How to build (and manage) a loyal customer base

CRM, database management, loyalty programmes are the marketing terms you will have heard mentioned around the whole area of ‘Loyalty’. Managing customer loyalty usually falls to the marketing person or department in a business, but it should be the responsiblity of everyone in the organisation. When you boil it down a loyalty programme is simply a plan that helps you to acknowlege and talk to your customers directly.

Your customers are just like you, they want to be acknowledge and spoken to like a real human being, so using terms like ‘database’ and ‘CRM’ make the process sound technical or scientific….but it shouldn’t be!

Here are my top tips on how to manage loyalty in any business of any size:

Stay close

Make sure you know who your customers are and find ways to build a direct relationship with them. It always amazes me that so many businesses have no way of keeping in touch with their existing customers. They don’t know who they are or how many times they have purchased from them. Every day that passes and your business isn’t keeping track of who you are dealing with is a missed oppportunity. We have all heard the old addage that is costs 10 times more to acquire an old customer than keep a new one. So the more direct contact you have with your customers, the less you should have to spend on marketing to the masses.

Get their number!

Your business model will dictate how the data capture exercise happens. If you are a B2B company this will be more straight forward as you will have the main contact details on file – just make sure that you have the name and email address of your key contact, not just the accounts department. For B2C companies, you need to take any opportunities during the sales process to record the customers details and get them to opt in to any future communication. You must collect this information fairly and the customer must know:

  • What information you will keep about them
  • What purpose you will use the data
  • Any other parties that you may disclose or pass on their details to

Always bear in mind the future when recording customer details. Just because your business doesn’t do any mobile marketing right now, this may change in the future. If you don’t capture your customers mobile number now, it may be expensive to do so in the future.

What to say to customers

Most businesses know how to market themeselves to potential new customers, but struggle to market themselves effectively to existing customers. Think about the insurance companies who regualarly offer savings and discounts to new customers, while existing customers have to pay the higher premiums! Marketing to those who know your product and serviceshould be easier, but it needs some careful planning. You need to think carefully about what you are offering to those people who have spent with you before. Do you offer them a discount on future purchaces? Do they get a free gift the next time they shop? Or do you give them access to exclusive previews or content before the general public. There must be something exclusive for them to enjoy.

Flatery leads to loyalty and sales

Don’t just sell to your existing customers, use them to test products, give you feedback on your new advertising or ask them what they think of your customer service. Involving this trusted group of customers in your business process will reap rewards. Imagine being asked as a customer to pick and new pack design for a product and then seeing that pack on your supermarket shelves a few months later – you would certainly have a deeper affinity with that brand than its competitor. Thinking of your own business, how could you utilise your customer base to help you improve your products and service?

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