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This article is part of the “Customer Loyalty 101” section of our definitive guide dedicated to customer loyalty and loyalty programs.

You may enjoy other articles from this section:

We’re all about driving loyal customers. Partly because we know the benefits of customer loyalty. Like that it leads to customer retention, it means growth for your business, minimizing your service cost, and even reducing marketing costs.

We also know that there are different types of loyal customers you might encounter. Though we know some of the high-level ways of keeping customers happy and driving loyalty. We wanted to know if any businesses out there were doing anything out of the ordinary.

So we decided to ask. What we found was that a lot of people, like us, know that customer service and being customer first are big contributors. But that’s not all we learned…

Here’s what we found out about driving loyalty

We reached out to a group of marketers and had 60 respondents give their input. We learned some valuable tips, which we will cover later on. But, we also found a few surprising statistics.

Thank you emails are used the most for keeping customers loyal

We asked what people use to get people to become loyal customers. We offered three answers along with a fill in the blank. We really wanted to see if an incentive program like a referral program or loyalty program were thought of as big drivers or if something like a simple thank you email was preferred.

Though users were able to select multiple choices, the most chosen option was thank you emails.

68% of marketers send thank you emails to help increase customer loyalty.

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There were quite a few other options submitted too. In fact, 26 people mentioned something other than the options provided.

Many of the filled in options included were related to customer service and support. 23% of respondents added items relating to customer service as a top way of increasing customer loyalty. These included things like more interaction, follow up phone calls, and sending handwritten thank you cards.

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Gift type responses were also honorably mentioned. 13% of respondents also mentioned gift type items can lead to customer loyalty. These included things like free consulting, personalized products, gift cards, and even planting a tree for each item made.

Many people have not tried a loyalty program software

Despite 55% of the respondents saying that a loyalty program is a great way for creating loyal customers. 56% of them also mentioned that they have not tried or do not use any type of loyalty program software.

There were 5 loyalty program platforms that were chosen by multiple people. Fivestars marketing platform was chosen the most out of the list of software given. Yet only 5 of the 60 respondents mentioned they used it. The others that were chosen multiple times included   GiftBit, Thanx, and The Loyalty Box which were mentioned 3 times each. And Loyalzoo which was mentioned 2 times.

Coupons and discounts take the win for best incentive

We asked what incentives work the best at creating loyal customers. ‘Coupons and discounts for club and loyalty members’ received the most responses. Right after that was ‘offer early access to new products and services’.

Interestingly, less than 1% of respondents said that punch cards that lead to rewards/freebies, are a good incentive for creating loyalty.

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Respondents were able to choose multiple options if they wanted, and only half of the respondents did.

The other category is mostly made of a variety of gifts that are something other than gift cards or cash. Things like a free extension on an existing plan, gift baskets, entry for sweepstakes, and travel incentives were mentioned.

If you could use only one strategy for driving customer loyalty, what would it be and why?

There isn’t a right or wrong way of building customer loyalty. There are some strategies, however, that can get you on the right track.

Affan Vohra from BestVPN.co talks about the loyalty loop. Affan mentions that there are multiple aspects that play into customer loyalty.

“I would work more on the product itself, make sure that perceived value is met or exceeded to create customer delight (the enjoy phase) of the product”.

But your work isn’t done after your product is great. “This is where you work on post-purchase strategies (After sales service) to create value leading to product/brand advocacy. Once your customer starts generating positive word of mouth, this is where you succeed”.

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With that being said, let’s dive into strategies for driving customer loyalty.

1. Have regular communication

Sometimes the easiest way to create loyal customers is simple and quite obvious. Colm Lehane from ExpertSure mentions “Simply sending your customers regular emails, text messages, social media messages or even a quick phone call, can be a significant driver of customer loyalty”.

Colm says “By maintaining regular contact with your customers, you show that you really value them and care about their feedback. Once you are transparent in your dealings, honest, and provide excellent customer service, loyalty will follow”.

