Having a strong base of loyal customers is key to creating a sustainable growth for small business owners. Well established business can rely primarily on word of mouth referrals from their loyal customers. However, if you are a new business owner and have seen a decline in word of mouth referrals then perhaps your not taking full advantage of your customer’s loyalty. Here are five key areas that you should consider.
1. Create a Compelling Vision of Loyalty
Look inward when evaluating the loyalty culture in your business. How committed are you to making your customer’s satisfaction the number one priority? If you do not have a compelling vision and commitment to your customers then neither will your employees, suppliers or customers. Today’s greatest consumer brands such as Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and Zappos have created a culture of outstanding customer service.
2. Design Great Customer Experiences
The great brands mentioned above are obsessed with creating great customer experiences. There are six stages or “Moments of Truth” when it comes to customer loyalty:
Stage 1: Awareness
They heard about you from their friends, an ad, press release or some combination of all three. It can take 7-17 different “touches” until they really notice you.
Stage 2: Research
When they become interested in your product or service they will go online and look for more information. They will seek advice from experts, friends and current customers. They will shop your competition looking for the best value. Have you differentiated your business in their eyes that they see your value is more than price?
Stage 3: Buy
They decide to purchase the product or service based on the brand promise and the expectation they have. Is it clear how your product or service benefits them?
Stage 4: Use
They use the product or service. Did it deliver on the brand promise? Did it solve their problem or fulfill their need?
Stage 5: Repeat
They liked what they purchased and are looking to buy more from you. You have earned enough trust that they are willing to buy from you again. What products and services can you offer that can deliver again on the brand promise?
Stage 6: Refer
Based on their level of satisfaction, they will refer others to you. Do your customers know how to refer you? Depending on how good their experience is at any and all stages, prospects will either continue or go with another option. Today, other options are only a mouse click away. Taking the customer’s perspective when designing the ideal customer experience will go a long way in fostering long term loyalty.
3. Build a Referral System
Hope is not a strategy when in it comes to getting referrals from satisfied customers. You will need to create a solid referral system. The system will enable you to consistently follow up with satisfied customers and ask at the right time in the right way for referrals. The system will educate and reward customers and stakeholder who do refer business to you. Lastly, the system will help you acquire strategic partners who are interested in the same target market.
4. Leverage Technology
Today’s technology is an enabler in integrating loyalty into your business. Your website serves as your foundation for creating great online experiences. Mobile advertising generates new leads. Email marketing can be used to educate prospects and keep your business top-of-mind with customers. Digital loyalty programs provides analytics that help you understand your customer, offer the right incentives and keep track of their rewards.
5. Continual Improvement
Nurturing customer loyalty is never done. It’s important to have key indicators on customer satisfaction and continually seek feedback from customers. Customer complaints and suggestions are not problems but opportunities to improve the customer experience. Proactively addressing customer issues often creates an even more loyal customer!
Nurturing customer loyalty is about trust, engagement and competency. When you do this with excellence, you will be rewarded with raving fans and a great business that you love.
If you would like to re-imagine what customer loyalty could be for your business then let’s schedule some time for a conversation.
Donovan Hardenbrook, President, Leap Innovation LLC
Donovan uses his 30 years of marketing and engineering know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, he held a variety of management positions with Intel Corporation, Sandia National Labs, Orbital Sciences, and Salt River Project. Donovan regularly hosts workshops and webinars.