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Executive's guide to building brand loyalty

Learn how to build brand loyalty as a small business: from keeping excellent customer experience, loyalty programs, customer engagement, to customer feedback.

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Every brand needs loyal customers. Loyal customers cross-promote your brand, share their experience with potential customers and help generate new ones on the back end — all of which are valuable ways to grow a business.

Studies from Harvard Business Review show that getting a first-time customer or acquiring new customers costs 5 - 25 times more than retaining the current customers. This is vital to small businesses with less money to spare for promotion and marketing. When your customers have brand loyalty, they are your brand's most valuable ambassadors. Loyal customers talk about your brand without paying them; they become your natural promoters that will get people to know your brand and later be converted into actual paying customers.

While expanding your customer base is important, an increase in customer retention should be a priority. Why? It has the potential to build brand loyalty among consumers which is a worth-it investment geared towards positive returns.  

Some brands build loyalty from the start, while others just let things happen and call it luck. But there are steps every business owner can take towards building brand loyalty around a business idea from the start.

What is Brand Loyalty?

Customer loyalty relates to consumers who do repeat purchases. Brand loyalty has everything to do with how those consumers perceive your brand. Brand Loyalty is the line where a first-time customer becomes a regular. It is also where brand trust and customer satisfaction are reflected.

You'll know if consumers have built brand loyalty if they continue to choose your brand’s products and services rather than your competitors in the market. It is when the consumers of your brand acquire a certain level of devotion that can be observed in their repeated purchases of your products or services no matter the price, the convenience, or your competitors’ attempt to lure them into their own brands.  

Brand Loyalty Examples

Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike are great brand loyalty examples. They were able to establish a strong brand image that made an imprint on its consumers. They were also able to build effective customer loyalty programs. For instance, when faced with a bottle of Coke and Pepsi on a table, loyal consumers would grab Coke without hesitation.

Nike on the other hand was able to develop their brand in a way that it’s not just the brand product that appeals to the consumer public, but the brand values as well. This is why Nike was on the top of the list for the most intimate relationship of the brand amongst 18-34 years olds in 2016. They were able to create an excellent way to gain brand loyalty and even had a term coined to them - “Nike Loyalty Scheme.”

Several Nike Shoes

How to Build Brand Loyalty for Small Businesses

For starting brands and small businesses, building unwavering brand loyalty can be challenging. It is hard to navigate your way into a market that most probably offers the same things that you do. This is where brand awareness and your brand’s customer feedback come in.

That’s right, being seen is the most important thing at this stage of your business. You want people to be curious about what you have and what more you could offer. How do you do that and where do you start?

  • Invest in consistent branding - Start investing in branding that aligns with what your brand offers, what your brand stands for, and what you are planning on offering in the future. Remember, consistency is the key here. Think of logos, taglines, or even color schemes that just scream you and your brand. That is how people will remember you and when they do, that is why they’ll come back for more.
  • Invest in excellent content, social media presence, and effective digital marketing - This includes digital marketing or marketing campaigns and advertising, customer help and support, and purchasing transactions that are important to your small business. The key here is convenience. When you offer convenience along with your products and services it improves the customer experience and customer satisfaction or customer relationships, in general, that will convince your consumers to choose your brand among the others.
  • Invest in learning more about your target market - In pursuing strong brand loyalty from your customers, taking the time to learn them will help you build a strong relationship with them. According to Harvard Business School, consumers love when they are being catered to and when they feel like they are included. Think of it as your loyalty in return for their loyalty. This starts with thorough research about their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, and their interest. With this, you can start improving your services and building your brand loyalty programs to what will give them the best customer experience.

Build Customer Relationships with Excellent Customer Service

Ninety-six (96% ) of customers say that customer service is vital in choosing a brand that they'll be loyal to. Good customer service doesn't only help your brand loyalty but also your revenue. 84% of the organizations that try to improve customer service were reported to increase revenue.

The level of trust you can build with clients over time determines your company's long-term success. Customers today are constantly evaluating their interactions with the businesses in their lives, and a few missteps could lead to your company plunging. By putting your heart and soul into customer relationships, your company can acquire a significant competitive advantage.

Launch Customer Loyalty Programs

According to research from Nielsen, 84% of customers say they will remain loyal to a brand that gives them loyalty programs. Incentives for loyal customers are ways for you to thank them for their loyalty. Promos that customers enjoy are also ways to keep them returning to your brand.

Reward their loyalty with brand loyalty programs. Brand loyalty programs are also a way for you to appreciate and thank them for the continuous support of your business. This will cost you much since you are giving away credits, free products, etc., depending on the types of rewards program you want to launch, but the payoff for having these programs are huge. This may result in more referrals, higher customer retention, and more sales.

Starbucks cups

One infamous brand loyalty example is the patronage of people to Starbucks. In order to earn loyalty points, customers must pay through the Starbucks app. Through this, Starbucks can now store the data on the go-to drink orders of their customer, as well as their seasonal favorites. This then becomes an opportunity for the brand to offer more relevant perks and communication to its customer.

Make use of the different social media platforms

For businesses of all sizes, social media marketing is an excellent method to reach out to prospects and consumers. People use social media to find, learn about, follow, and purchase from businesses. Great social media marketing may help your business achieve extraordinary success by cultivating loyal brand supporters and driving leads and sales.

You can launch social media campaigns on different social media platforms, campaigns that will make your brand known and more attractive. You can use these platforms to tell stories, stories that will draw more attention to your brand. According to research by Headstream, if people love a brand story, 55% are more likely to buy the product or avail of the service in the future, 44% will be more inclined to share the story, and 15% will buy the product or avail the service instantly.

Build a brand community for Quality customer experience

A Brand community is a place where people who have an emotional connection to your brand can connect with your brand. Brand communities that were executed well create a positive customer engagement. These customers help to allow more people to make meaningful connections. Your existing loyal customers will do the work for you, sharing a positive customer experience and answering the questions they have about your brand.

Customers prefer to get answers to their problems online; a Forrester report predicts that web and mobile self-service interactions will soon outnumber all other support channels. Furthermore, nearly nine out of ten Americans believe they'd be willing to spend up to 17% extra for a better customer experience. Studies show that 90% of shoppers go over at least one online review before deciding to buy a product. Moreover, 94% of customers reported that a negative review they see online has convinced them to avoid shopping from that particular brand or company. Brands with an established online community help provide faster and more accurate solutions.

Embrace customer feedback– especially complaints

The White House Office of Consumer Affairs says that for every customer who takes their time for a complaint, 26 others remain silent. While many companies dislike hearing customer complaints, they tend to overlook the fact that those 26 customers most likely would jump ship over to your competition, sharing their dissatisfaction with others.

This is why welcoming customer feedback and actually listening to them is crucial. Your company simply cannot satisfy everyone and will inevitably receive negative feedback, but you can commit to resolving them and improving brand loyalty at the same time!

FUN FACT: Happy customers will stay with you. When they are satisfied with your brand and service, they will keep on coming back because they trust that they will always receive the best experience through your company.

Embracing feedback– complaints or positive reviews– is key for developing strong relations with your audience. The value of a customer's voice to your business is immeasurable, so never stop listening!

Final Thoughts

Customers who are loyal to a brand will continue purchasing and will often try new products. These customers will likely spread positive word of mouth, persuading others to try the brand's products. It is great for small businesses because the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% while pledging to a new prospect is only 5% to 20%. This means that when you create brand loyalty for the people you currently have as customers, you'll have a higher guarantee that you will have sales and keep your small business growing.

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