Picture the scene. Coloma Mill, California—1848.
Revolution was in the air and gold was in the water.
When James W. Marshall discovered gold flakes in Coloma Mill’s river, it wasn’t long before hundreds of thousands of prospectors arrived with money on their minds. The California Gold Rush became one of history’s most spectacular stories—and one that has been told thousands of times since.
Now, when you think about it, every new product sparks its own Gold Rush. When a commercial venture takes off—hundreds, if not thousands of copycats and competitors show up in search of a slice of the riches.
Whether you’re selling financial services or car parts, if you create something that lots of people are willing to pay good money for, you can be sure that your competition will grow very quickly.
Before you know it, the market you once had cornered is now filled with fierce competitors. Of course, you can cut your prices, play around with your brand and develop even better products, but when you’re basically selling the same thing—it’s difficult to differentiate.
This is where customer satisfaction comes into play. Demonstrate that your business can be trusted and you’ll build customer loyalty and boost customer retention. Now that’s the real gold nugget of business.
People are more price conscious than ever these days, but they’re also wary about poor service, scams, and dishonest behavior. Now a loyal customer will pay a premium for a product they can get cheaper somewhere else—but only if you show them you’re worth it.
The more nuggets of consumer loyalty you can mine—the more successful your business will become. And the great thing? It’s not rocket science—it’s about empathy, human connections, and listening. Do all three, and you’ll give yourself the best chance possible of being right at the forefront of your own brand’s Gold Rush.
There are countless benefits associated with customer loyalty, but here are just a few of the most desirable:
— Loyal customers are already sold on your business, so marketing is a much simpler process
— They tend to spend more—and more often
— Loyal customers refer others to your brand, both consciously and subconsciously
— Word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing
— Loyal customers usually go hand in hand with loyal employees
— They’ll offer constructive feedback, which drives improvement and innovation
— Customer retention provides a regular income and a solid foundation for sales growth
Loyal customers often know they can buy similar products and services elsewhere. But because you’ve looked after these consumers in the past, they trust you—they keep coming back to you. And in some cases, they’re prepared to pay a premium for the privilege.
While this kind of customer won’t give you their loyalty lightly, they can become on of the bedrocks of your organization once they do.
Companies approach the issues of customer loyalty in different ways. Take Apple. They’ve perfected the art of giving people exactly what they want before they know they want it. Apple builds loyalty by the way it packages its technology.
Are Apple’s products faster and more capable than those of their competitors?
Well no, not always. But Apple understands their customers intrinsically. So much so that they sell their MacBooks and iMacs for way more than the equivalent products of their competitors—and people will buy them.
A company such as Starbucks has to build loyalty with its customers in a slightly different way. Product quality is still important, and there is an element of “Apple-esque” brand loyal at play.
But one of the reasons for the coffee giant’s global success is their approach to customer service.
Howard Schultz wanted his customers to get an “experience” when he opened his first store in Seattle. Coffee was easily America’s favorite drink at the time, so he decided to serve it with a smile from a knowledgeable barista who could talk at length to customers about where it came from, brewing methods, and recipes.
Exactly which approach you take to building customer loyalty depends on the sector your business operates in. However, it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling carpets or cupcakes, you should be able to reap the benefits of customer loyalty with one or more of the following five tips.
Want to build loyalty with customers? Start by talking to them.
The only way you can ever hope to build loyalty with customers is to communicate fully. But it’s important to deliver and receive those communications through your customers’ preferred channels.
Using a customer database or your CRM package, make sure you’re communicating in the most appropriate way. If someone reaches out to you on email, stick to that. If a lead was generated via a phone number, give them a call or text to say hi.
There are more communication channels available to businesses than ever before, including social media, websites, newsletters, text and messaging.
Just remember to personalize your communications with names, places, and unique details—their dog’s name or what they were up to last Monday. And if you really want to make your communications resonate, note down important dates and events—including birthdays and anniversaries.
The modern consumer might be more fickle than ever, but a little show of respect and genuine interest in customers always delivers a little loyalty in return.
Don’t fall into the trap of keeping all your special offers and discounts for new customers. People who feel ignored will look elsewhere for love.
If you’re offering BOGOF deals or something similar to new customers, do the same for your existing ones. Perks like free delivery, free gifts, and priority access to new products will often blow your existing client-base away. Not only will they remain loyal, they might just tell their friends and family about you too.
Delivering what you promise isn’t going to build the loyalty you’re looking for from your customers. Let’s be honest about this—people expect their purchases to “do what they say on the tin.”
You have to make lasting impressions through the way you deal with people.
A recent survey measuring customer loyalty revealed that 51% of customers cut all ties with a business because of the customer service they’d received.
In many cases, it’s just not enough to deliver on promises. You need to treat people like they’re personal friends. Go above and beyond satisfactory. Think about how you can make a customer’s day?
Remember that you don’t always have to lavish gifts on your customers to earn their loyalty. Sometimes, offering heartfelt advice or simply listening to their concerns and complaints is enough to make a real, human connection.
Most companies, managers, and marketers shudder at the merest hint of a customer complaint. Especially in the retail industry. To make sure that negative feedback doesn’t reach head office—store staff stop at nothing to make the problem go away.
Now that’s a disaster for big businesses.
How can you tell whether your customers are happy or not if your staff are brushing them off with freebies and empty promises?
Wherever you can—actively seek criticism. Not only do you get the opportunity to win the customer over with your response, you also get vital information that can help you to improve your products or services.
Now while we’re talking about negativity and asking for feedback, let’s take a moment to think about how you can be proactive in looking for it.
By utilizing customer feedback tools throughout your business, you can gain the information you need to turn sad customers into loyal and loving followers. Plus, you can tweak your products and services to meet the needs of your target consumer.
Imagine you’re selling online education courses. What you’re selling is both a product and a service. Asking simple “yes or no” questions probably won’t give you a true reflection of how your customers view your courses.
But by issuing a survey involving Likert Scale questions, you can ask course attendees to rate their various experiences according to a scale. You can then aggregate the scores to identify areas that need improvement—or identify areas in which you excel.
The truth rarely operates in shades of gray. The biggest mistake you can make is to believe that one happy customer speaks for all the people with whom you do business. Get the whole picture with a Net Promoter Score and listen to what your customers have to say—then act upon it.
Only your most satisfied and loyal customers will go out of their way to thank you. While you might be awash with compliments, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re keeping everyone happy.
Don’t be indifferent to indifference.
You’ll probably find that the vast majority of your customers get what they expected from you and forget about it pretty quickly. If you want to turn these passive buyers into loyal followers, you need to ask them for feedback and ways to improve.
It’s important to always take anecdotal evidence regarding loyalty with a pinch of salt. If you really want to know what customers think about you—well, go ahead and ask them. But even then, some will ignore your questions, and others will misinterpret them.
There’s an artform to creating questionnaires and sending surveys. Your survey questions need to be concise, unambiguous, and targeted. If they’re not, the results you get could be skewed.
So go ahead, be James W. Marshall and find your gold.
But make sure you look out for the ones who follow you—and always delight them.