37 Tips to Turn Your Customers Into Fans

There is a lot of competition in every market, and you’ve got to do what you can do to stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

One area where business owners surprisingly fall down on the job is in developing customer loyalty.

Working with a customer should never be viewed as a one-transaction experience, but a chance to build a long-term relationship.  That requires you to treat your customers like individuals.

No matter how large my business grows over time, my goal is to convey to each client how special she is to me, because she is. It’s never about numbers, but about building relationships, trust and understanding with every woman who seeks my help.

I believe that by making a personal investment in each client, they will be more inclined to recommend me to the special people in their lives.

I wanted to hear from others on this subject, and learn what they are doing to build customer loyalty in their niches, so last week I asked –

In a tough economy, when customers don’t easily part with their hard-earned money, entrepreneurs must go that extra mile to keep their customers happy.  What is your best strategy to build customer loyalty in your business?

We received 37 responses that are as creative and unique as their authors to inspire you, to achieve outstanding customer engagement in your business.  Tips range from rolling out the red carpet to building connections through cartoons. But I think the common thread was providing customers with a personalized touch.  See what tips might work best in your market from the suggestions provided below.

My sincere thanks to all our respondents this week! Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

If you would like to contribute to this week’s question, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get involved.  We’d love to have you share your expertise!

Enjoy!

1. Give And Ye Shall Receive

Don’t be afraid to give away some of your expertise or product to help clients along the way – this will build loyalty and clients will acknowledge the value-added service. Some free advice or assistance with a project allows you to share what you do or sell, provides free customer service, and creates a solid “go-to” relationship. This value will translate into return business and referrals from those happy customers — the only expenditure is some of your time, talent and/or a little inventory

Thanks to Caryn Starr-Gates of STARRGATES BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS

2. Give Them What They Can Afford

Working with clients 1:1 gets them better results more quickly. But some clients are leery in spending the money they were spending just a short time ago. There lies an opportunity to expand. Create an audio, ebook or book that deals with the most common problem your clients experience. Consider creating a group process at a lower fee that keeps your clients moving forward. When they trust that things are getting better, you’ll be there to reap the rewards.

Thanks to Maria Marsala of Elevating Your Business

3. Offer A Price You Said You Would Never Do

In my business, the way you grow is by increasing your service price. The more esteemed you become, the more you charge. I am considered quite pricey in my field. I now offer a way for others to participate at 1/3 the price, by offering a way for my customers to take over some of the skills that it takes for me to run my business like marketing, organizing and the delivering the product itself. It has worked out fairly well and has been a major contributor to my business income.

Thanks to Beverly Dombroski of BeverlyD Luxe Organic Hair

4. Offer A FREE Trial To Show Confidence In Your Services!

At Shopping4info.com, we recently offered a free 1 week trial of our concierge services to all new members who registered. We were certain they would be satisfied with our services and recommend us to others and we’re already seeing results!

Thanks to Monette Williams of Shopping4info

5. Put Your Heart And Soul Into The Project

Whether a tough economy or not, I’ve learned as a solopreneur that customers don’t easily part with their money. My best strategy to build customer loyalty is to put my heart & soul into each and every project, client or assignment. I know what it takes & I get it done. I do it with passion and enthusiasm. Clients value that & referral sources continue to send people my way because they see the commitment. I find this to be a rare trait today (although it shouldn’t be, in my opinion).

Thanks to Ruwena Healy of Marketing 24/7, Inc.

6. Leading The Charge

As a business consultant, my clients depend on me to provide REAL results. I’m charging ahead, driving them to success in many dynamic ways:
*Developing useful relationships
*Passing referrals
*Pitching them for media spots
*Providing valuable contacts
*Negotiating great deals
*Aggressively seeking knowledge and passing it on
*Offering brilliant advice and imaginative ideas
They know I work round the clock and that I appreciate them. Best of all is that I do it while making them BIG $$$$!

Thanks to Lauri Flaquer of Saltar Solutions

7. Use Send Out Cards

A snail mailed card of thanks for new business or remembering a client or prospect’s birthday sets my business apart from others. In this day of online automation, I found Send Out Cards to be ideal. Upload your contacts with mailing address, birthdays and anniversary date of starting to do biz with you. The service sends you a reminder via email the date is coming up about 7 days out. You login to your account, pick out a card (or gift) from a large catalog, add personal messaging – hit send!

