By Laura McLoughlin
Brand loyalty is what stops customers flittering from low price to low, low price. You may not sell the cheapest products on the market, but you know that your customers trust that they will get value for their money.
Unfortunately, that loyalty is hard earned. It’s not about pouring money into an advertising campaign, or seeing a Facebook post go viral. Rather trust is built with deliberate and consistent interactions between brand and buyer, proving to that potential customer that your brand isn’t just trying to get money from them, but genuinely care.
For the best ways to make a personal connection with your customers and continue building those layers of trust, try some of these tactics:
Get on a first name basis
When you order a Starbucks, you don’t hear Grande Mocha Latte called out when it’s ready. You hear your name. Back in 2012, the mega coffee corporation made this deliberate choice to use first names instead of order names to encourage a more personal connection between staff members and customers, and help customers feel more individual.
And has it worked?
Well, it’s been five years and they haven’t changed a thing, so we’re thinking they were onto something.
Using your customer’s’ first name is one of the simplest ways for you to treat them as an individual and personalise their experience with your company. Beyond customer service, you might consider how to use implement this idea digitally. For example, be more human and personal by using a customer’s name when responding to social media messages, or use emailing software which allows you to address each newsletter to an individual rather than a “hey guys!”
You might even want to use your own name, as well. Signing off social media messages with Richard or Lisa gives a much more human element to a brand logo, and a brief author bio at the end of your blog articles can do something similar.
Talk about what they want to talk about
When it comes to marketing, your goal shouldn’t be sell, sell, sell. It’s also about creating a positive public appearance and connecting with your customers – and if your Facebook profile is clogged with sales pitches and new offers, you can be assured that your customers will not feel particularly valued as people.
To use an example, Quinnstheprinters.com uses their Facebook page to connect with their customers on shared interests and humour, rather than just financial transactions. Graphic designers are some of their most typical buyers, and so, they share articles about the future of the industry, post gifs highlighting the stresses of freelance life and write their own advice on external blogs. In this way, they are able to relate to their customers and be personable, without being unprofessional. It creates a relationship, of sorts, instead of one-way flow of cash.
New followers, new email sign-ups, new sales – we always receive emails and notifications about new happenings around our company. However, do you notice absence as much as you notice presence?
ASOS does. The online clothing distributor emails you when you leave purchased products in your cart, not only to nudge you to make a final decision, but to remind you how desirable the clothing you left there looks.
Does your company do something similar? For example, you may not have an ecommerce site, but you may think to review past buyers who have not repeated their orders with you. A quick email or phone call may quickly clear up undiscovered issues with your business or services, or could potentially secure a deal that almost never was. This attention to detail and care for customers who have supported you in the past is a great way to connect better with buyers.
Want to connect better with your customers, but aren’t really sure how? A/B testing, otherwise known as spit testing, is a great way to find out. This way of testing various options of email subject lines, website layout, times for social posts and more helps you to understand your customer and get more personal.
For example, you may find after split testing your email newsletter that you receive better open rates if you send during the commuting hours of early morning and early evening. That allows you to learn about your audience’s habits, but also reach out to them about the subjects of work, commuting, public transport and more. Your subject line might even contain a few car and train emojis, or a friendly “TGIF”.
Similarly, can you empathise with parents who are checking their emails after putting their children down for the night, or teens logging in at lunch? Don’t underestimate how personal you can get by simply noticing trends and habits in your audience.
When we say thank you to a friend, we usually do it with a card or a gift. Would you consider doing this for a customer or client?
Rewarding customers for their loyalty to you is a great way to connect better with them. It can be as simple as offering reward cards for a free coffee for every ten purchases they make with you, or as personal as sending a handwritten note to a client who has been with your company for a milestone length of time.
Do you give your customers the chance to give you feedback, or do you at least read reviews of your company and products? To make your customers feel truly valued, listen to them. Their opinions are important, and their ideas often the solutions you have been searching for. Running surveys, asking for feedback on social media or emailing particular customers for their opinions are all great ways to find out what your audience is really thinking and connect with them better.
For example, Olympic Lifts ran a survey about how often people visit their elderly relatives, knowing that elderly loneliness has reached epidemic proportions in Northern Ireland. After their results told them that too few people are able to visit their grandparents, the stairlift installation company created a digital map and directory of social groups for over 55’s to help the elderly better connect with each other instead. This was a way of not only listening to customers, but taking action, as well.
Remember the little things
What’s truly special about any customer service or marketing message is that it touches upon the things you thought a brand would miss.
For example, Fulcrum recently discovered through an online survey, that there is few things that make a customer or client feel valued like a personalised birthday greeting. In fact, 74% of customers who received birthday messages from a company felt more positive about that company afterwards, and a remarkable 88% of those positive reactions “directly translated to increased brand loyalty”. Even 70% of those surveyed were pleased with a simple happy birthday – no freebies or discounts involved.
Can your brand remember the little things? Perhaps a particular city or area is hosting an event, and you could run specific billboards there celebrating that event. If you can’t remember birthdays, can you remember when your customer first did business with you, and celebrate that anniversary instead? You could even simply create smaller, more precise targeted audiences for your digital advertising campaigns.
Whatever you decide, just remember that it’s about the individual, and not how many customers you can hit. You want them to feel particularly valued by your company.
Aside from these seven top tips, one of the most important things to remember when it comes to customer loyalty, of course, is that it is not a simple six-month campaign, after which, you can kick back and relax. The trust between your brand and your buyers must be constantly worked on, through a range of different tactics and not just one. It may not see immediate, big results like a successful social campaign or PR stunt, but that trust is the quiet, long lasting sustenance your company needs.
Laura McLoughlin works with My Own Stationery, a leading personalised stationery e-seller based in Northern Ireland. At over 100 years old, they have considerable manufacturing experience in the making of paper stationery products, and are dedicated to eco-friendly production.