Smart business owners know keeping existing customers is much cheaper and easier than finding new ones. But, not every company is savvy enough to build the type of customer loyalty that allows them to outpace the competition and thrive in a competitive marketplace.
Fortunately, building customer loyalty is a skill that can be learned. In fact, there are specific tactics and techniques your business can use that should keep customers coming back for more.
1. Offer membership rewards
Rewarding repeat customers is often a successful tactic for businesses because membership rewards give consumers an incentive to choose you over competitors.
This could be as simple as a sandwich shop offering every 10th sandwich free, or you could do much more, such as giving customers the opportunity to become paying members for valuable special perks.
Amazon's Prime program, which has repeatedly earned Amazon a top spot on lists of companies with the most loyal customers, is a key example of a membership program that pays off big time. Because Prime members have paid their fees to get free shipping, they want to get their money's worth so turn to Amazon first when shopping online.
Customers could do the same with your organization if you make membership worth their while or make repeat purchases pay off.
2. Help your customers simplify their lives
Another company that earns high marks for customer loyalty is Apple, which has built a dedicated fan base of followers who line up for each new product. While Apple drives customer loyalty in lots of ways, one of the biggest reasons Apple users cite when asked why they stick with the brand is Apple's ecosystem that just works on all their devices from phones to computers to TVs.
Your own company can emulate Apple's approach to simplicity and functionality. Figure out what your customers need -- even if they don't yet realize they need it -- and make those products or services effortlessly available to them.
People should never have to work hard to figure out where to buy your products or services, how much they cost, or how to use them. If they know your products will work reliably or your service will exceed their expectations, they may even be willing to pay a premium to do business with you compared with competitors.
3. Become one of your customer's habits
Ever wonder how Facebook became one of the most valuable companies in the world? The answer is simple: more than a billion people worldwide log into Facebook at least once a day. Facebook has become such a habit for so many that there are dozens of Internet articles dedicated to helping people break their Facebook addiction.
If you can prompt your customers to repeatedly use your product or service, doing so will become a part of their routine and they'll return to you time and again.
Many companies have tried to make using their products habitual -- think American Express with the slogan "Don't Leave Home Without It". Your company can succeed at this by creating triggers that prompt customers to use your product or service, making its use effortless, and offering variable rewards to increase anticipation so customers reach out to you again and again.
4. Provide something original
Netflix has significantly higher customer loyalty than other streaming services. Customers stick with Netflix for lots of reasons, but one big one is Netflix has invested heavily in innovative original content. Netflix shows are unique and well-done, they generate buzz, and everyone wants to be in-the-know.
If your company offers something exclusive that no one else does, customers will invariably turn to your business to get it. If you develop a reputation for being on the cutting edge of your industry, people will turn to you repeatedly to get the latest products or most advanced services.
Your reputation for innovation can help you build a loyal brand following and can also work to ensure your brand is known as the "cool one," like Apple. Everyone wants to use the hip brand.
5. Develop a reputation for consistency and quality
Consumers tend to become repeat customers of brands they feel they can count on. This could mean turning to companies offering a consistent product-- think McDonald's, where people always know what a cheeseburger tastes like anywhere in the world. Or, it could mean choosing to buy a product known for being long-lasting, such as Subaru with its motto of Built to Last and its commercials showing parents handing down cars to kids.
Make sure your customers know they won't experience unpleasant surprises when they buy from you and that your products will stand the test of time. If you do this, you'll have not only repeat buyers but also fans that'll recommend you to friends.
Make your company the business that customers turn to
If your company is known for being unique or it becomes a trusted brand, you're sure to keep customers coming back for more. By following these tips to help your company build a loyal fan base, you'll be on the fast track toward business success.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Christy Bieber has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.