It is the problem most small business owners don’t think about. While you are worried about getting new customers, chances are you aren’t thinking about how to retain them.

Unless you run a business that survives on new customer acquisition, this is an area that requires just as much attention and planning as acquisition itself. The reasons for this struggle are numerous. For many businesses, there simply isn’t an easy way to retain long-term customers.

Unless you offer an ongoing service, run a restaurant or coffee shop, or just automatically attract the same customers time and time again, you might be at a loss for how to keep them coming back. This doesn’t have to be the case.

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One of the easiest ways to keep customers returning is through loyalty. When they begin to see your business as something more than just a source of good products, it is easier to get them to return.

Customers are generally loyal to businesses they find a greater value in. Whether it’s high-quality products and services they can’t get anywhere else, rewards, or just a special relationship, loyalty is key to bringing customers back into your door or to your website.

Building loyalty isn’t a complicated process, but it does take some planning and smart execution. This is because you can’t simply attract returning customers with any one specific thing. Customer loyalty is built on knowing who your customers are and what they value about your business. Here are some simple tips and strategies you can use to create and maintain a loyalty program.

Strategy One: Get to Know Your Customer

With so many businesses, it is easy to fall into the trap of treating your customers as just customers. We often forget that they are living, breathing human beings. Because of this, the most basic thing you can do with your customers is to create a lasting relationship with them.

Loyalty is all about long-term relationships. In real life, we are more likely to stick with and help the people we know best. This applies equally well to businesses.

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Typically, businesses stop getting to know their customers on a surface level. This might be basic demographic information for market research purposes or learning their first name after five visits. While this information is helpful to tailor your business, products, and services to these customers, it rarely makes them feel connected to the business.

More detailed, personal information is key. You don’t need to learn their deep, dark secrets or their whole life story. Instead, think about the small details that you tend to learn from strangers over time.

What do they do for a living? What are their hobbies? What do they like about your business?

The more information you know, the more you can relate to them on a personal level.Most importantly, remember to treat your customers as individuals.

Strategy Two: Communicate Constantly

Relationships are built on communication. Whether you have a physical business or an online one, consistent and authentic communication is key. Face-to-face, phone, email, and any other medium of communication will work for building this kind of relationship. The key is consistent communication.

Keep customers in the loop about what is going on with your business. Newsletters, email updates, and physical news boards are great ways to broadcast this information to people who are interested in staying up-to-date.

Physical businesses can do this through daily interaction. Friendly conversations and smiles go a long way to help build lasting relationships and loyalty with customers.

Utilize social media to expand your communication reach. If your business hasn’t reached the land of social media yet, now is the time.

Don’t stop at just broadcasting random news and information, however. Engage with people on social media. Share their posts. Like what they like.

As long as the content is appropriate for your business and your communication is authentic, this kind of engagement helps build an online relationship which can translate into more loyalty and better sales.

Strategy Three: Keep Them Coming Back for More

Customers remain loyal to businesses for a couple of different reasons. First, products and services they can only get in one spot are great motivators to return. Whether it’s a special coffee no one else serves or the best dry-cleaning around, customers will return when they feel there are no better options.

The second reason customers remain loyal is uniqueness. Some businesses manage to create a new reason to return each week, month, or even day. New products, deals, services, events, and other creative things make their business stand out to customers.

Think about the type of business you have and how you can keep it fresh for your customers. Sometimes, this is as simple as having a new featured product or deal on a weekly basis.

Events and get-togethers are also great options for physical businesses. Online, you can try out content marketing, such as a blog or newsletter to keep customers reading and consuming important, brand-related information.

Strategy Four: Reward Loyalty

One tried-and-true method for the most successful loyalty programs is the simple reward. Customers who come back time and time again are likely to keep returning if they get better deals, prices, or exclusive products.

The best rewards are often the most simple. A good deal on their next purchase or an exclusive, personal reward is usually enough to be effective.

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Using loyalty rewards will often motivate customers to repeat purchases and services. For coffee shops, for example, punchcards keep people motivated if they know that their sixth cup of coffee is free. Immediate deals for repeat customers work in the same manner but instantaneously.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the rewards need to be attractive to your customers. They should be related to your business (either deals, extra products, services, etc. that you already serve) as well.

Rewards are also a great opportunity for branding. Custom products, clothing, and other items begin to establish a theme that can help customers connect with your business.

Strategy Five: Subscription Services

A relatively new method of encouraging customers to return is a subscription-based service or rewards model. Also known as a membership rewards program, this type of reward is exclusive to people who actively join the “club,” so to speak. Subscription programs can reward customers through information, special deals, events, exclusive products, etc.

The key to this type of loyalty program is to keep it free. Business owners sometimes see this as an opportunity for more revenue.

Unfortunately, if customers have to pay for this type of access, it no longer becomes rewarding. Loyalty will likely be lost because if they see that you are trying to make an extra profit.

Instead, keep access free with a small barrier of entry. Maybe they need to sign up to the monthly newsletter or refer a friend.

This type of barrier motivates them to take an extra action beyond using your business, but without spending any more money. In the end, they will be more likely to act if a little effort is required that isn’t too financially demanding.

Like the individual rewards, keep whatever perks you choose for this subscription program related to your business. Advertise this program as well, so that customers are aware of the potential benefits they may gain with a little extra effort.

Combining Your Efforts

To really get true loyalty out of your customers, it’s important to combine these tips since they build off of each other. Step one should be to start communicating and getting to know your customers as soon as possible. These steps will start building a relationship with individual customers quickly while you get to know them better.

Use the information you learn to tailor whatever perks and rewards you want to use for the loyalty program. In the end, you will be able to provide them rewards, deals, information, and genuine communication to keep them coming back time and time again.

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It is the problem most small business owners don't think about. While you are worried about getting new customers, chances are you aren't thinking about how to retain them. Unless you run a business that survives on new customer acquisition, this is an area that requires just as much attention...