Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Building Customer Loyalty

How do you retain your existing customers? What can you do to keep their loyalty so they don't wander over to your competition? These two questions seem to plaque everyone who's in business today--whether he's a CEO of a large corporation or an owner of a small neighborhood store.

The thought seems to be that repeat business happens naturally if you're good at what you do. To a certain extent that's true, but not entirely. Why not implement tactics that boost the likelihood of repeat purchases?

Here are the main constituents of customer loyalty:

1. CUSTOMER'S LOGICAL & EMOTIONAL REACTION TO YOUR BRAND: Your target audience has to feel rationally & emotionally connected to your product or service. Before you get your name out among the public you should know who you're targeting & what their needs are. Also, be familiar with their buying habits. If they can't relate to you, they'll go to your competition. It is important your brand is defined & consistent......that the message you're sending is what your customers want. Above all, make sure your marketing campaign is going out to the fraction of the public you want to receive your advertising message.  Do your homework before you distribute your promotional custom products or place your ad in the neighborhood circular.

2. GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CUSTOMER: Once your product or service has been used by your customer, you should focus on establishing & maintaining a beneficial relationship with them so they continue to come back to you. This is done through online & offline advertising & marketing: emails, direct mailings, follow-up phone calls, personal sales calls & of course, promotional imprinted products. And just as important, the quality of what you offer & the quality of your customer service. How well did you keep the promise you made to your client? This is the essence of their loyalty.

3. OFFER PRODUCT EXTENSIONS: If possible, introduce an extension of your line to keep your customer's loyalty or to draw in new clientele. For example, Crest toothpaste offers more than their basic fluoride toothpaste with a whitening solution. They expanded their line to include Crest Pro-Health gel, toothpaste specifically for night time or children & dental whitening strips. To grow & bypass your competition, you need to find ways to expand your targeted audience.

4. SUPPORT A GOOD CAUSE: Some consumers will remain loyal to you if you support a social, environmental or communal cause that is advantageous to the public. For example, KFC offers pink buckets & Wilson Sports Equipment has pink tennis balls & rackets with the pink ribbon--all to support breast cancer awareness. Most pharmacies & grocery stores use non-woven bags for their promotional custom products to promote an eco-friendly environment.

5. AVAILABILITY OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE: Don't advertise what you don't have--not having your product available can drive your clientele to your to your competition. Obviously, not having it available is sometimes out of your control. I then strongly suggest that you have a rain check or some other special offer on hand to keep your customer close to your side. Above all, do not let this be an ongoing issue.

6. CONFORM TO THE LATEST TREND: Don't be a dinosaur & think if it worked last year, it will work this year. That line of thinking spells disaster. Be educated about your product--stay up to date by constantly reading & learning all there is about your specialized field.

7. KEEP YOUR COMPANY NAME VISIBLE AT ALL TIMES: Don't fade from their memory. Customized promotional gifts such as pens, note pads, letter openers, recycled bags or drinkware......whatever relates to your field or to your target audience should be given out constantly. They'll appreciate what you give them & will be reminded of you when they need your services or products. Promotional items outlast any other form of advertising & is the most subtle & less intrusive of all advertising.

8. AVAILABLE OPTIONS USED AS LURES: A consumer gets a host of benefits from a new company trying to lure him over to their business. Many of them are hard to ignore. Hopefully you've already won their loyalty; but many times it's hard to resist lower prices & special offers. Rather than only concentrating on special offers for the new client, it's extremely beneficial to reward your long-standing customers with discounts & promotions for their loyalty. If you offer incentives only to potential customers, you may lose your older, loyal ones. In other words you're trading a new client for an old one. Your business won't grow that way & whose to say that the new one won't roam to your competition once a better reward is offered. This is such an important point: acknowledge your long-standing customers!

My pet peeve is when large nationwide companies like Time Warner or AT&T offer great incentives to get new customers but don't pass anything on to the clients they already have. An example: Time Warner is offering $150 Target gift card to people who sign up now, but not to the ones that have previously signed with them. I feel Time Warner is taking my business for granted & are hoping I'm satisfied with their not-so-perfect performance that I won't look into AT&T or Dish TV.......they are so wrong.

If I didn't have to wait a week for a service call or if they weren't constantly shutting down their service for updates, maybe I'd stick with them......with or without an incentive. It's not just one variable that creates customer loyalty, it's many.

One last thing: don't forget to smile or to say "thank you". Both of those go a long way.

No doubt you will always face stiff competition. I hope this helps you to stay ahead of the game.
Ronni Sherman


  1. I think another good point is to know what your competition offers. What are his operating points, his prices, and the specials he is offering.

    Don't be in the dark when it comes to your competition. You can't fight a war without knowing the enemy.

  2. I don't care how good your product or customer service is, in order to survive in today's market you have to beat your competitor's prices. I think customer loyalty veers towards pricing more than anything.

    It is too bad but products aren't made to last anymore. Take a look at your electronics like cell phones. Your laptops are obsolete after a couple of years. Cell phone plans expire in two years and then a new updated phone is available and that's assuming your phone is still working.

    So today it is no longer quality, but price that rules the market. If your prices are lower than your competition then you'll have customer loyalty. It is sad but true.

  3. Lee's Sporting Goods--Lakewood, CANovember 3, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Teri, you are right about price but I will debate you about the importance of customer service. That's a necessity and people won't be loyal to a business if they are lacking in customer service. Competitive pricing is more common than excellent customer service.