Customer loyalty is everything for a new business. Customer acquisition is important — otherwise, you’ll never build up a customer base — but if those customers don’t stick around long enough to make multiple purchases or subscribe to your services for longer than a month, you’ll end up spending more in the acquisition phase than customers are actually worth to you in the long run.
Why loyalty matters
Unless they have that response to you of loyalty, customers won’t see you as any different from your competitors; all it will take is a good deal or a special offer from “the other guys” to win them over. And, if something goes wrong with a purchase, they’ll have no reason to continue working with you.
They’ll also have no reason to tell their friends about you, follow you on social media or leave reviews for your company. Loyalty, in fact, is a primer for many aspects of successful business development — so what is it that drives customer loyalty in the first place?
It all comes down to consumer emotions, and here are five that are critical for building and maintaining loyalty:
Surprise enters the equation at many moments throughout your customer relationship. One of its most important applications is at the beginning of the relationship; if you want your customer to see you as different from your competition, you have to differentiate yourself. You have to show them something, and characterize your brand in a way that’s against the norm.
This will cement your brand in your users’ eyes, and help them think of you as a stronger entity. But the surprise factor doesn’t end there. Pleasant surprises are always a good thing during the course of your customer relationship; for example, including a special gift with a random order, or even making a simple gesture like sending a thank-you note can re-spark your customers’ interest in your brand. So, keep them on their toes (in a positive way, of course)!
If you want a customer to be loyal to your brand, you need to establish a sense of familiarity. The first step of this process is to make your brand approachable, like a friend or a relative, and that means personalizing your brand. Your brand should have a welcoming character that’s strongly presented across multiple channels, and its character should be consistent at all times.
Any deviation in your brand voice could be jarring and disrupt the build of that familiarity, so don’t neglect the consistency factor here.
No matter how hard you try, or how carefully you’ve worked out the kinks of your business, things are going to go wrong. You’ll miss a deadline, ship a wrong order or somehow create an unpleasant experience for your customers.
Relax: This is natural, and non-preventable. What really matters to customer loyalty isn’t your having a perfect record; instead, it’s how you respond when that perfect record is broken. If a shipment is running late, a personal phone call or apologetic email with a detailed explanation of why the event occurred can spark a sense of relief that will make the customer appreciate you — maybe even more so than if everything had gone smoothly to begin with.
Customer-brand relationships are founded on a principle of logical exchange. Customers continue paying you money because they expect an equal value in return, whether that value comes in the form of a product or service, or some other, less measurable means, like entertainment or experiential value.
When you give users more than they’re expecting, or something that outweighs their perception of an “equal” value exchange, they’ll feel gratitude toward you. And the more gratitude they feel, the more they’ll want to stick with you. Find little ways to spark these feelings of gratitude.
One of the best ways to ensure customer loyalty is to make your customers feel that they’re truly a part of something when they engage with your brand. That something can be as in-depth as a customer-run forum and ongoing community, or something smaller like the ability to engage with your blog commenters on an individual basis.
The key is to make customers feel that they belong to your brand, the way others might “belong” to a clique or fit in at work. To do this, you’ll need to maintain an approachability, and give customers some level of engagement on on an individual basis.
I’m not suggesting that you try to manipulate customers’ emotions, or that they even can be directly manipulated. Instead, their needs should be considered the same way you’d consider the emotions of a friend or family member.
Understand why these feelings are important, and capitalize on them in your product designs, your policies and the actions of your team members. Once customers feel these emotions, and feel them consistently toward your brand, chances are that they’ll become long-term loyalists.