In this post I want to explore 5 tips to help you build a Brand that fosters customer loyalty. If you’re a business than you know the importance of having a loyal customer base, the people that continue to buy our product or service because they can’t get enough. Sure, we will always have the “one-off” customers who buy our product or service one time but never come back, and that’s ok. In fact that’s every customer. Just because they never purchase again doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy your product, it just means that maybe they weren’t compelled enough to return.
“Loyal Customers” aren’t just walking around out there waiting to be loyal to you, you have to create them. And you create them by transforming the “One-Off” customer into a loyal one and we do that by developing and building trust with our customers. Below we will explore five ways to build a brand that can help facilitate that transformation, but first, let’s explore what exactly a brand is.
What is a Brand?
A lot of people when they hear the word “Brand” might think of a logo such as a yellow M, and they’d be right, in part. Or they might think of a little jingle or a certain sound, such as the startup sound when you turn on your computer. And they’d be right again. Those are both pieces of the Brand puzzle.
Overall, though, your Brand is how your business is perceived by the world and while the design of your logo and website is definitely a big part of your brand, (If it looks cheap or out of date, or doesn’t function well, then people will perceive that and assume the same of your products), there are many more factors that contribute to your brand.
The verbiage you choose to use in your communications, in person or online. How you dress when you are on the job, the decor in your store or office, the content you put out to show off your business, you yourself are your brand. So then, let’s look at some ways our brand can be more effective at fostering customer loyalty
1. Be Transparent and Authentic
Transparency, as in any relationship, is important for your customer to get to know who are, what you are about, how you operate, and, most importantly, WHY you do what you do. In being transparent, you are first extending trust to your customer or client. By being vulnerable and honest with who you are as a business, and business owner, you are allowing your customer to get close and feel more a part of the business; an insider. When a customer feels that no information is being withheld, they are more likely to trust you and, in turn, be more loyal when it comes time to purchase.
Now I am not suggesting that you disclose trade secrets or financial information, but here are some ideas of ways you can be more transparent:
Talk about and show off your process
Be open with how you get things done. Show off the steps you take to make a great quality product or provide the best services. If you are a restaurant owner, show behind the scenes of how and where you choose your ingredients, what factors influence your decisions, and your drive to continue to provide high quality food for your patrons. It’s important to be honest, don’t hide or sugar coat things, it’s ok to talk about the struggles of business, people would rather support someone who is honest with their struggles than cover them up, that’s lying, and that destroys trust.
Tell your story
You know there is nothing more we love here at Dark to Light than a good story. Talking about who you are, why you started your business, what drives you to keep going, your passions and heart aches, gets people up close and personal to see that it’s more than just a storefront or a webpage, it’s a real human being behind the business, someone they can relate to on some level, and someone they can trust. Whether through video, blog posts, photos, etc., telling your story communicates right to the core of someone’s heart to connect with them emotionally; the strongest way to build trust and loyalty.
Check out how the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley told their story in this short film.
If being transparent is being honest about who you are, Authenticity, then, is staying to true to who you are. Being honest about who you are and what kind of business you run is important to not only your success but your personal happiness. Don’t try to conform to what people want you to be if it doesn’t make sense within your business model or your branding. To try to change things in order to gain more customers is, again, lying and we know what that does. If people don’t want who you are, that’s ok, they aren’t your customer.
Focus on your customer, they are the ones that appreciate who you are and will keep coming back because they find value and commonality in who you are. People are more loyal to authentic businesses because they know they aren’t pretending to be what they aren’t in order to make a buck.
2. Be Committed to Quality
As the old saying goes. “You can paint shit gold and it may look nice, but it still stinks.” At least I think that’s an old saying… in any case it still rings true.
Be committed to quality with EVERYTHING you do. Let your brand be defined by it. A lot of businesses, as they grow, tend to look for ways to make things cheaper and increase their profit margin, which makes sense from a financial standpoint, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if it comes at the cost of quality it should be avoided. The last thing you want is to risk cheapening your product and pissing off your customers, that leads to bad reviews and lost reputation.
