The most powerful force in the marketing world isn’t creativity or deal offering (though those can be important and impactful). It’s relationships, on an individual customer level. If you take the time to build relationships with your customers, beyond the logical exchange of money for goods and services, they’ll become more loyal to you, purchase from you more, and spread the word about how good you are to do business with.
Relationship building starts with a brand; your goal should be to make customers fall in love with your brand, more than the competition, and almost on a personal level. This isn’t easy, and it certainly can’t happen overnight, but if you apply the right strategies with a little patience, you should have no trouble commanding a loyal audience in due time:
Your first job is the most important—stay as consistent as possible in your brand standards. That means using the same colors, the same logo, and the same brand voice no matter what platform people are using or how many times they’ve been exposed to your brand in the past. The moment you break that consistency, consumers stop being able to identify your brand. Imagine if someone wanted to be your friend and claimed to like baseball, sporting a laid-back demeanor, but the next day he claimed to hate baseball and seemed excitable and chatty. You could potentially be friends with either of these personalities, but the inconsistency of switching between the two would drive you away. The same principle applies to branding.
This should go without saying for your business, but it’s necessary if you want your customers to ravenously adore your brand. Every product you sell (or every service interaction you offer) needs to speak volumes to a customer about your brand value. If you’re selling something tangible, your quality assurance needs to be top-notch. If something goes wrong with a piece of software, your support team needs to respond quickly and helpfully. One botched job or faulty product could immediately ruin a new customer’s first impression and compromise your ability to ever build a relationship with them.
The age of formulaic responses and automated messaging is over. Modern consumers have grown increasingly distrustful (and painfully aware) of the automated customer service and social messages that seem to populate every communication medium. Responding to every new message from a social media follower with “Hi! Thanks for your message. Please contact X at Y…” is going to make you seem distant and robotic. Sending an automated email will make people feel alienated. Instead, take the time to write out a personal response to every customer query you get; even if you only change a few words, your extra personal effort will show, and your customers will warm to you. This is especially important on a public medium, like Facebook or Twitter.
If you want people to come back to your brand over and over again, you need to give them a memorable experience. Value and consistency are good, but if you offer the same value as a competitor, and your “consistency” is plain and vanilla, nobody’s going to make an effort to get back to you. How you make the experience memorable is entirely up to you and your business model—it could be a brand mascot who walks your users through their first steps, or a cute thank-you note included with every order you ship. Do something different, and people will remember you.
Customer loyalty is hard to earn, but loyalty programs and other return-visit incentives make it a whole lot easier. Consider offering discounts, special offers, or better experiences to customers who visit you frequently. For example, you could give out “bonus points” to users based on how much they use your app, redeemable for real purchases or other in-app benefits. What you create is up to you; all that matters is that you make the idea of coming back rewarding and exciting.
It’s also a good idea to reward engagement. When someone comments on your article, comment back. When someone follows you, give them a shout-out. This has two distinct effects; first, the person engaging with you feels good about it, and will probably continue to engage you in the future. Second, spectators will see the exchange and think of you as a more personal, approachable brand.
Finally, listen to the feedback your customers give you. Read both positive and negative reviews, and see what you can do to address their concerns, add their requested features, and follow through on their recommended adjustments. This will help you create a better business, and it shows your customers that you truly care about them.
Customer loyalty is hard to measure, but you should see quantifiable increases in certain key metrics as you scale up your brand loyalty strategy. These include repeat purchases, social followings, email subscribers, and interactions with your brand onsite and in social media. You’ll also see more reviews, more recommendations, and other positive callouts on various external sources. Stay patient; just like building a human relationship, building a customer relationship takes time. But as long as you keep making adjustments and stay committed to your goals, your effort will inevitably pay off.