For growing businesses, there are a few crucial areas to take care of: creating excellent products or services, managing the financial aspects of your business, and creating a loyal customer base. Each of these is crucial for your success, but oftentimes the third is the hardest to achieve.
The questions every business asks is: How do you get repeat customers? How do you let potential customers know of your valuable products and services?
One option is to use strategic marketing and carefully crafted advertisements. That’s great and extremely useful, but there’s one powerful and unparalleled marketing tool that’s most effective: word-of-mouth marketing. There’s nothing better than the free, direct marketing known as positive feedback and referrals.
But word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t come easily. It doesn’t grow from a one-time interaction, but is rather nurtured over time through strategic actions you can start doing right now. So today we’ll look at some of the most effective ways to create and build better customer relationships.
1. Work Through Customer Stages of Loyalty
If you’re trying to capture and grow a loyal customer base, you need to know about the six stages of customer loyalty:
- Stage 1—Suspect: people who you think may be interested in your product or service are known as suspects. They may or may not be right for you and your business (and you may not be right for them), but you cast a wide net to see how they fit.
- Stage 2—Prospect: a prospect is a potential client. They have shown some type of interest in your product or service, but you haven’t convinced them yet. This is where most of the marketing money goes: to find prospects and move them to stage 3.
- Stage 3—First-time customer: This is it; you’ve finally got the customer you were chasing. But will they come back? Why should they? If you’ve crafted a great product or service, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t.
- Stage 4—Repeat customer: Also known as a client, this is a great stage to have a customer. They’ve used your business and are happy to use it again and again. They have become a (more-or-less) dependable source of revenue.
- Stage 5—Advocate: These customers will have no problem recommending you to others, if you ask. They are happy to answer your questions and fill in surveys. They are loyal and less price-sensitive.
- Stage 6—Evangelist: The greatest form of all customers, the evangelist can’t contain all the joy that your product or service brings. They just have to tell everyone and anyone about your business. This is the golden form known as word-of-mouth, and it takes your marketing to the next level.
Leveraging these stages of customer loyalty is your only goal in creating a great loyal customer base. That is, if you’ve taken care to create a great product or service.
Have a strategy in place to take a customer from one stage to the next. Don’t think of a customer, having moved from stage 2 to stage 3, as a done thing. It is only the beginning of a great and long-lasting relationship.
2. Reward Your Customers—Visibly
Incentives are not just an economic idea: it’s a basic motivator that influences human behavior.
There are many great ways to go and reward your customers: they could be based on the point system, a buy one get one free, a discount, or even a gift of your choice.
But you can do it better than that: instead of just quietly sending your customers an email or giving them a little rewards card, why don’t you make it more visible? With the ubiquitous nature of social media, post a picture of your loyal customer (with their approval of course) on your platform of choice, and let the world know they’ve won something for being such loyal customers.
If you’re in a traditional brick-and-mortar, take a Polaroid and hang it somewhere visible, with the reward and purpose of reward. Another great way, besides the wall-of-fame, or in addition to it, is to make your reward a surprise. Make it like a game—a big spinning wheel with different rewards listed, and the customer gets to spin to see what he/she will win.
You may find other ways to do it, but if you do it tactfully you can create loyal customers and potentially loyal customers who are motivated to get the same reward. You’ll find many Repeat Customers turning into Advocates or even Evangelists this way.
3. Include Your Current Customers In Marketing
This point has three parts that are important to look at.
First of all, customer reviews are a crucial aspect of modern-day business. According to GE Capital Retail Bank’s second annual Major Purchase Shopper Study, a full 81% of customers review information online before making a big purchase.
What is important is to use existing customers for reviews. Send them out surveys or ask for feedback on your website. Ask if you can use their (glowing) Facebook reviews on your website. Either way, try to find ways to have positive reviews from your Repeat or First-time Customers prominently displayed on your website.
Secondly, use social media actively. Retweet customer reviews and share their positive comments on your social media channels. Be active and engage with them in great ways. This way, you will not only reward them in a small way (by acknowledging their positive feedback), but you’ll also advertise to potential customers that you are a great, responsive brand who loves its customers.
