In more ways than one, the link between a business and its clients is like a love relationship:
- It starts with a phase of research and getting to know each other, where everything is perfect and new – the discovery of a new product or a new brand
- With time comes more commitment, which will lead to an official union and a promise of faithfulness – the purchase and repeat purchases of the same product or brand over time
- Which can then lead to two potential outcomes:
Happily ever after - The customer keeps purchasing from the same company
A divorce – the customer decides to change brands
This analogy brings an interesting question for businesses: After the research phase and the initial purchase (or commitment), how do you keep the honeymoon period with your customers going, and ensure they are loyal to you over time?
It’s all about loyalty
One of the reasons why loyalty is so important for most businesses is the simple fact that it’s easier and cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones.
However, loyalty is rarely something that just appears by itself, it is earned by a business thanks to concerted efforts.
The best way to look at loyalty and relationship marketing is by using the loyalty ladder.
In this model, a business needs to start nurturing its customers from the prospect stage until the time they actually become an advocate for the brand, almost doing their marketing for them.
Loyalty and customer retention tools
Going back to our wedding analogy and using the loyalty ladder as a reference point; we can now take a look at some of the tools that will enable a brand to retain its customers and keep them happy over a long period of time, avoiding a costly and bitter divorce in the process.
Good customer service
This may seem like an obvious one, but if you offer your customers a good experience and support, then they are more likely to purchase again from you. On the contrary, a single bad experience could take them away from your brand forever. This applies to online and offline support, so make sure you have processes in place to treat customers the right way.
Regular updates, offers and promotions
Communication is key to a good relationship, and the same applies to business relationships. Keep your customers aware of new products and services, send them regular updates via newsletters, invite them to events, offer them discounts and promotions on future purchases. In a word make them feel valued and show them that you haven’t forgotten about them, even after many years.
Engage with customers
With the rise of social networks, it is now possible for a business to engage in conversations with its customers, almost 24/7. This personal approach to marketing will enable you to give your business a human touch and will ultimately help you understand what your customers want. Share information with them, ask them to review existing products or trial new ones, launch competitions…and the list goes on.
Loyalty programmes are a great way to build loyalty. If you have the resources to do so as a business, creating a loyalty programme with rewards for loyal customers will encourage repeat purchases and greatly help your retention efforts. Loyalty cards & loyalty points are common in the market and can be used to great effect.
Although not exhaustive, the list above should help you start thinking about loyalty as a business and consider how to integrate the concepts into your wider business strategy.
And since all of us are someone’s customer, one of the best pieces of advice I can give, is to think as one of them when planning your marketing activities – how would you like to be treated as a customer? What makes you tick? The answer to these questions should help you keep the honeymoon going with your customers and achieve perfect marital business bliss!
What are your thoughts about loyalty? – Let me know in the comments below!