Customer loyalty is essential to strong sales. After all, it’s easier to get repeat sales than it is to convince a new consumer to buy from you. But customer loyalty is something grown and nurtured, not bought or ordered. It takes time.
That time investment is worth it because it means more revenue and sticking power. Bill Zinke, Senior Vice President of Marketing at BELFOR Franchise Group said, “One of the key lessons from the pandemic has been [that], in good times, building customer loyalty can help you grow faster and more profitably, and in tough or challenging times, it can be the difference between surviving and going out of business.”
However, just because someone has been buying from you (or donating to you if you’re a non-profit) does not mean they are loyal. It may just mean that they tend to do the same things over and over until they don’t. If you want a strong customer (or donor) base, you need to cultivate loyalty. The methods to do so require consistent tending and upkeep.
How to Create Loyal Customers (or Supporters)
While building and increasing loyalty isn’t a set formula, there are several components that make it easier. They are:
- Tell your business (or nonprofit) story. People want to know you. Being loyal to an organization is partially about a customer wanting to be a part of what you’re doing and believing in your mission. If you’re not sharing your story, you’re missing an opportunity to build connections.
- Give customers/donors a reason to be loyal. When people buy from you repeatedly, make sure you thank them and are always appreciative for their loyalty. They could spend their money elsewhere, but they chose you. Loyalty programs reward your frequent customers. Even a small freebie or discount can make them feel valued and want to return. Being part of a loyalty program increases customer spend. According to a 2020 McKinsey survey “Members of paid loyalty programs are 60% more likely to spend more on the brand after subscribing, while free loyalty programs only increase that likelihood by 30%.”
- Recognize them. Whether you are a brick-and-mortar store or an online operation, customers want to feel like you remember them. It’s like the theme song of the old TV show Cheers, everybody just wants to go somewhere where the business remembers their name. But you don’t have to literally remember a name, a face and an order will do or past buying history will make them feel like you recognize them. What they’re looking for is to feel valued and seen.
- Make them feel like they were missed. If your customer hasn’t purchased from you in a while, invite them back with a special coupon. People want to feel missed when they’re gone. This type of reminder can be automated if you have buying/donation history and an email list.
- Don’t offer new customers better deals than past customers. Cable companies and cell phone businesses are notorious for giving new customers unbelievable deals and offering very little for existing customers. Don’t make that same mistake. Past customers should feel appreciated. Giving great offers to newbies and not loyal customers is one of the easiest ways to make sure your past customers don’t feel valued.
Reward past customers for their loyalty. Show your appreciation and make them feel important. Loyalty is a great fix for pricing competition. After all, you might not be the cheapest, but you can offer the best value and feelings behind a purchase. That will keep your customers coming back—and with any luck—referring you to their friends as well.
Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base. She loves road trips, hates exclamation points, and believes the world would be a better place if we all had our own theme song that played when we entered the room. What would yours be?