Thanks to Susan Almon-Pesch of Market 4 Profit

8. Give A Little, Get A Lot.

When building a client’s loyalty, showing them the value in what you do can be most important step. I do this several ways.
1. I offer a complimentary consultation, sharing some the ideas I have to help them build their business through my marketing and advertising services. This allows both of us to see if we’ll be a good fit together, without cost or obligation.
2. I always keep my clients in mind when referring business, or sharing networking opportunities.

Thanks to Roseann Bufalino of Ad Ventures Promotion, LLC

9. Move It Up, Move It Down

This dieting mantra also applies to building customer loyalty. Whatever you are now doing, do one additional thing to please your customers. Find a way to increase their bottom line. For example, promise to hold prices firm for the next year. That’s moving it up for them. The moving down part might be a reduction in, or elimination of, your fees for late payment. Possibilities will vary, but basically, think of one increase and one decrease that will satisfy your customer.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli

10. Celebrate With Them

I always make a point to send a birthday and holiday card to past and current customers. It shows that I appreciate them and their business. With all the competing businesses out there, this small touch means so much to people. And, with today’s slumping economy, customers will remember little things like this when they are looking to make purchases and spend their hard-earned cash. We can never forget that customer loyalty is key in keeping a lasting relationship.

Thanks to Robin McCoy-Ramirez of Inspired By Savannah LLC

11. Value For Money

Customers seek to part with their cash more wisely in these challenging times. What customers are seeking is the best value for their cash. My advice to my clients has been this: Improve on the value of your product or service, add an additional essential component, pair up complementary products or services, repackage them and offer multiple price options, even if some will result in a bit of price increase. Add value, get your hands on your market share.

Thanks to Victor Kwegyir of VIKE INVEST (UK) LTD

12. I Will Be There When You Call

The biggest complaint I hear from clients is lack of communication from other vendors. No matter how busy I am, I always call the client back within 24 hours (8 hours for email), and update the client on their case at least once per month. I will update a client even if there is no change in status. Also, for an hourly client, accurate time records and timely billing are essential. This will help the client budget.

Thanks to Stephen Schwartz of Law Office Of Stephen E. Schwartz, Esq., LLC

13. I AM That Into You

Caring about your customers can’t be just words, or a fancy new graphic. Here’s how I let my customers know they are my #1 priority.
* Proactively seek feedback on the product or service they have received
* Always be willing to make it right at no cost to the customer
* Demonstrate your appreciation with special discounts or offers for your loyal customers

Thanks to Nicole Fende of Small Business Finance Forum

14. Create A Unique Niche

The best strategy to build customer loyalty during a recession is by constantly offering unique services and programs that cannot be found elsewhere.
I have also found that surveying our current and previous clients lets the client know that their feedback and patronage is a valuable asset to our organization.

Thanks to Tiffany Overton of Eldridge Overton Educational Programs

15. Lift Them Up

This is a great question for it made me cull through all that I teach to give just ONE tip to build customer loyalty. And the winner is “Lift Them Up”. To do this you must eliminate all fear and uncertainty about you and your product/service. Whether your product/service takes away pain, helps them grow, or gives them joy, they give you their loyalty when you give them no reason to look around. Make a list of all you can do to eliminate fear/uncertainty and do it! This is the road to loyalty.

Thanks to Kate Nasser of The People-Skills Coach, President, CAS, Inc.

16. Build Loyalty By Staying In Touch!

Your current customers hold the best prospect for future growth. Plus, the longer they are customers, the more they are likely to spend with you. A monthly print newsletter helps you stay top-of-mind with your current customers. When your newsletter arrives, your customers start to think about you. Issue after issue, your newsletter reinforces your relationship with your customers and gives you a way to tell them about products and services they may not know about.

Thanks to Jim Palmer of No Hassle Newsletters

17. Customers Now Fans And Our Friends!

We recently launched social marketing as part of our business, JS Photography, LLC. It is slowly paying off…our clients become our marketers and friends and we can keep in touch much more easily. Potential clients like social media and this is our part in keeping up with the times. They can easily connect with past clients and other interested potential clients.