Denise Cagan from DCA Virtual Business Support simply says “Continual conversation” is important especially in building customer relationships.

She says, “Our service is delivered through websites, emails, text messages, so the personal touches initiated with snail mail and phone calls mean a lot to our clients”.

Remember to follow up with customers

Jennifer Harder of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers mentions that you have to stay in touch.

She says “A relationship doesn’t end once the deal is made and that applies even more to the real estate business”.

Her tips on how to do this are simple “First off, always send a thoughtful thank you card. Offer incentives to provide referrals such as gift cards or cash bonuses. Always check in with your customers to make sure they are still happy with their purchase. This keeps the conversation going long after the deal is done”!

To add to that, Sarah Snider from SEO.com says “I would choose good old, regular follow-up communication”.  She adds “I’d be active on social media, forums and other places online where my customers are and be constantly looking for ways to have a personal, transparent, casual dialogue with them”.

It’s important to note that “While people are ultimately looking for a good product or service, the companies that take time to get to know them and converse with them are the ones that stick out in the mind of the consumer,” she adds.

Phone calls are perfect for following up

Gregory Golinski from YourParkingSpace says “Giving courtesy calls to make sure that things are going smoothly and that your customers are happy with your service is a great way to drive customer loyalty”.

This can be a great paver for a great relationship. “This kind of little gesture can make a big difference and can convince your clients to use your services in the long term,” says Gregory.

Try a handwritten touch

You can win extra brownie points with customers if you go the extra mile. Rebecca Ki KPOP Foods mentions “one of our employees, Franco, actually handwrites thank you notes to new and loyal customers to build brand trust and loyalty”. This small and personable act can really help you stand out. “At the end of the day, we want our customers to be thrilled with the service and products provided”.

2. Offer something of great value

You may be able to offer something people can’t refuse. If you can, you might be able to gain a ton of loyal customers.

Shawn Pillar at Juicer.io mentions “If you’re a SaaS business and your business model can sustain it, I recommend having a “free forever” pricing tier”.

He mentions that this type of plan set them up for a great brand reputation. “We know that there are people that have a genuine need for our service, but aren’t able to afford it. I think we built up a lot of positive brand perception by just helping people out like that”.

Dan Verakis from Loyal Lab reminds us to “Focus more on an existing customer retention strategy than on new customer acquisition strategies”.

This way you can easily “Surprise and delight customers unexpectedly (vs. making them jump through antiquated loyalty schemes)”.

Try an incentive

Allison Bruning from Academic Warriors says “I use monthly coupons in our newsletters to help drive traffic to our courses and programs”.

She says “People love knowing that they can receive a discount on something of high value. They like to know that the company values them as a customer”.

Dominick Damico from Ryplio mentions that they have had a lot of success with “Incentivized social sharing campaigns”. He says “We have had major success through referral programs by incentivizing customers to enter and share contests with their peers through social media”.

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This type of incentivizing works because “Not only does it give us the opportunity to engage and reward customers across different points in their journey, but it also enables us to leverage the influence they have on social media to turn that 1-to-1 relationship in 1-to-many organically and at scale”, explains Dominick.

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Offer feel good moments

Ross Culliton of Roody Originals discusses how they offer something that makes people feel good. Saying “We are driven by the purpose to plant 1m trees by 2023”.

He goes on to say “We plant one tree for every item we make and we engage with our customers post-sale and ask them to choose where they’d like their trees planted”.

By “Aligning with our purpose with our customers will remain our core strategy for building customer loyalty”.

Solve an issue

If you can solve a pain point a customer is facing, you are already winning them over. Jon Cooper from Life.io explains “We built a platform centered around actually solving problems and life interests for customers that not only reward for engagement but keeps them coming back for their own personal gain.”

To take that up a notch, he says “A personalized experience focused on what matters to the customers and matching incentives based on their chosen interests”.

Markelle Harden of Knowmad Digital Marketing explains that your website and sales process is key. “We always recommend designing a website with customer loyalty in mind. We examine the funnel through the buyer’s eyes and look for topics or steps they will take AFTER the first touchpoint or website visit”.

