Do you have a favorite establishment that you visit regularly? Would you say that you’re a bona fide brand loyalist? Meaning, have you sung the praises of your favorite brand to friends, family, and colleagues?
Brand loyalty is a quality you may desire for your business, and it’s a quality you should consider cultivating in your customers.
Any business owner can cultivate brand loyalists, though it takes work. Lots of “going the extra mile.” But the benefits are endless, considering you’ll not only develop deeper relationships with your customers that may result in creating lifelong customers, but you’ll also have an easier time marketing.
Here are four ways that you can begin cultivating brand loyalists.
1. Take some time to focus. Lines may form and call queues may build. Remain committed to performing efficiently but above all, give each customer as much time as necessary. Encourage your employees to engage customers in small talk and get to know a little about the customers’ lives—not just what kinds of coffee they’re ordering or what services they’d like to add to their accounts.
For example, if a customer calls to make a change to his account before leaving for vacation, make a note of it. Imagine how that customer would feel next time he called and the employee helping him were to ask, “How did you like Fiji?” Do you think that the customer will remember that conversation? You bet he will.
2. Incentivize your customers. Customer loyalty programs are becoming the norm, so your customers have come to expect them. You may not win any loyalists from these programs alone, but you will begin to build loyalty among your customers. We’re all familiar with customer loyalty programs. In fact, you probably have at least one or all of the following on your keychain right now: a supermarket, video-rental, retail, gas, or coffee-rewards card. If you don’t currently have some type of loyalty program in place, put one in place quickly. But don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. Do it in a way that really makes the offer compelling.
If you’d like to kick-start a loyalty program, you can run a few appropriate keywords through a search engine and find multiple customer loyalty management companies that can help.
3. Better yet, surprise them. This is where it gets interesting—and with its unlimited potential, it could really help you build a diehard cadre of brand loyalists. Have you looked into Foursquare or Gowalla? They are geolocation apps that are picking up steam among social-media users.
Indeed, the growing popularity of smartphones and geolocation apps is a trend worth noting and capitalizing on.
Reward your most loyal customers with free meals or deep discounts after a certain number of visits. If a customer remains the most loyal for more than a month, give him free meals until someone knocks him out of his position. There are loads of ways to have fun with this, and the potential is hard to deny. Jay Baer said it best in his post, “Ignore Foursquare at Your Peril—An Analysis of Potential.” This concept doesn’t just work for brick-and-mortar businesses, however. If you’re a consultant or you own a small creative agency and have been working with a client consistently, why not give the client a significant deal on the fifth or sixth project? Obviously, the client likes your work. Go the extra mile to make him a lifelong client. Be more than a business partner. Be a friend.
4. Spread the mindset. Your vision of building brand loyalty has to extend beyond the owners and management staff. Empower your employees to read between the lines and provide a little extra something to customers if occasions call for it. By all means, don’t encourage employees to “give away the farm,” but empower them to recognize and act on opportunities to connect with customers.
For example, one of your employees may have found out through a conversation with a customer that the customer recently made his 20th purchase with your company. Provide your employee with a toolbox of “incentive” goodies that he can freely dole out to repeat customers. This simple act will speak volumes. And chances are, that customer will tell a friend about the interaction.
Nurturing customers so they become brand loyalists requires extra effort from you and members of your staff. Hopefully, you’ll find that the results justify the effort.