In the age of the attention economy, where the customer is king, businesses can have a tough time building brand loyalty.
Loyal customers keep small businesses going because they help the owners to plan based on their returning revenue. But loyal customers don’t simply appear on the first day. For a customer to have a strong affinity to a brand, they need to feel like that brand speaks to them. Whether it makes them feel valued, loved or even offers a familiarity that the customer keeps coming back for, the key is often making a person feel like they’re the only person interacting with the business. They know you are there for them.
Nurturing to retain a customer may not feel like a priority to a young business, but it will pay dividends in the long-term. Ignore it, and it’s your business revenue that will be affected; if not now, then later down the line.
As consumers, we are nostalgic for the days when we would frequent a local store where we knew the owner, and they were aware of our needs and desires. It felt like the owner wanted to speak to us. But let’s stop pretending many of us don’t live in a remote village where everyone knows each other’s families. The reality is that more people are buying online, and that a quick chat with the business owner is less likely.
However, there are things that can be done online to help make customers feel more welcome to your business. Whenever I visit a site that requires me to sign in, and it says ‘Hi, Stefano’, consciously or not, I feel like the business is speaking to me. Such a simple technique, but one that automatically personalises the customer experience. Another example is if your website hosts an online store, make sure you securely store customer details so they don’t have to fill in a form each time. Or keep their favourite items in a quick-select menu so you save them time on orders. It makes a huge difference to promoting a customer’s return to your business because it’s time-effective.
These little touches can help to make your customers feel more at home with a personalised experience, while giving them reason to form a deeper tie with your business.
Another easy way of humanising your business is through social media. I can’t stress enough how important it is to interact with those engaging with your brand on channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A reply from a business tells customers that they are listening to what they are saying, and that the business is there for them when they need it.
This doesn’t mean you need to sit on Instagram every waking moment, but a quick check in the evening will be enough for you to reply in time. It shouldn’t consume your working day, but can have a noticeable effect on your customer engagement. One of our customers, Karina Perdomo of The Quick Brown Fox, grows her business through social media: ‘I’d say 75 per cent of our business is generated through social media, so it’s something we spend a lot of time being active on and driving conversation. Personally, if I need to use a new business, I’ll search for it on Twitter to check it out.’
Personalised emails are the difference between spam and gaining and retaining customers. Building a customer database can take time, so you need the email sending process to be simple. Products such as our email marketing offering takes the effort out of email outreach, and provide feedback on contacts who open and click, as well as which email addresses bounce.
Emails are a good way of staying connected to your customers, with things like monthly newsletters acting as a reminder to them that you are there and open for business.
Essentially, you want to show your customers that they are far more than a number to you. People understand their customer is important to a small business, so the ability to readily engage with your customers and give that personal touch is an advantage over larger companies.
As a small business owner, you need to play on this and prove you appreciate each and every customer who has chosen your business. Customers who enjoy their experience with a business are likely to spread the word, meaning your customer base can grow organically.
On average, loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. So be there for them, and be nice.
Stefano Maruzzi is vice president of EMEA for GoDaddy.