Building A Brand Customers Love: 5 Paths to Customer Loyalty
Recent studies have shown that it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an old one. Needless to say that businesses small and large had to rethink their acquisition strategy. Outpacing your competition is not about quantitative acquisition anymore. It now depends on having a loyal community of happy customers.
Customer loyalty is no longer part of marketing – it IS marketing. Because in today’s world, all competitors are only one click away, research has shown that customers only stick with brands and companies that go the extra mile to provide great customer experience. Understanding why loyalty is important is not a present issue - all businesses, including startups, know and have accepted the premise. But how to create measurable systems to increase and track loyalty is still an effort. Here are 5 ways to help you build a brand that your customers, both new and old, will love.
1. Transparency is the new marketing
A trend mostly started by tech startups and quickly adopted by almost every brand, transparency is here to stay. No brand or company story is free of struggles or hiccups or problems of all sorts. Being in honest with your customers will get you their respect and sympathy at the same time. Few people remember the security breach Buffer suffered in 2013, but the company now enjoys great consumer trust and part of it is due to how they handled the situation: opened up, provided updates and addressed concerns.
Transparency, as it relates to customer loyalty, is not just about being honest when the company hits a bump in the road. It’s about opening up to your customers in all or most of the areas. One very important area is values. A study conducted by CEB revealed that 64% of 7, 000 US consumers cited shared values as the primary reason for brand affinity. In fact, the study concluded that shared values are “far and away the largest driver.”
Excellent service might sound like an obvious mark for businesses these days. However, it is overwhelming to look at numbers or research and see how many startups and young businesses still don’t give it the focus it deserves. Lifelong customers don’t become lifelong because of the what, but because of the how. It’s not what you sell, it’s how you support them.
Excellent customer service not only helps increase loyalty, but it also avoids negative word-of-mouth and can make the difference between you and your competition. Excellence in customer service is how Zappos, for instance, has managed to create such a loyal following. How do you do it?
- Enable – make it easy for customers to get in touch with you and to provide feedback though several channels.
- Listen – it’s not enough to garner feedback, you also have to listen to what your customers have to say and give their opinions or concerns the proper forum they deserve.
- Act – include the results in your service or product iterations. And most importantly, let them know that you have.
3. Social proofing – the new wisdom
There’s no escaping social proofing anymore. Not if you want to be where your customers are, where your competition is, where the marketplace exists. Aileen Lee, partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gives an outstanding definition for social proof on TechCrunch , when she talks about “the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something.”
There are different ways you can achieve social proof, but the easiest to start with, especially when it comes to startups or young businesses, is the wisdom of friends. Make use of your circles and connections and turn them into your early adopters. Other methods include Expert Sourcing – sharing statistics by a credible source – User Reviews and Celebrity Endorsements. Wisdom of the Crowd is also an effective method as McDonald’s famous “Over 1 Million Served” sign has proved.
4. The future is personal
As marketing evolves, research and consumer studies remain a corner stone of any successful initiative. And these studies have shown us that personalized emails have a transaction rate 6 times higher than impersonal emails. This can translate to any communication really. Customers appreciate personalized messages and these go a long way to creating an emotional bond.
Addressing customers by name or remembering when they first signed up it’s not the end of your commitment to personal relationships with your customers. You need to know how to talk to the. Research shows that using the right words or phrases motivates consumers and motivation supports loyalty. Studies on conversion and retention rates have concluded that words like You, New, Instantly, Free and Because are some of the most persuasive ones in English.
5. Make life easier
Marketing is about a lot more than making a sale. Retention is definitely about more than just pushing your latest service or product. Customer loyalty comes from making their life easier, again and again.
Anticipating the problems or pain points of your customers is a trump card that you can use over and over again. As the world changes, so do problem. If your previous iteration of product or service solved a certain pain point or problem, then your next iteration needs to be a solution for a “spin-off problem”. The fact that you see it coming and are able to provide a solution in anticipation will help your customers understand that you have their back, so they’ll be loyal to you.
Nothing kills customer appreciation and loyalty more than inconsistency. If you want your new customers to turn into returning customers, then loyal ones and ultimately alpha-customers, then your need to be consistent and dependable. Don’t make promises you can’t keep and keep the promises you make. Unexpected things can happen, but then you go back to #1 and be transparent about it.