Sometimes if there is a lack of understanding you’ll also have to create content to address concerns. “If there is a clear path for a product or service, we’ll work to create content on the website that addresses those needs and answers questions”.

Markelle adds “In addition to content, we recommend a strong focus on website speed and usability; if customers are going to be loyal to a brand in today’s digital environment, a fast-loading website is a must-have”.

3. Use personalization to win over customers

Anthony Capetola from Sales & Orders, mentions that by offering a personalized loyalty program, you can give consumers what they want.

He says “The more relevant the offers, the more likely that users will be motivated to keep making purchases or utilizing your service”.

Zach Hendrix from GreenPal mentioned that they have been working on ways to gain loyal customers. They came up with a super way to personalize their service, and took it to another level. He says “we came up with an idea to tap into our customer’s soul through their pets”.

When someone signs up for their service, they win the hearts of their customers by also including pets. “When a homeowner signs up for our service we gather information on if they have pets. We do this so our lawn vendors know to be careful when entering the lawn”.

Zach adds “We decided we could use this info about our customer to send a personalized gift to our customer’s pet”. The gesture is both endearing and personable and pays off really well.

Use your customer data as a way to personalize their experience

Audi Plano’s Laura Gonzalez says “Consumers want their interactions with you to be personalized”. She goes on to mention “They’re even willing to share more information with you in order to get that experience”.

So use what they give you, “By having customer data, you’ll have the opportunity to send your customers personalized promotions and recommendations”. This is good because “This will increase the chance of them opening your emails and following through with a purchase. If their experience continues to be personalized, they will become loyal” she says.

4. Resolve issues easily

Josh Brown of Helpjuice talks about a study that talks about how delighting your customers shouldn’t have to come at a price to pay as a company. It should be easy to do and you should be able to avoid major friction.

He mentions “One strategy for driving customer loyalty is minimizing friction and effort required during a customers’ experience with a business – particularly when it comes to a customer trying to resolve an issue”.

He adds that “One way to improve CES and therefore customer loyalty is to provide self-service options like a knowledge base, FAQs, online forums, etc. as this allows customers to get solutions quickly to common problems”.

Jaykishan Panchal of E2M Solutions states “If you are good at solving customer problems effectively and on time, the customer is there to stay”. Jaykisha adds on “owning customer problems is the way to go for customer loyalty”.

Provide easy access to information

Scott Crumrine from Guava Family discusses how providing great customer service along the entire customer journey can create loyalty. “Providing customers with a real-time Q&A chat or Q&A page dedicated to answering commonly asked questions will help mitigate any issues they may encounter in their decision-making process”.

Part of resolving issues easily is by making sure your team is easily accessible. Ollie Smith from ExpertSure says “Having a friendly, helpful and efficient customer service team which is easily accessible to all customers is a vital part of the process”.

He says “It is worth noting that on social media platforms, customers monitor response times to their questions, and they expect a quick response. One company which has mastered customer service, including on social media and gained the loyalty of its customers is Southwest Airline – whose customers continue to vote with their feet and use the carrier time and time again”.

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Even try to go above and beyond when you are able to

Joe Goldstein from Contractor Calls says “Helping with small problems that are outside our contracts, but within our abilities, consistently earns goodwill and loyalty”.

If something is within reason, and you can do it easily, go for it. Joe mentions “If we’re being paid to SEO a website and we run into a website-related problem that doesn’t affect the SEO and can be fixed in under 20 minutes, we’ll just take care of it”.

He adds “When a customer thinks that you’re finding problems just to sell them additional services, but you actually just fix it for free, they’re thrilled”.

Sacha Brant from Brand Scrubbers discusses how they go above and beyond by ‘un-marketing’ to win over customers for the long term. She says “We prefer to our un-marketing strategy where we don’t pay for their love with dollars or doodads”.

She explains that “Un-marketing relies on your ability to meet the promises you make your customers AND THEN SOME. Exceptional is your ability to deliver on your claims while going above and beyond with your customer service skills”.

