Most small business owners understand that nurturing loyal customers is one of the best ways to build a profitable company. Selling to repeat customers is almost always easier and less expensive than acquiring new customers by increasing your advertising budget. But how should you engage your loyal customer base? What is the best way to ensure your regular clients think of your business each and every time they are ready to make a purchase?
While there is no single right way to excite existing patrons. Here are five tried-and-true tips for engaging your loyal customer base:
1. Show them some love
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So make sure your customers know how much you appreciate their business. You’ve undoubtedly mastered the basics, like greeting customers by name, remembering what they previously purchased and adding a personal touch to all of your interactions. Now it’s time to go the extra mile and really show them some love. The goal is to make them proud of their relationship with your business. For example, host an after-hours party for your most loyal customers. Make sure the party’s theme fits your brand and give all attendees a small gift or swag bag.
2. Create a loyalty program
The idea of earning rewards with repeat purchases was made famous by the airlines decades ago. But just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Regular customers are likely to be eager to participate in a loyalty program. These can allow them to gain freebies or discounts off future purchases. Make it fun by creating a loyalty card with a name and image that ties into your brand. The “point” system should be reasonable and easily achievable. For example, few people will buy 100 meals just to get a free drink, but many will be happy if 5 or 10 meals result in that same reward.
3. Encourage them to bring a friend
One of the best ways to engage your current customer base and increase sales is to encourage your customers to bring a friend to your establishment. Of course, the key way to do this is to make sure that both your loyal customer and the new friend are rewarded for buying from you. You can do this with a 2-for-1 deal (and they can split the savings) or with a discount that both new and old customers receive when they shop together.
4. Run a contest
Everyone loves to be a winner, so why not run a contest that customers can enter every time they buy from you? To make this especially cost-effective, you can partner with a local supplier and feature local products, with the side benefit of educating your customers about the producers that live in your community. Whether you offer a small prize that is distributed frequently (perhaps a free product every month). Or a major jackpot that you give away every year (like a trip or a large gift certificate). Be sure to get the most from this offer by posting the winner’s name and prize in a prominent place in your store. You should also have appropriate newsletters, publications and social media. Just be sure to get permission first.
5. Feature customers on your blog or social media
One especially effective way for small businesses to engage their loyal customers is to shine a spotlight on them. Write about a special customer, either on your blog or on your preferred social media platform. Be sure to tie in your business. For example, a Customer Spotlight feature could discuss why a specific product is a customer’s favorite. Also it could show how the customer benefits from your services. The spotlighted customer will feel special, and other customers will see that you really care.
The benefit of retaining customers goes beyond driving sales and revenues. When it comes time to grow, small business owners who can show they have a loyal customer base are better positioned to attract funding to finance an expansion.