Thanks to Joshua Stern of JS Photography, LLC

18. Superior Work

I’m a big believer in this, and write extensively about it in my latest book, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet. My best strategy? Do superior work at no more than, or sometimes less than, the estimate, and do it with a friendly helpful attitude.

Thanks to Shel Horowitz of Green And Profitable

19. How Rock Stars Build Their Fan Base

Whether you are a music rock star or a business rock star, it works the same to build a large, loyal fan base. You must find out what it is your customers want, what they are passionate about. When you feed their passions, they’ll come back again and again. Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones may like jazz but he knows what to sing on stage!

Thanks to Dayna Steele of Dayna Steele Creates Rock Stars

20. Master What You Service And Service What You Master

It is imperative for anyone who wants to keep their customers, to go above and beyond the basic expectations. The age of “customer service” is gone. It is about “customer experience”.

Thanks to Norman Lacasse of Author Of Master Of Service Available

21. Earn Customer Loyalty

Customers have a choice and it’s up to us to earn their loyalty. It costs less to market to our returning customers, but that isn’t why we should focus on them. Repeat customers use social media and word of mouth to spread the word about our business; we exceed their expectations and they will remember us, refer us and return to us for their purchase.

How?
*Make it easy to do business — No hoop jumping or loyalty programs that put the responsibility on the customer. Just understand their expectations and exceed them every time.
*Provide value — Offer something for free (knowledge, tips, advice for how to use your products and services for the best results)
*Put yourself in their shoes to understand their needs, and then train your employee to treat them like human beings. They are not just cash in the register.

When people feel valued, they begin to develop a level of trust. And consumers buy from those they like and trust.

Thanks to Deborah Brown of AllWrite Ink

22. Make’m Smart

I’m not talking about whips and chains – just loads of useful, actionable information our clients can use to improve their Web and IT operations.

We keep our clients engaged by making them smarter. Systems Alliance is a technology services firm, providing a somewhat odd mix of Web, data center and business strategy consulting (IT recruiting too).

Our approach focuses on providing client decision makers with thought-provoking content, such as blogs and white papers, and high-touch interactions, like our annual user conference and exclusive CIO dinners. The latter involves having a customer lead a peer-to-peer discussion about a pertinent topic – always held at a premium restaurant. All of these activities help reinforce our brand, promote follow-on business and spur referrals.

Thanks to David Schreiber of SystemsAlliance

23. Give Your Customers More Than What They Asked For

Become a valued advisor — Introduce them to people who will add value to their business. Sincerely make them feel important, as they are important.

Be honest and fair with them. When i book a speaking engagement, I always look for a win-win situation all around. My speaker has to be happy and the program coordinator has to be happy with the topic and overall presentation. If for any reason either side is disappointed, I work with them to make things “right.”

My clients know that’s the way I do business.

Thanks to Erica Prince of The Professional Speaker’s Bureau, Inc.

24. An Army Of Brand Loyalists

I’m the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper Group. It may sound simple, but our best strategy for building brand loyalists is by making our customers feel special – here are a few ways we do that:

PROMOTING OUR CUSTOMERS: We understand that a lot of customers don’t have the time or marketing budget to invest in PR – but we do and we’ve developed some great media relationships. We reach out to our customer pool on a regular basis and learn something about their businesses – then when we’re having media conversations, we’re able to offer a wealth of non-self serving resources, which the media really appreciates. Promoting your customers this way builds tremendous brand loyalty because people see that you’re actively helping their business grow.

SAYING THANK YOU: People don’t say thank you enough. So every once in a while, we send hand written notes to some of our customers thanking them for being a loyal customer – and also include a Starbucks gift card for a cup of coffee on us. It’s such a great feeling to get a personalized note, especially from someone you do business with!

PICKING UP THE PHONE: If someone tweets about our company (@ghgroup) we immediately want to get on the phone with them. We want them to know we’re listening and we’re there to help – or just listen to why they love us! Taking conversations offline makes things more human and you can build stronger personal connections.

