Business success hinges on customers — what they like, who they patronize, their purchasing experience, and more.
If your business has no customers, it’s not going to last very long, so regardless of the type of business you own, customer acquisition will dominate much of your business development strategy. From advertising campaigns to public relations, entrepreneurs must prioritize the growth of their company’s customer base if they want to make it into the next year.
When starting a business, it’s tempting to think all customers are great customers; however, after a few months in business, you’ll learn repeat customers provide the most value. By building a loyal customer base, entrepreneurs can increase profit margins and spread the word about their company.
Here are three tips for developing a loyal (and profitable) customer base:
Brand ambassador programs
Social media has become the new word-of-mouth advertising. Business owners can incentivize satisfied customers to help spread the word about their company through the establishment of brand ambassador programs. While most people associate brand ambassadors with big companies and celebrities, small businesses can benefit from the development of a structured program that activates supportive customers in ways that lead to expanding the market.
Once brand ambassadors have been identified (entrepreneurs may consider an application process), they can begin to spread the word across their networks through blogging, events, giveaways, social media posts, etcetera. The promoted company can compensate brand ambassadors through free products, online promotion, exclusive event invites, product or service discounts, and cash compensation following referrals.
Consistent messaging campaigns
Customers become loyal purchasers once they are confident all service from a company will be consistent. A great way to help new customers recognize your company as trustworthy and reliable is through consistent messaging. Whether it’s on Facebook, an e-blast, or even a packing slip, communication consistent in content and tone can help alleviate new customer hesitations and build a strong loyal base.
Business owners might find it helpful to think of all promotion and outreach in terms of campaigns — a targeted strategy with focused messaging that takes place within a set time frame (one month, one quarter, etcetera). Each element of the campaign should share similar verbiage and calls-to-action. Once an advertising campaign is created, entrepreneurs can build social media posts, e-newsletters, and other promotional material off of the campaign. Consistent messaging can be a great way to convert one-time purchases into loyal customers.
Timely customer service
We live in an era of on-demand everything: television, music, food delivery, and yes, even customer service. Today’s consumers are quick to post all things customer-service related (good and bad) online, where the entire world can see. When a customer is happy and posts a rave review about your company, this digitized feedback is positive; however, when a customer is unhappy and shares a not-so-nice review regarding your company, on-demand customer service can present a solution to this problem.
To maximize positive feedback and minimize negative reviews, business owners should prioritize timely customer service across all platforms: email, social media, and online reviews. Monitor all company communication channels on a regular basis and respond consistently in a helpful and transparent way. Consider using automated social media programs, such as Facebook’s Chatbots or ZenDesk, to help address customer-service concerns with quick turnaround.
Building a loyal customer base can help business owners decrease customer acquisition costs and increase their profit margin. Like most things in business, recruiting your company’s fan club takes strategy and effort. Developing brand ambassador programs, capitalizing on consistent messaging, and prioritizing timely customer service helps businesses keep customers coming back for more.