Instead, I say, you should look for ways to increase quality. In increasing your quality or, at the very least, not decreasing it you will maintain your customers trust and loyalty knowing that you aren’t trying to jip them. This goes all the way down to the tiniest details such as the type of paper you use for your business cards.
The more things you can do to show that you really care about your business, brand and products will go a long way to show your customer/client that if you are willing to go this far and care that much about your product than you will go that much farther to make sure they are taken care of. This will lead to good reviews and great word of mouth as your customers rave about your product or service.
This also goes for how you present your product. You can have the most amazing product in the world but if you aren’t presenting with quality visuals than it will be seen in a less desirable light. Think of it this way; video, photos, and even a website is like a filter, a window into your business and your products. If your window is dirty well than your product will appear dirty and unappealing no matter how amazing it really is.
So be committed to quality in how you make your products and how you present them, yourself, and your brand.
3. Customer Experience is Key
This is one that might not come to mind when you think of brand, but it’s one of, if not THE, most important branding elements.
People want to know that they matter to the people they are doing business with. So building a solid brand around the customer experience is vital. If someone ever feels like they don’t matter, all trust will be lost and they will move on to someone else who cares.
From the very first moment of contact when they walk in the store, how do they perceive you? Are you friendly and helpful, greeting them with a smile and making sure they feel welcome? Or are they greeted with indifference? First impressions are the lasting ones, right?
How fast we respond to emails and make sure the client is up to speed is all a part of a good customer experience. Answer the phone, respond to the messages left on your social media channels, and do what you say you’re going to do.
4. Provide Value and establish your Expertness
Expertness? I may have just invented a word, but that’s ok! The point is, you need to be providing value to your customers outside of your product or service, and outside the prospect of making money. “Wait so you’re asking me to give away stuff for FREE?!”
Yes. Yes, I am.
Give away advice. Give away resources. Find things that are relevant to your customer and that adds value to their life while establishing that you really are an expert in your area of expertise. Be as generous as possible. Among marketers, it’s been said you give away the “why” -as in why a potential customer would need to address or be aware of a certain issue -and sell the “how;’ which is where you offer a tool or teach customers how to follow through step-by-step. My personal belief is that we should be generous-very generous.
It may seem counterintuitive to give people free info on how to do what you charge to do, but in the end most people won’t follow through with doing it themselves because they don’t have the time, or the right set of tools, or maybe they’ll do it the first time and realize they should just let the professional handle it next time. It’s their choice either way, and at least when they are finally ready to hire a professional, they’ll know just who to call!
5. Show appreciation for their loyalty
How much does the first repeat purchase mean to you, how much do you value the third transaction and is it worth losing the fourth potential deal to a competitor? The answer is that customer loyalty is invaluable and no, you don’t want to lose them to the competition. Create a plan to give a percentage of loyal customers’ cumulative spending back to the consumer in some way. Whether it is through phased discounts, complimentary shipping, gifts with purchase, or a loyalty program, I don’t know about you but I am always looking forward to my free burrito at KB’s in Hailey!, always find a way to create added value.
So often companies forget to say a simple Thank You for your business. Wish your clients Happy Birthday, or send a simple gift basket for the holidays letting them know you appreciate them. It may sound unnecessary, but trust me from past experience, customers in every industry want to feel that you care about them outside of your business transactions with them.
Social media is a great way to build brand loyalty. A BRANDfog study found that when a brand executive has something to say, individuals on social media listen. In fact, 81 percent of respondents in the study said they had more confidence in a company when its executive was using social media.
When brands show their appreciation for consumers on social media, that helps build brand loyalty, and those customers then become your most loyal brand ambassadors — across your social media channels. Replying with a personal message or commenting on a social media post is a perfect way to humanize a brand and deepen the relationship.