When businesses think of strategies to build customer loyalty, they often think of programs like punch cards or special discounts for frequent shoppers. These may work for large chains – and, in some cases, they may even work for small businesses.
If small businesses actually want to compete with giant chains, however, they have to capitalize on the one big advantage they have – a smaller client and consumer base. Having a smaller client list or consumer base means you can offer personalized service in ways the giants just can’t touch. You have a far greater ability to make your customers and consumers feel like you are there for them, personally and individually. And nothing instills loyalty like feeling you are known, seen and heard. Here are 4 customer loyalty strategies specifically for small businesses.
Just because you are sending out a mass e-mail doesn’t mean you can’t personalize that e-mail. Instead of sending out an anonymous email to the masses, create a field where the e-mail program you are using fills in the individual’s first name. While it may be easier to gather names and email addresses online rather than enter them yourself, by collecting names and email addresses personally from your clients, you can also ensure that their name is entered properly.
CRM has become the friend of small businesses, allowing them to market their business in ways previously only available to the biggest businesses. Never forget, however, that the ace-in-the-hole small businesses have to offer is more personalized service. While you may not actually know all of your clients and consumers by name, you can at least make them believe that you do.
Many businesses send clients and consumers gifts, free offers or just greetings on their birthday or on major holidays like Christmas. You can set your business apart from the crowd by remembering other important events in their lives. Another great thing about CRM is that it allows you to automate messages and even gifts for a number of different events.
If you own a bakery and make someone’s wedding cake, imagine how special your clients would feel getting a miniature replica of their cake on their one-year anniversary. If you are a real estate agent, imagine how touched your clients might be getting a bottle of champagne on the one-year anniversary of their closing. Best of all, all of this can be automated. The best customer loyalty is not earned through free offers or discounts – although those certainly help. Customers are most loyal to brands they believe actually care about them.
The reason we love digital communication is that it is simple and easy. We can write one email and send it to a dozen people or create one social media post for all of our followers. But imagine if you chose a few of your best clients and customers and actually called them once in a while or reached out to them personally.
Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in pop music. She sells out concerts around the globe. And yet, again and again, she surprises fans and invests in them personally. If one of the busiest and most successful women on the planet still finds time to reach out to her “customers and clientele” personally, then don’t you think you might find the time as well? In fact, one might wonder if that isn’t one of the biggest keys to her global success.
Just because you have the ability to create better loyalty through personal interaction doesn’t mean the traditional “loyalty card” programs don’t actually work. You just simply have to go above and beyond them as a small business if you want to pull consumers away from the big brands. Ultimately, what really drives consumers is ease. Trying something new is always risky, not to mention time consuming. When consumers find a product or service they actually like, they want to stick with it.
The more difficult something becomes to purchase however, the less likely consumers are to do so. When you suddenly have to wait 30 minutes or more to get a table at your favorite restaurant, the likelihood is, you will find a new one. That doesn’t mean, however, that loyalty programs don’t work. In fact, in a recent survey, 66.3% of Millennials indicated that they are more likely to shop from stores where they are part of the loyalty program, versus only 33.3% of Baby Boomers.
Small businesses have an advantage in that they can actually use almost all of the same marketing strategies as big businesses, but they can also offer more personalized service.
Many small businesses can offer certain personal touches like greeting clients by name, sending out greetings on life events like anniversaries, the birth of a newborn or even children’s birthdays. As a small business, you even have the ability to send a get-well card when a client is in the hospital. Nike is unlikely to ever know when one of their consumers is in the hospital, but you might. One of the best ways to create undying loyalty among your clients and consumers is to show them that you actually care about them. And you should. Without them, you wouldn’t have a business.
Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon