3 steps to creating loyal customers

Loyal customers

It’s something, as a business, you can never have enough of. That is LOYAL CUSTOMERS. They are your bread and butter, those that come back fortnightly if not monthly, if not to shop but to just pop their head in to say hello. They are the customers who will shout the loudest to their friends and family about how much they love your store and insist they must get in to check it out.

Lucia Philip is back at it again with a smashing post about how you can create loyal customers in just 3 simple and easy steps.

Loyal Customers

We’ve all heard the maxim that it is cheaper to keep a customer than gain a new one.  And it is true.  It typically costs 5-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.

This is why large companies have a dedicated budget for customer loyalty programs- and why your wallet is likely filled with store loyalty cards.

But a loyalty program doesn’t need to be big, automated or expensive to be effective.

In fact, your small business has a key advantage over a national company when it comes to customer loyalty- personal interaction.

If we think about loyalty in its pure (non-marketing) form, it isn’t about rewards.  It is about how we feel towards someone based on how they treat us.  I feel loyal to you because you make me feel this way by what you say to me and do for me!  And a small business has more meaningful opportunities to influence how their customers feel than a big business does.

Whether it is over the phone, in-person or online, your customer is much more likely to interact with you, the business owner, than they are to interact with the CEO of Woolworths next time they buy groceries.  Think about it. Just take most online platforms of large companies. They are usually clunky and unsatisfying, and that is the main interaction that company is having with its customers.

And this provides you with an opportunity to create customer loyalty that is truly authentic rather than the kind that is bought through points and discounts.

Here’s how to do that.


Firstly, get your processes right.  If your website says that orders will be shipped in 1-2 business days, make sure you are meeting those milestones every time.  It sounds simple, but a small business owner wears so many hats that it is easy to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if you don’t quite live up to all your promises.  It does matter.

Nothing destroys loyalty faster, in life or business than breaking your promises.


Surprise and Delight

Surprising your customers is one of the best ways to win their loyalty.  The key is not in doing something big, it is doing something that is unexpected.

Giving a customer their 11th coffee free isn’t surprising because it is such a standard marketing offer.  And customers have come to see this sort of incentive as their right.  But imagine if a café decided to put the marketing budget they use to fund this program towards giving away 10 free coffees per week in a seemingly random manner.

Imagine ordering a takeaway coffee from a new café only to be told that ”this one is on us because we love that you love coffee as much as we do.”  How do you think you would feel as you walked away with your free coffee?  Would you associate this café with a sense of fun and feeling valued?  Would you return? I would.


Build a Community

By offering to share your skills with your customers without asking for anything in return, you’ll create the sort of loyalty that big business can only dream of.

First, decide what skills or knowledge you have that your customers need.  For example, if you are a homewares retailer, you are probably also a pretty good stylist.  Merchandising your products in-store isn’t that different to what your customers will try to do when they get your products home.

Second, dedicate the time that is required to develop a 1-hour workshop that teaches your customer something that they’d like to know and commit to offering it 4-6 times per year.  By the time you’ve delivered the workshop 3 times you’ll be able to do it in your sleep and you have the perfect, cost-effective vehicle for genuine interaction with your customers.  I know a great whiskey bar which does tastings – what customers come for is the knowledge and enthusiasm of the owner.  Buying something from someone who is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about their product is an enjoyable experience and one that customers are likely to want to repeat.  By interacting this way with your customers, you’ll naturally acquire the customers contact details in order to confirm their attendance but more importantly, by sharing your expertise without asking for sales in return you’ll create a level of trust that will have your customer seeking you out next time they need  advice about the types of products you sell.  Once customers seek you out in this manner, the sales take care of themselves.

loyal customers

Bonus Suggestions: Talk to your lapsed customers

I can’t count the number of times that asking a lapsed customer why they aren’t buying anymore has turned into a sale.  By listening and truly taking note of feedback you can often turn a lapsed customer into one of your most loyal. But talking to lapsed customers doesn’t need to be purely mercenary.  Lapsed customers are likely to have some of the best insights into what needs improving within your business or product range.  I know it can be daunting but it is still cheaper than acquiring a new customer and who knows what you’ll learn in the process.

One of the best things about being a small business owner is sharing something you are passionate about with the people who love what you do (your customers).

That passion, and the resulting interactions with customers are advantages that big businesses spend big money trying to replicate.  When it comes to customer loyalty, you can do it better than anyone.

So, get cracking!



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