Brand loyalty has always been crucial to business success. When a company provides a great service in a way that resonates with us, that ignites a spark of loyalty.
But when you think about your own business, do you worry whether you’re doing all you can to inspire loyalty in your clients’ hearts and minds?
Well, help is at hand – here are 8 invaluable strategies that will help you turn previous clients into raving fans.
Know What Your Audience Are Saying
Going back a few years, unhappy folk would approach a company directly and privately – sending a sharply penned letter or email. However nowadays people are just as likely to complain over public channels like social media, and a single social post can become very visible – viral even – fast.
Therefore, you need to stay aware of what people are saying about your brand online; especially over any review sites and over social media. If you don’t know what’s being said about you, then you may not find out when customers are unhappy.
One free tool well worth mentioning here is Google Alerts – it’s a “keyword listening” tool which is free to use with any Gmail account. Basically, you enter a list of keywords that you want to keep an eye on (which could be a brand, company, or product name) and it regularly emails you with new search results that match those keywords. Google Alerts is also really neat for keeping abreast of news within your industry too. Ahrefs have an excellent video guide to using some of Google Alerts’ more in-depth search operators.
Acknowledge Feedback – Both Positive & Negative
When someone has taken the time to leave feedback about you online (or has sent you a more old school letter or email) you need to acknowledge it regardless of whether the sentiment is good or bad. However, acknowledgement goes much further than a mere social “like”.
Thanking the person sincerely for sharing should go without saying. Next, if they’ve shared something positive, pick out one area where they were particularly complimentary and provide a short statement about that particular factor. This is a great way to show that you’ve paid attention to their input and you aren’t just sending them a templated reply.
However, if they’ve said something negative, you may be better off referring to our guide on turning negative reviews into positive experiences.
Prioritise Solving Customer Problems
As soon as you become aware of an unhappy customer – spring into action. Respond to the customer, apologise that you’ve disappointed them, and ask them to reach out through a private channel (like email or DM) so you can sort things out.
Take a short time to think about what you can do to meet – and possibly exceed – their expectations given the situation. If you can give them options on what next steps to take, it’s likely to help them feel more in control of the process. But when a reasonable solution is less open to debate, inform the customer of how you intend to proceed and aim to put things into motion ASAP.
It’s also important to keep unhappy customers on-side, so you could give them an incentive to return; this could be a money off voucher or an offer of a free item with a future purchase.
Follow Up with Resolved Complaints
Once a complaint has been satisfactorily resolved, always follow up with the customer a short time afterwards to show that you care. If it wasn’t possible to resolve their issues amicably, it’s probably not great to go stirring up a hornet’s nest! But if you did come to a mutually beneficial outcome, it may be worth a brief chat or email exchange once the dust has settled just to make sure everything went well and to see if you can help with anything else.
This would also be an opportune time to ask if they could leave a review. Glowing reviews about purchases that went without a hitch are great and all, but demonstrating that you can turn a bad situation around speaks volumes about your level of service.
Welcome Input from Customers
All of this talk of complaints may leave you dreading input from customers and prospects – but really you should welcome it! Whenever someone makes a purchase, always ask them to leave a review or to share their thoughts on social media. Quotes from happy customers provide valuable social proof to include on your website and marketing collateral.
If you have a particularly visual product or service, you can even ask customers to share a picture of the finished result/product on social media using a branded hashtag. “#ShareACoke” is a good example from Coca Cola, but branded hashtags can also help build a sense of community around SME brands too. If you’d like to embark on your own branded hashtag adventure, Dummies.com have some great advice.
Honest customer feedback can also help you improve your products and/or services for future customers. Because making your offering the best it can be by listening to customer feedback is the most straightforward way to instil loyalty from the get-go.
Personalise & Segment Your Mailing Lists
Gone are the days when “marketing personalisation” means simply mail merging a customer’s name into an email campaign. Regardless of whether you run direct postal mail campaigns, email marketing campaigns, or send marketing SMS or DM messages, you need to segment your mailing/messaging lists into appropriate groups. This way, you can target each group with promotions that are more carefully matched with their own situation and needs.
Sending blanket messages to all subscribers is fine for certain announcements, and may be OK if your list is quite small, but there comes a point when “segmenting” your list makes sense.
Advice on how to split your lists will vary wildly depending on what you provide and how you do business, but here are some questions to get you thinking about how you can split your subscriber lists into meaningful segments:
- How did each person come to be on your list? Have they bought from you previously? If so, what did they buy and how recently?
- Did they sign up while checking out a particular service/product page on your website?
- If you have branches/shops, did they sign up there? If so, which location did they visit?
- Did they sign up after some other kind of interaction like a networking event?
Each of these groups needs different messaging to keep them engaged with your brand – or indeed to persuade them to come back!
Provide Value with Informative Content
Communicating with customers isn’t just about the hard sell. Providing valuable and informative content through blogs, over social media, and within email marketing campaigns is now an essential part of communicating with your audience.
This very blog is a great example of this. Yell sell advertising and digital marketing services (including PPC, website building, video marketing, and more! Check them out!). However, our writers create blog posts about related topics which are of interest to our small business audience; such as business advice, content marketing, social media, SEO, paid digital advertising, and general marketing. This draws people in who are looking for answers relevant to what we offer, without greeting them with cheesy, salesy messages. In fact, it can be helpful when customers are already a little savvy in the services we provide.
So think carefully about your audience – what is their current situation? What is their average level of knowledge about what you provide? Are you able to freely share any tips that dovetail nicely with your offering without giving too much away about what you do? Is there anything you can share that might make them even more ready to become a client?
Our article, 6 FREE Online Resources for Budding Content Marketers, is a great place for any newbie content marketers to get started!
Start a Loyalty Card Programme
Just a quick one before we wrap things up. Think about the stuff you carry around in your own purse or wallet. Chances are you have some kind of loyalty cards on the go, which generally falls into two different categories:
- Points cards from large retailers where you can collect points or are otherwise rewarded for being a regular shopper
- “Stamp” cards which entitle you to a free item or service after you have made a certain amount of purchases.
If you run a small shop, eatery, or salon, something like option number 2 may be ideal for you. Alternatively, if your business is totally online, you may be able to offer a virtual “point collection” feature for your customers.How can SMEs build and protect their brand loyalty? Follow these simple steps... Click To Tweet
So how are you currently fostering brand loyalty in your customers? How about your social following and mailing list(s)? Will you action anything from this list? Let us know in the comments!