5. Make time to listen to your customers

Setting up a system so customers can communicate with you is great. But that only gets you so far. The trick to actually listen to what they have to say.

Kelly Baltzell, M.A. from Beyond Indigo Pets says “Every customer wants to know that their goals, their business is important and is unique”.

Kelly brings up the point that “we tend to be caught up in devices and we forget there is a human behind the device”. You can fix this problem though, “By reaching out and connecting with our clients human to human, keeps our customers happy”.

Moaaz Nagori from Cloudlead explains that the best way to get loyal customers is through customer support. “Coupons and other monetary benefits are good but they’ll have short term effect and are more applicable to maintaining loyalty, not driving it”.

For a more long term benefit, Moaaz says “How you correspond and handle the customer’s pain points with minimal hassle is what will not only create loyalty but can become your company unique selling proposition (USP)”.

James Pollard, The Advisor Coach discusses a few strategies for retaining clients, but says “Perhaps the most effective strategies I’ve ever used to drive customer loyalty is to simply deliver more than expected”.

By giving customers something to talk about, on top of what you offer is key. James gives an example, “DoubleTree hotels are famous for their chocolate chip cookies when you check in. They do that on purpose because they know it gets their customers talking”.

In my case, when a customer purchases a product from me, they may be pleasantly surprised to download everything and find a little bonus. Or, if it’s a physical product, to get another gift in the mail.

Make your online reputation a priority

McCall Robison from Best Company says “Make online reputation management one of your top priorities”.

She explains “Customers respect companies that listen to concerns and are willing to do what it takes to improve”.

Her big tip “Don’t waste your time trying to make all your negative online reviews disappear; you can’t please everyone, and this is a waste of time”.  But don’t leave them there unattended “Instead, take advantage of those negative reviews and use review sites as a tool to respond to your customers and address their concerns. Demonstrate to them that you take the time to respond to individual concerns and you take them seriously”. pasted image 0 6

6. Offer something exclusive

Chris Smith of I Am Net Worthy mentions that “Users are smart in today’s digital age and love the feeling of being a VIP”. To give that VIP feel, “By creating exclusive content or experiences, you actually increase your brand loyalty and help usually get a bonus of more word of mouth advertising because those that are invited usually brag about their ‘VIP’ status to friends, family, and on social media”.

He adds to make sure you’re true to your word, however. Customers that are not 100% sold on your product or service will drop off very quickly if they are part of a bad experience”!

Cristina Maria from Commusoft discusses “insider incentives”. She mentions that they want customers to know the inside scoop, “by that we mean sending news about updates before the official release, consulting their opinion before releasing features, or even asking them to trial new upgrades”.

This helps build a sturdy relationship with customers, as “This makes them feel like more than a customer – it makes them part of a team,” she adds.

On that note… Be sure to deliver on promises

Chris Arringdale from Kilterly, LLC explains “The biggest driver of customer loyalty is delivering on your promises”.  Adding “If you offer something to your customer you need to fulfill that offer and make sure the customer gets out of it what they need”.

Exclusive gifts can also be great

Bret Bonnet from Quality Logo Products mentions “Besides offering an amazing product and/or customer service, we rely heavily on product mailers”.

The kicker here is to make the mailer worth it. “Each quarter we send our top customers custom mailers that contain 2 or 3 products, company/industry news, and of course – coupon savings. The average box costs us about $15 each to create, pack, and mail – but the ROI per box is roughly 3 times that”.

To stay within reason and on budget, Bret says “We keep the list of recipients somewhat limited/exclusive, and as a result, thanks to our loyal Twitter following, we often get people begging/asking to receive future mailings”. He adds “This scarcity has resulted in significant brand awareness”.

Take a look at one of the mailers below.

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7. Create a community

Nate Masterson of Maple Holistics states “Membership programs”. He says “If a small business wants to boost their profits and customer experience, it’s crucial that they capitalize on all of the pitfalls of modern mass-consumerism”.

