat about best strategies for managing an online reputation, marketing through social media and using mobile techniques to attract customers.
In this week's column, our Team Digital answers: What's your best tip for improving customer loyalty?
Give customers a great experience with your brand. Period.
Humanize your brand by interacting and engaging in social-media channels. Behaving like a person rather than a corporation is what makes your customers feel a closer, more personal connection with your brand; and that connection will result in stronger brand loyalty.
Give them a 'wow' experience. Winelibrary.com owner Gary Vaynerchuk constantly tracks what his clients are doing on Twitter and one day saw that one of his clients cried in agony when the Chicago Bears lost in the playoffs. He immediately proceeded to buy a Bears jersey signed by quarterback Jay Cutler and sent it to him. The result? The client was so impressed and personally assured Vaynerchuk that he would only buy wine from him moving forward.
Give them a heads up. Treat your best customers like insiders. Let them know what's going on before you tell anyone else. Include them in your decisions, ask for their feedback. Let them have the inside track and then they will feel a vested interest in staying with you. As the old adage goes, "treat your company like family and your family like company." Apply that thinking to your most loyal customers and they will stick with you.
Do something for your customers that they don't expect. The phrase "be remarkable" is often thrown around yet seldom taken to heart by businesses. Give your customers a reason to talk about you in a positive light. People don't want to share average experiences with their friends. They want to talk about the remarkable ones.
Improve your customer loyalty by measuring it. By regularly and consistently reaching out to your customers for feedback on what is working, and what isn't, you can stay on top of trends and adjust as needed. Far too many companies have a "don't ask them, we don' t really want to know attitude." And if you do ask, get back to your customers about what you heard, and what you plan to do about it. Nothing will destroy loyalty faster than asking but not taking any action.
Prioritize the customer experience above the value you get from them. As marketers we spend a lot of money, time and creative resources on optimizing for the actions we want customers to take. Spend that brain power instead on delivering a delightful customer experience. Prioritize campaigns that offer your customers real value, tell your story beautifully, and say thank you. Make the customer the center of every conversation, company-wide. That sort of customer-centric philosophy across your organization will assure you are doing everything you can to seed and then build loyalty with your customers.
Show that you care about their business as much as yours. Many clients aren't good judges of the quality of your work, but they do know, appreciate and value a smooth and thoughtful working process, no matter what service is being rendered. Also, actual contact in real time greatly enhances the bonds between people -- that includes clients relationships -- so don't fall back on electronic communication by default. Ask in every situation what is the best way to communicate.
Review results. I've found over the years that if I can help a customer understand the actual results they are achieving then they'll remain loyal forever. So often we never go back and review results with customers and too many times they fail to fully appreciate just how much value we are delivering. When we can help them understand that they never want to leave. (Bonus: When you understand that, you gain the confidence to raise your prices!)
Focus on the small details. Build an authentic and transparent relationship with a lot of little wins, that in the long term will equal one big win with your customer. For example, Burberry stores send personal email follow-ups to existing customers to thank them and see if they are enjoying past purchases. It may seem like a small gesture, but getting a personal email from an employee that works at an international brand makes a customer feel special and shows that the company cares about the relationship. Small wins like this keep customers loyal to your brand for the future.
Start by articulating a vision for what customer relationships could and should look like. The next step is experience design, which requires businesses to storyboard the desired customer experience before, during and after transactions...essentially what a customer should see, think, feel and share throughout the entire lifecycle. Everything else is just marketing, creative and gamification.
Remember the golden rule: "Do unto others..." Too often brand marketers leave their consumer hats at the door when they walk into work. Stop and think -- if I were buying coffee, wine, widgets, airline tickets, a hotel room or selecting a doctor -- what would I want? What would make me feel special and make me come back again and again? Start there. Really, try it.
Consistently deliver on your promise. Too often we are sold one thing and then, after the honeymoon period is over, it's back to business as usual (bad customer service). As the saying goes, under-promise and...over-deliver.