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22 Ways to Build Customer Loyalty

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What have you done for me lately? Most likely, that’s what your customer is mulling over right now. In our ongoing quest for new business, we sometimes overlook the obvious–taking care of the people who take care of us. Here are some high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech suggestions for building customer loyalty.

1. Send a “thank you for your business” note … for no reason. An unexpected gesture is never forgotten.

2. Give customers a coupon for 5% off their next order.

3. Give customers coupons for 5% off their next twelve orders.

4. Start a blog to elicit customer feedback on your key products and services. Customers like sharing their opinions–and you might really learn something.

5. Set up a customer-only section of your Web site. It might include closeouts and overstocks, limited offers, detailed product and/or industry information, and online chat.

6. Write press releases about your customers. Focus on them, but mention that you are their supplier.

7. Write case studies (with permission) about your customers. They make highly effective sales brochures and Web site content.

8. Give customers a free product or service … for no reason. They will be astonished, and grateful.

9. Conduct high-level customer meetings to review last year and plan for next year. This gives you an opportunity to deepen and broaden relationships, remind customers of all the good things you did for them, and align expectations for the new year.

10. Resell. A great salesman told me years ago that customers quickly forget why they started buying a particular product or service. Periodically, he would call on the customer for no other reason than to remind him. A great preemptive technique to shut out the competition.

11. Structure pricing and services to encourage long-term buying agreements.

12. Show customers new products and services. Sometimes sales people don’t like to “rock the boat” if business is steady. But customers need to see the latest and greatest from you; otherwise, they’ll see it from somebody else.

13. Have an open house. Customers love to meet the people they know only as voices over the phone, as well as top company management. They also like to see other customers: it validates their decision to buy from you. Everyone walks away enthused from a well-run social event.

14. Have key customers test a new product or service. It makes them feel special and ensures you will get thorough, honest feedback. Plus, down the road, the test will make for a valuable case study and/or press release.

15. Entertain. Obviously a big subject. Too much or too little entertainment easily leads to bad results. The best way to entertain is professionally, sincerely, and in moderation.

16. Send Thanksgiving cards. I learned this from one of my best sale reps. She realized everybody sent Christmas cards; so to make sure customers remembered her, she sent out these. It worked: even in July, they referred to her as the “Thanksgiving lady.”

17. Get personal. Put photos on business cards.

18. Get personal. Include photos and bios in the “About Us” section of your Web site.

19. Offer key customers special billing terms: discounts, extended terms, installment plans. Everybody likes a deal.

20. Publish an electronic and/or print newsletter. Encourage customers to provide feedback on how you are performing.

21. Set up RSS feeds on your Web pages with frequently updated content, and encourage customers to subscribe.

22. Refer business to your customers. Buying from a customer can be tricky, but how about giving one a solid, qualified lead? If people in your organization are focused on it, you’d be surprised how frequently the opportunities arise. If you are viewed as not only a supplier, but a source for new business, you become far more valuable, and you will establish relationships with high level executives in areas outside purchasing.

Chances are, you’re already doing some of these. Imagine the cumulative effect of doing it all. What’s missing from my list? Please let me know if you have some suggestions!