Whether it’s a customer that always returns to their favourite hairdresser, or a family that has been going to the same dentist for the last decade, brand loyalty is a lucrative thing to achieve.
But for many small business owners, getting customers through the door is the biggest hurdle they’ll face.
On the other hand, it’s well worth the effort. Brand loyalists can last a lifetime, and depending on your industry, acquiring a new customer is 5-25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
According to American Express research, it takes different incentives to win new customers than it does to keep them.
When choosing a provider, customers want value for money: 40% of Australians said it’s the most important factor in their selection process. But when it comes to keeping customers coming back, high-quality service will keep 33% of consumers loyal to a small business, followed by ease of use at 27% and a premium product offering at 15%.
Small business marketing expert Prosper Taruvinga tells SmartCompany his best practice tips, and Catherine Cervasio, founder of natural child skincare company Aromababy, shares her personal learnings.
Wow them with your service
Since 1994, Cervasio has relied on lasting customer relationships to grow Aromababy. This could only be achieved by providing great service, she says.
“We are always looking at ways to build loyalty. The most important factor in our customer retention is providing outstanding, personalised customer service together with product efficacy,” Cervasio says.
According to Cervasio, it is a mistake to forget the personal touch or underestimate the value of thoughtful gifts and gestures.
“We provide bonus items without notice, travel sizes of something that’s not on a customer’s order or even a gift item that we may have excess stock of,” she says.
But small businesses with limited resources shouldn’t feel the need to give out expensive gifts for the sake of relationship-building. Cervasio encourages owners to go the extra mile in their service to achieve the same results.
“It’s the little things,” she says.
“If someone orders a gift, but there is no gift card or note included, we always contact the customer to check if they would like a gift card or message included.”
Because of this, Cervasio says, “we have customers who have had babies a decade apart or who are now grandparents that are still purchasing from us.”
Content is king
Beyond providing great service, Taruvinga says there are basic changes businesses can make to start building loyalty today.
In terms of maximising results, digital marketing is a cost-effective solution to establish trust with both potential customers and loyal shoppers, Taruvinga says.
“Customers come to the internet to get information,” he says.
“If you are the one providing that information, the public gets to know, like and trust you.
“People do business with those they know, like, and trust.”
Taruvinga’s focus on building trust is backed by research from American Express, which reveals trust is vital to customer loyalty.
According to the study, 63% of Australians would find it hard to forgive a business for dishonesty. Looking further, 38% say it would take more than a year for a brand to regain trust and 13% say trust can never be won back once lost.
“Trust is a hard thing to come by,” Taruvinga says.
“Gone are the days when you would trust a salesman to be knowledgeable.”
As more would-be customers have more access to information to independently research products and services, brands should take care to be transparent and honest, Tavuringa says.
“Build trust by mapping out your client journey from discovery to conversion,” he says.
“If you place videos, how-tos and behind the scenes so that they have an idea how the products are sourced or assembled, you will win the trust of those that are not yet convinced.”
Here, YouTube can be an effective and accessible platform to showcase a business’ production line or the best ways to use their products.
Similarly, podcasts allow you to offer consumers and your potential network insights into your business, which is effective for engagement, Tavuringa says.
“Start a podcast where you interview past clients and they can sing your praises,” he says.
“You can also bring your suppliers and staff members into the mix.”
Similarly, Tavuringa encourages owners to join closed groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, where you can connect directly with customers and other like-minded businesspeople.
In his experience, email marketing has also proven effective in providing post-sales service and keeping customers in the loop with upcoming promotions.
Finally, recognising repeat customers should be a key focus for small business owners, especially considering the American Express research which shows only 24% of Australian consumers feel their loyalty is rewarded by brands.
Brand loyalty is essential for the ongoing success of any business, big or small. It’s time to focus on the little things, so the big results – and loyal customers – will follow.
Through our Global Commercial Services division, American Express offers powerful backing and support that helps companies of all sizes gain financial savings, control and efficiency. We provide a suite of payment and lending products, solutions for travel and everyday business spending, cross border payments, global currency solutions, and business financing.