Despite the economy starting to open back up, many businesses have not been able to survive the the events of the last year or so. However, there are many others that have kept their doors open. Although it is commendable that your business remains, there is no time to celebrate.
Instead, you need to stay focused on efforts to build brand loyalty. With the reopening of the economy, those who had previously shuttered businesses may try to open a new one and fresh entrepreneurs will also step up to compete for the attention of today’s consumers.
The unprecedented times over the course of the last year changed many things, including consumer preferences, expectations and purchase behaviors. To maintain and add more loyal followers, consider these four tactics.
What’s to love?
Start by identifying why your best customers love you. Is it the value they perceive from your product or service? Does their demographic profile (age, income, location, and other factors) draw them to what you offer?
Once you determine the factors that make you attractive to others, then you can leverage those factors in your marketing materials. You will want to share those attributes across all channels in a consistent way.
Once you have the messaging ready, it’s time to reach out to those in your target audience so they see your offer. Put together testimonials and lean into what makes your business great within the messaging. You may even want to ask current fans of your brand to serve as ambassadors to share what they love about your products and services with their social circle.
Rewards for referrals and ongoing use
The last thing you want is to make your customers feel they are being taken for granted. If you never return the love they are giving your brand, then they might not believe you truly value them.
You can build brand loyalty with your existing customers by showing them regular appreciation when they share your products and services with others. That means rewarding your current customer base with some type of monetary incentive, discount or exclusive product/service so they feel special.
Two ways to implement a rewards system are to incentivize referrals as well as the continued purchase of your products or services. Both are clear “thank you’s” to your customers. That appreciation will most likely compel them to remain loyal.
To offer these rewards in a consistent way, you will need to develop and oversee a formal referral program. Creating a structured program not only makes it easy for customers to refer their friends, family and colleagues, but it also facilitates your tracking of those referrals. Doing so will give you the data that shows the return on investment (ROI) of these reward programs.
Creativity on the edge
With ever-changing expectations, needs and perspectives among your customer base and target audience, you can’t become complacent and just stick with “what has always worked.” There will come a time (sooner, more likely than later) where what worked no longer does.
To continue building brand loyalty, you will need to be creative, push the limits and take risks. This includes challenging all your assumptions about your business and your old ways of interacting with your customers. Stretch the boundaries of what you develop as new products, services and workflows. Over time, this daring approach will be one of the only ways to stand out and continue adding value for customers and your audience, especially as competition intensifies.
You can encourage your team to take creativity to the edge by hosting brainstorming sessions and contests to reward the most innovative approaches to product development, marketing, and customer interaction. Cultivating a culture that thrives on continual change can also inspire everyone to seek different messaging and unique products and services that keep customers coming back for more.
Sooner is better
If we have learned anything from the past year, it’s that we do not have the luxury of time to decide how to change. The faster you can pivot to address evolving customer preferences and experiences, the better opportunity you will have to retain as many customers as possible.
If you do not start building brand loyalty immediately, you will only face greater competition. Recent increases in job postings and loosened restrictions point to more businesses opening up. Thanks to economic stimulus and increasing confidence that the economy is set to fully open across the country, entrepreneurs and small business owners will be inspired to take action. As an organization that made it through the past year, the time to make a move is now. The newly opened businesses are eager and hungry, so they will do whatever it takes to win over customers, including those you have counted on for years.
Although there is urgency involved in addressing brand loyalty, it is also important to take a thoughtful and measured approach to implement a results-based brand loyalty strategy and accompanying tactics. Before getting started, check in with your customers and find out what’s on their minds, including listening to anything that has changed for them. Not only will this inform how you select brand loyalty initiatives, but the act of reaching out to them to better understand what it takes to retain them can have a positive effect on your loyalty efforts.