Smart brands know that customers are the lifeblood of their business. Customers, in fact, are the core reason you can open up shop (whether that means online or brick and mortar) every day and generate a profit.
Related: 3 Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty
But while convincing first-time customers to come sample your products or services is a coup, nothing is better than getting a new customer who becomes a regular, and finally, a brand loyalist.
If you're a restaurant owner, for instance, it is not just enough that you cook awesome meals. That in itself could get you a couple of visitors and first-time customers. But to make these customers come back to your restaurant, you may also have to offer an incentive for returning, as well as cultivate consistency in your kitchen and even go as far as convincing customers to join a mailing list.
So, what strategies in general help entrepreneurs to engage, satisfy and retain customers? These six steps below will help:
1. Sell convenience.
Customers like comfort and accessibility. So, your brand has to continually find innovative ways to make your products and services available and accessible to customers on the go.
Take a look at Starbucks, the coffee giant. It continually ups its game, with innovative ways to ensurecustomer comfort. For instance, its Mobile Order & Pay feature in its app fairly screams “ease.” That strategy alone is worth paying a few extra bucks for and likely to ensure brand loyalty.
2. Pre-engage with your prospects.
No matter how focused your online marketing efforts are, or how fine-tuned your website, today’s prospects rarely fill out forms or order services after getting their first impression. The noise is just too big; too much else is going on; too little time has gone by during that first visit, to build trust.
B2B sales intelligence tools like Infusion Soft, Leadberry or Marketo solve this problem by helping businesses to pre-engage with their clients and follow up with anonymous B2B visitors. According to Adam Jankovits, the CEO of B2B Lead generation company Leadberry, “On average, only 1.5 percent of first-time visitors will convert on your website; thus 98.5 percent of your online marketing spend can be easily a waste of money, if you are in the B2B sector and looking for clients to come to your door. Treating anonymous B2B visitors as prospects and reaching out to them via social media is a rapidly growing trend in the B2B sector”
Related: 25 Tips for Earning Customer Loyalty
Additionally, in B2B marketing, focusing on accounts rather than leads is needed to gain focus (this is called account-based marketing). Rather than wait for potential clients to interact with your business, your business can use account-based-marketing to select companies it would like to close and proactively go after them.
3. Get personal.
Know your customers on a personal level. Humanize your brand; let customers relate and interact with it like it’s a person. Get to know what matters to them. Send them messages on important dates like birthdays. Send them emails and newsletters and start those communications with their first names.
For long-term customers, send personalized and branded materials to continually place your brand into their personal space; sustain their top-of-mind awareness. This can also inspire referrals to friends and family to experience your brand.
4. Let your corporate social responsibility be impactful.
Find needs that people are interested in filling, and try to fill those needs. TOMS has mastered the art of this strategy with its “one for one” campaign, where every pair of shoes sold translates to another pair being given to charity or someone in need.
TOMS has given away over 60 million pairs of new shoes and converted new customers into brand loyalists. This social impact angle is definitely a welcome development and one everyone wishes more brands would adopt.
5. Implement customer feedback.
Feedback should be taken seriously and implemented as much as the business can manage. Once feedback has been implemented, communicate with customers that you listened to them and as a result, added the new, suggested feature, or eliminated an old one.
In a recent chat I had with Jean-Sebastian Pelland, director of Eland Cables on how his company implements customer feedback so as to ensure customer satisfaction, he said: “The customer feedback we received saw a premium placed on quality and service -- something we never compromise on.
"So we went to the lengths of establishing an in-house testing laboratory in order to offer additional quality assurance. Understandably, customers like to feel they are getting the best deal available; and delivering a premium product at a great price with expert technical support is our way of doing that.”
Then there are companies like Nike that have totally rocked the customer feedback feature. Nike created a separate Twitter account, @NikeSupport, just for responding to customer inquiries and issues. The company's Nike Support is dedicated to all things customer service, making it easier for customers to reach out when they have a problem or a question they want answered.
The company's support staff are also quick to respond.
6. Create amazing experiences.
Continuously create out-of-this world experiences that are unique to you. These could be in-store, at trade shows, at global or local events or through product interaction.
A company that does this well is Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has continuously shown this through campaigns like its campus-friendly twist, where a Coca-Cola bottle can be opened only by the matching bottle of a friend, and its unwrap a gift bottle program, where many people got Christmas bowties from their Coca-Cola bottles.
In conclusion, your customers are primarily concerned about two things: your product quality and good communication. If your brand can offer a top-notch product while holding things together at the social media interactive level, as well as the social impact one, you won't have a loyalty problem.