Customer Loyalty: How To Boost It
We all know the importance of customer loyalty in building a sustainable, healthy business. Delivering excellent products and service goes a long way to ensuring customer loyalty. Yet in increasingly competitive markets it's not enough to simply rely on a good offering. Companies large and small have recognised for along time that more needs to be done. Large corporations have headed down the track of "Loyalty Programs" that reward customers for repeat purchase. Such programs can be costly and complicated for small businesses to implement.
So what can small business do to level the playing field and boost loyalty for their business?
The answer is "build a community"
Small businesses have one major competitive advantage over their large rivals - the personal touch. We offer a level of personal service and accountability that large businesses can't replicate.
Building a community is about taking the concept of a "personal touch" to another level. It's using your business to bring together like-minded people in a way that adds value to their lives over and above any commercial transaction that might take place. Building a community makes sense on both a personal and business level. Personally you will get a buzz out of knowing your business is positively contributing to people's lives. On the business front your contribution to helping others will payback on many levels including:
- A dedicated "fan" base willing spread the reputation of your business through word-of-mouth
- Prospects and customers willingly giving you the feedback and input you need to grow your business successfully
- More repeat business
How to Build a business-based Community
The first step is to determine a reason the community needs to exist. What value will the community add to people's lives? For instance, will it help them:
- Learn and develop skills
- Contribute to a worthwhile cause
- Improve existing conditions or services
- Help others
Capture this core reason in a mission statement for the community. Make sure this objective relates to your core business is some way. It needs to make sense to people why your company would be involved and how you can add value.
The next step is to then get very specific about who will value being part of the community. What are the common characteristics of those people? What is it about their attitude, personal values and lifestyle that makes it worthwhile for them to be part of the community?
In your community you want to create a base of like-minded people. Focus on a niche. The more focused you become the easier it will be to create a connection between these people.
How are you going to bring people together?
Communities take on a lot of different forms. People may come together online, through a postal newsletter, newspaper or face-to-face at meetings. You can use any communication tool or medium that enables people to interact.
The easiest way to determine how you should bring people together is to ask the people you're targeting. Conduct some informal research. Go talk to some of the people you have profiled and tell them about what you want to achieve and get their feedback and input.
Consistent promotion is key
It will take time for your community to develop. At first you may feel like a lonely voice in the wind but as time goes by more people will become involved and your reputation will spread.
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