In my last blog, I explored what customer loyalty really was:
A Loyal Customer is a customer who, willingly, stays with, or keeps coming back to your organisation, so that you can keep helping them solve their problems. They are an advocate and tell people, whose needs you might be able to meet, about you.
So, how can SMEs create and retain customer loyalty? And what are the measurements of it?
How to create customer loyalty – the first three steps
- Make sure your product or service does what it promises – and more. Satisfied customers are good – delighted customers are loyal ones who’ll stay with you and recommend you. Spend a good chunk of that money and time servicing their needs, which is covered in the next point.
- Make sure that you can service your current customers and meet their needs, even when you aren’t around. Bryony Thomas, from Watertight Marketing, talks about three levels of customer service at different costs to your organisation:
- Low cost, where the client can find out their customer service answers themselves e.g. website FAQs, information sheets, videos to watch
- Mid cost, where your company has communication but limited e.g. email responses, webinars, live chat
- Higher cost, personal service e.g. phone calls, meetings, bespoke training.
- Put resource into it – if you offer a considered purchase to your customers, then as a rough rule of thumb you should be putting the same amount of resource into customer loyalty as you are creating awareness.
The next step – a planned communications approach
This can be summed up as: Stay in touch.
Once someone has used / consumed /engaged with your product (s) or service (s), if you wish to retain a relationship with them, then you need to keep communication open.
Stay in touch in a way that is meaningful and relevant for your customers. Provide them with the opportunity to engage with a steady stream of content that they want.
Ensure your marketing plan contains a programme of scheduled, regular contact for current and recent customers.
Some suggestions are:
- Commit to regular communications such as a monthly e-shot, a quarterly paper newsletter, monthly short webinar. Make these comms full of helpful advice and guidance.
- Have a list of people to catch up with – then set aside time to call them. If they don’t answer the call, then email them. Let them know you are thinking about them and have tried to get in touch.
- Celebrate your special occasions with them like Christmas, Easter, your company’s anniversary. Invest in sending out some appropriate “lumpy mail” with gifts such as pens, chocolate, notebooks; whatever is relevant to your business and your relationship with them.
- Remind them of their special occasions, such as birthday gifts, special offers on the one year anniversary of them buying from you, reminders to renew or use material you have provided.
- Invite them to things that you know they will enjoy or value. A quick coffee together, a longer lunch or a drink after work or a special event that you are putting on for your clients, or asking them to be your guest at an event, or giving them an introduction to a networking group or other group.
Real examples for all budgets
For many SMEs, “Customer Loyalty Programmes” might seem the domain of the corporations with larger budgets. It’s not.
Here are real examples of how SMEs are creating customer loyalty:
Brand 51, a Bristol based graphic design agency I use and recommend to clients, sent me my own personal coaster one Christmas. Where do you think it sits? On my desk. Where I see it. Every day. Is it useful? Look at the photo. I’m wearing it out!
A company I have previously worked closely with held a conference last autumn and offered me the opportunity to invite my contacts and offer significant discounts to one or two of them. I received a small present and thank you card from one person I gave this gift to as they felt the conference had given them so much.
One of my clients has “coffee slots” in their diary which they fill by meeting up with recent and past clients for a 45 minute coffee. Cost is their time and two coffees.
Another client has set up a series of emails to give customers useful information according to how they have responded to the online product they bought. They can see that people are clicking into the emails and consuming the timely and relevant content. There was a high upfront cost to set it all up but now it is there maintaining a relationship for all customers.
For KMS Marketing’s 1st Birthday, I sent out party bags full of retro sweets to all my clients and contacts who had helped me in that first year of business.People remember getting a bag of sweets at their desk.
For those of you who enjoy spending your money wisely, you might have picked up that your customer loyalty programme can also be applied to good contacts and faithful business friends. Saving you effort and sometimes money by doing things “together” or “in bulk”.
Customer Loyalty is good for business, good for people, and good for you. Make sure your business takes the time and effort to set up a programme to maintain these hard-earned relationships.
Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant who helps businesses grow.
Contact her for an initial chat or click here to sign up to KMS Marketing’s free monthly newsletter.