Thanks to Stephanie Bullis of Grasshopper Group

25. Every Customer Is a VIP

I believe that people will part with their money if, in doing so, they get an intangible benefit that’s greater than the cost itself. People do not buy based on cost, but buy more based on value and how the purchase makes them feel.

If they are given top customer service and feel like a VIP every time, they will keep coming back. Look at the best business models such as Zappos, The Ritz Carlton, and others whose main focus is solely on providing the best value and experience for the customer. This is what other businesses must emulate to be successful.

Thanks to Heather Minsky Nottingham of Nottingham Consulting Group

26. Add Cartoons

I can’t imagine a more powerful device for turning customers into fans than cartoons. I’ve just finished my book, Drawing Attention, about how to put the magic of (New Yorker-style) cartoons to work in various missions in your life, from advertising, marketing and sales promotion to job search, presentations, social media, VIP contact campaigns and more. An amazing thing happens when you involve cartoons in your customer communications.

Humor is about truth and truth creates agreement, so odd as it might seem, something as “silly” as a cartoon is actually a powerful engagement and persuasion device. They help my clients generate high open rates in e-mail campaigns, they create stunning openings with impossible to reach prospects and more, but at their core, they really do seem to help turn clients into fans.

Thanks to Stu Heinecke of CartoonLink, Inc.

27. Convert Them With Kindness

In this economy, Kentucky Opera builds loyal patrons by giving individual face time with our key personnel. We have receptions for prospects, single ticket buyers and non renewals almost monthly. We invite these individuals to come to our theater, have lunch and a glass of wine ON STAGE while our director, David Roth, highlights the season in a one-hour program.

The entire staff is present at these events, and we each try to speak with everyone in attendance. If our music director, Joe Mechavich, is in town he will attend and speak as well. We offer musical excerpts and really drive home the idea of the intimate opera experience while these potentials are on stage.

After the program we invite attendees to move about the theater to test drive the seats. Staff will often accompany test drivers to detail what might be available and at what price point. These receptions have become more and more popular. Last year we averaged about 60 people per reception and this year we are averaging 85. We are converting 5-10 single ticket buyers into subscribers per event.

Thanks to Heather O’Mara of Kentucky Opera

28. Make Them Feel Like Royalty

I am a children’s author and I literally turn my customers (children) into fans. My customers have the opportunity to join The Princess Zaria Fan Club. They are also featured on our Princess of the Month page. I like for my customers and their parents to feel a connection with the Princess Zaria Brand.

Thanks to Cheryl Pope of Princess Zaria

29. Genuine Client Connection As A Key Differentiator

You have products, services, experience, and work-samples. So do your competitors. Try GENUINE APPRECIATION for an edge above the others.

We all appreciate our clients, but feeling it in the moment goes beyond the mere idea to become an experience of being appreciated. Appreciating is an activity that changes the temperature of whatever hot seat you face. Pressure turns our attention negatively inward. As a director who has guided actors, undercover agents, and sales teams to win over people under pressure, I’ve found _appreciating (a verb) is the magic ticket.

Ask yourself silently, “What do I appreciate about _______” the person in front of you. You’ll feel your attention move off of you and onto them with a warm tone that draws them in. Whether you’re the underdog facing a sales pitch, or the Account Rep dealing with an upset customer, you can be the leader of the tone of any interaction and bring winning presence to your make-or-break moment.

Thanks to Dean Hyers of SagePresence

30. Customer Loyalty Cards

At Pino Gelato, customers who buy eight cups or cones of gelato, get 1 free! Each customer who buys any gelato product receives a customer loyalty card at check out, stamped according to the number of gelato items purchased.

We keep it simple: if you are eating gelato, you are getting a stamp and after eight stamps, you will receive a small cup of gelato for free (or $3.95 off your check). And customers get double stamps when purchasing a pint or a quart to take home. Our customers love it and bring their cards back every time. Someone even brought one in after it fell in a lake!

Thanks to Claire Tulas of PINO GELATO

31. Underpromise And Overdeliver

My goal is to underpromise and overdeliver. As a Professional Organizer, I offer a free, no obligation consultation, which is rare in my industry. I advertise a half hour, but routinely stay for an hour, even two, if the client requires, at no charge. As a result, I almost always get hired.