But how can you do that? Nate adds “One of the best ways for an up-and-coming retailer to develop a strong customer connection is to build a network of clients on social media, ultimately creating a community or fan club of sorts”.

But you can create a community elsewhere, “Likewise, membership programs are a great way to ensure repeat business, by offering special discounts and promotions”.

Use your social profiles to give shout outs to your existing community

Matthew Ross from The Slumber Yard says “Individual attention is the most important tool for driving customer loyalty”. He explains “As an online business, it’s often difficult to connect with customers on a personal level so we employ two specific strategies to help promote loyalty”.

In order to fix this, Matthew suggests giving shout outs. “The first thing we do is highlight and shout out key subscribers during our videos”. But that’s not all, you can pair that with prizes to get people super excited about you. “Next, we also run a monthly giveaway where multiple subscribers win prizes valued at over $300. We end up shelling out about $800 per month worth of giveaway items but it’s helped us build our email list, our following on other social media sites, and drastically improve engagement” he adds.

8. Try using a loyalty program

Ruby Camara from Sixth Continent says that allowing customers to earn credits you are “creating a continuous buying circle” and “as a result, people keep coming back”.

This is because “Consumers feel rewarded every time they make a new purchase (no other strategy offers such instant reward) and businesses are growing their loyal, repeat customer base. It’s a win-win for both parties”.

Owen Clark uBrand App mentions using a “Tiered Loyalty system aka Gamification”.

He says “Where we once hunted for food, today we hunt for other things. The drive to conquer obstacles, even if just for the satisfaction of doing so lives within us”.  Adding that “Pursuing a task to completion can influence people to continue all sorts of behaviors”.

“Loyal Customers Love Rewards!”, says Jeff Arnett of Arnett Credentials. Jeff says “Consider implementing a point-based reward system to thank customers for their business while also inspiring them to spend more.”

He adds “This creates an exciting goal for the customer and more sales for the business. Win-win”!

Lisa Chu from House Bianco explains that a reward program is great for customer loyalty.

She says “By providing our existing customers with rewards it will create a deeper loyalty to our brand. Plus it will help convert customers to try our products”.

Not to mention rewards make customers happy. And as Lisa says “When customers are happy they will share their photos, stories, and experience”.

Turn some of your top customers into brand ambassadors

Sarah Nadler of Silkin Management Group says turning top customers into brand ambassadors can help you create a loyal bond.

She says “I would select our top clients as brand ambassadors, arming them with tools such as referral cards, brochures, etc., and then spotlight their achievements across our social media platforms, in our educational workshops, and through direct mail pieces to show the power of remaining connected to Silkin”.

9. Have a great product from the get-go

On top of your customer service, you need to have a good product too. After all, that is what people are coming to you for. Sadi Khan from RunRepeat mentions “Customers are loyal to the best product. Period”.

He adds “You can offer all sorts of discounts or early access but nothing builds customer loyalty like a great product that is constantly improved”.

Having a great product can also increase your word of mouth, which can lead to customer loyalty. Jay Perkins of Kettlebell Kings Discusses how “Word of mouth is one of the most trustworthy forms of advertising”. He says “We have a couple of strategies for helping customers rave about our products”.

“We feature product reviews heavily on our site. On our home page, on our product pages and more”. This allows real users to do the talking for them while building trust for the product.

In conclusion

We’ve found that a simple thank you email can be one of the best ways to build a relationship with a customer and help build their loyalty for your brand. Alongside that, if you are planning on incentivizing customers, coupons and discounts seem to work really well. The customer gets to save a little money, while you set yourself up for a guaranteed sale.

It’s all about communication, solving customer pain points, and offering something the customer wants. If you provide this with a little bit of good customer service, you are likely to earn yourself loyal customers, and who knows perhaps they can even turn into brand ambassadors or influencers for your brand.

This article is part of the “Customer Loyalty 101” section of our definitive guide dedicated to customer loyalty and loyalty programs.

You may enjoy other articles from this section:

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.