Thirdly, don’t forget to market to your existing customers. As previously mentioned, once prospects become customers, don’t abandon them in search for others. They haven’t finished their journey yet to Evangelism, and that’s where you want them. Offer upgrades, special discounts, useful educational material and resources through your blog or newsletter.
Utilize your strategy to keep them engaged and moving up that ladder towards Evangelism.
Utilize your strategy to keep them engaged and moving up that ladder towards Evangelism.
4. Keep Communication Clear and Prompt
This is one of the most important parts of your customer-building strategy. This is not about getting the customers, but now that you have the customer, you have to keep him/her satisfied and coming back. The advent of social media has made personable brands a standard for most growing businesses. Gone are the overly-formal “To Whom It May Concern” letters and emails of the past and waiting days or weeks for an official response. Customers are getting used to and craving faster, more human responses.
The advent of social media has made personable brands a standard for most growing businesses. Gone are the overly-formal “To Whom It May Concern” letters and emails of the past and waiting days or weeks for an official response. Customers are getting used to and craving faster, more human responses.If there are questions, comments or criticisms on your Facebook page or through Twitter, be fast and professional in your response. Be direct, clear, and prompt to your customer’s statements. If they have a problem, offer to fix it as soon as possible, or be honest in a professional way of the situation.
If there are questions, comments or criticisms on your Facebook page or through Twitter, be fast and professional in your response. Be direct, clear, and prompt to your customer’s statements. If they have a problem, offer to fix it as soon as possible, or be honest in a professional way of the situation. One thing to remember, however, is to be sure to be at level with your customers. Just because it’s the age of social media doesn’t mean that everyone wants to get a tweet, post, or email. Some people still prefer a phone call, so if your client calls you, call them back. No matter what, a conversation with a human being is still the closest to an actual, face-to-face conversation.
One thing to remember, however, is to be sure to be at level with your customers. Just because it’s the age of social media doesn’t mean that everyone wants to get a tweet, post, or email. Some people still prefer a phone call, so if your client calls you, call them back. No matter what, a conversation with a human being is still the closest to an actual, face-to-face conversation.
Make them feel as if they are being heard, and they will reward you with their loyalty. This moves them from Stage 3 all the way to Stage 6.
5. Survey customers consistently and adapt your business
Don’t fall into the same trap that’s causing problems in established businesses. Adapt, adapt, adapt. In the modern, always-connected stage, businesses flower and die much more quickly than ever before. One of the main reasons is that they are moving at a much slower pace than their customers and are therefore out of tune with their customers’ desires.
How do you know what your customer wants or needs? You can make a survey, either hosted on your site, another site, or sent through email. Either way, you’ll need to find out what your customer loves about your product or service and what they would still love to see.
When you get your answer back, your next job is to use that survey to adapt your business. This can be done in large or small ways, but there will always be some way in which you can improve your product or service.
Your survey doesn’t have to be about what you’re presently doing either. It can be about a potential future action.
Marissa Mayer presented a great example of getting customer feedback while she was working on Google News. Her 6-member team was stalemated on whether to organize searches by location or date, and so they sent it out to customers without either feature. They got 307 responses the next day—with 300 stating they’d prefer searches organized by date.
Sometimes involving your customers in feedback can also be great in settling internal debates and engaging your customers in building a great product or service.
Your goal, if you want to build great customer relationships, is to move each and every single customer you have from a suspect to an evangelist. Don’t just abandon them at the first-customer or repeat customer stage. Although it takes extra time and effort, it costs 5 to 25 times less to retain a customer than to turn a suspect into a customer.
Develop your customer development strategy, first of all, and use appropriate rewards, marketing, clear communication and surveys/adaptation to keep your customers engaged in your business.
Always ask yourself:
- Which stage of customer loyalty is this campaign targeting?
- What value can this campaign bring to the customer?
- Is this campaign in line with the company’s core and appropriate to the business?
When it comes to growing a loyal base, make sure all your marketing and customer service efforts are targeted towards creating Evangelists out of every customer.5 Ways to Create & Build Better Customer Relationships Today Nick Lucs