It was in 1896 when customers first enjoyed one of the first loyalty programs, according to Mediaplanet.
It was called the S&H Green Stamps program – a program in which customers collected tiny stamps from businesses and then glued the stamps to pages of booklets. These stamps were small paper coupons. Customers then used the booklets to purchase products at businesses that participated in the program.
Today, customer loyalty is about more than coupons. It’s also about education, alignment of company and customer values, technology, and relationships.
Businesses should invest resources in customer loyalty to increase the amount of customers that keep coming back to their stores. A 10 percent increase in customer retention levels leads to a 30 percent increase in the value of a company, according to Bain & Co.
Here are five ways to help encourage customer loyalty for your company for both B2B and B2C businesses.
Create Resources to Help with Ongoing Education
Jillian Wood, senior customer marketing manager at EventMobi, says that creating educational opportunities is one of the ways to drive long-term customer loyalty and retention.
“At the end of the day, people use your products—not corporations,” she says. “Any content, resources or certifications you create gives your individual users a chance to develop their skills, improve their career, or network with peers who can help. That will make customers more loyal to your brand.”
Wood provides a few ideas for resources.
- A clear, engaging and well-structured technical onboarding process that gets users successfully using your tool quickly
- Creating a course for the industry you serve, and a badge those who complete the course that can be added to LinkedIn, so they can show off their new skills
- An online community where they can ask peers for support and dive deep into technical questions
- Roadshows and live events focused on helping users address pain points with your products and their jobs at large
“The key is making sure you’ve nailed your own product’s resources/training before moving onto broader topics that are related to your market or industry.”
Wood notes that when done well, educational resources position your company as an expert in your industry.
Have a Formal Advocacy Program
Wood also suggests that another way to increase loyalty is through a formal customer advocacy program.
“Customers can be considered advocates for your brand when they refer others, share your content, write a positive online review, act as a sales reference, speak on your behalf at an event, etc,” she says. “However, most of the time, these actions are a happy accident that your teams never hear about.”
Wood explains that companies should have formal programs and processes in place that allow customers to self-identify themselves as a potential advocate and allows your team to track and reward acts of customer advocacy. These processes will increase the extent to which customers are loyal to your brand in a few ways.
According to Wood:
- Once a customer has advocated for your brand, they’re psychologically more inclined to defend your brand, to forgive mistakes, and support you.
- When customers are rewarded for acts of advocacy, they’re more likely to do more it — which can include going to bat for you internally against competitors, being open to checking out new products, sharing feedback that will help you develop better products, and more.
For starting a formal program, Wood says:
“You need to create a space or channel (an online community, social stream, newsletter, etc.) where you’ll communicate with customers about how they can advocate for your brand, and what the rewards will be for participation. Before launching it to all customers, ask your customer-facing teams to help you identify your happiest customers so they can give you feedback on the first version of your program.”
Send Thank You Notes
David Mitroff, PhD, CEO and founder of Piedmont Avenue Consulting says that companies should send thank you notes to customers.
“If you received reservations for big parties or company parties, after the event, send thank you notes,” Mitroff says. “A little thank you goes a long way with your customer. It lets them know you remember them and that you are thinking of them.”
He also says companies need to be easy to reach and approachable.
“Be accessible,” he says. “Show your customers you are there for them and willing to help. Companies must meet the convenience [standards] of their customers.”
Use Technology to Help Encourage Customer Loyalty
Platforms to help you track and manage what customers say on social media are essential tools to help with customer loyalty. A review management platform, for example, will help you know what customers are saying about your business and where customers are saying it. You should also use insights from the feedback to improve operations. Respond to their feedback to promote the development of brand advocates.
When customers leave reviews, respond. It’s important that businesses respond to both negative and positive reviews. When consumers who search for a business see that the business owner is putting careful thought into her responses to reviews, then consumers will have a reason to put trust into that business. A consumer reading the business’s response might think, Wow, this owner really cares about her customers.
What All of This Means
Keeping customers loyal to your brand will help you compete with other businesses.
When customers are loyal to your brand, they will talk positively about your business to their friends and family. They will also rave about your brand online in the form of social media and online reviews. Loyal customers are your best promoters who will help you get more customers to be loyal to your business.