I supply whatever materials are needed to do the job, I work around the client’s schedule, and I remove unwanted items from the client’s premises. Once the job is complete, I check in with the client periodically to see how they are doing. I prefer to call, as I detest e-mail. Many of my clients have become friends. I often get hired for other jobs by the same clients and referred, in turn, to their family and friends.

Thanks to Andrew Neary of Organizing Toronto

32. Remember That A Complaint Is A Gift

When someone gives you a gift, what is the first thing you say? Thank you, of course. When we get a complaint from a customer, the first thing we should do is thank them. Thank them for letting us know that there was a problem. Because if they don’t complain, we may never know that they were not happy. Then they walk, and they take their business and their referrals with them. A complaint is an opportunity for you to resolve a problem or make something better for the customer. When a customer complains, what they’re really saying is, “Something is not right. Please make it better so we can continue our relationship”.

Studies actually show that if a company screws up, and takes ownership immediately and resolves the issue, customers are more loyal to the company than they were before the screw up.

Thanks to Randi Busse of Workforce Development Group, Inc.

33. Promos Procure Profits From Penny-Pinching Patrons

There are fantastic promotional products available to entice buyers to buy, refer, and return. Using the same strategy as hotels.com and expedia.com, business owners can now buy bulk promotional products for bargain prices and reward their clients generously without wounding their wallets.

Whether it’s creating a contest to build a database, encourage upgrades, or rewarding for referrals, these promotional products give business owners on a budget a lot of bang for their buck. Our most popular promotions include gas rebate cards, 3-day Getaway certificates, and 4-day/3-night cruises. Business owners can purchase these for as little as $14 when they buy in bulk or group with other businesses to purchase these fun, profit-producing, promotional products.

Thanks to Julia August of Impact Media Corporation

34. What Is The Tipping Point To Entrenched Loyalty?

There is a science to solving customers’ problems that actually turns them into “Fans”. Somewhat surprisingly, customers who have had a service failure with a successful recovery are more loyal than those that have never experienced a service failure at all! This doesn’t mean that you should start intentionally failing to deliver outstanding service, but it does mean that you have an opportunity, albeit a short one, to turn those who have received poor service into loyal, long-term customers. Learn how to capitalize on service recovery using insights from The Service Recovery Index(tm), a study performed by AboutFace(tm) to uncover “the tipping point” of entrenched loyalty.

Thanks to Terena Campagna of AboutFace Consulting Corp.

35. We Feed Them Milk And Honey

Milk nourishes — We nourish our clients by feeding their businesses with carefully selected marketing and PR services tailored specifically to their needs. Press releases, social media campaigns, speaking engagements, website copy, graphic design, etc., we give them a menu to choose from, then work within their budget to provide the most cost-effective services available to build/retain customer loyalty and increase revenue.

Honey is sweet — We remain as sweet as we can be to our clients because we recognize that in this difficult economy, business owners panic. They can become angry, frustrated and sometimes downright nasty. But we never let it get to us. A little kindness, understanding, empathy and “service with a smile” alleviates their worries and allows us to build rapport – assuring them that we can find solutions that turn obstacles into challenges and we help their business grow. We “sweeten the pot” by searching out co-marketing opportunities, as well help them gain more exposure at lesser costs. It always pays off.

Thanks to Gayle Naftaly of Access.office

36. Give Your Customers What They Want From You!

Make your customers love you. And how do you make them love you? Give them what they want! The specifics will vary by the type of business that you’re in and who your customers are. But essentially, you need to do these things:

* Understand what your customers want from you
* Give it to them
* Let them know that you’re giving it to them because this is what they’ve asked you for

Think about it this way: who loves you best in the world? Who makes you feel the best when you’re around them? Think about why that is. It’s probably because you feel understood by them. In the epic line from James Cameron’s Avatar, “I see you” are three of the most poignant words that any two people can share.

If you consistently make your customers feel that same way, why would they ever want to go anywhere else?

Thanks to Ruth Danielson of Mulberry Street Market Intelligence

37. Guaranteed Loyalty At The Hospitality Level

My best strategy to build customer loyalty is to give my customers, not just great customer service, but go a step above. Provide them with a hospitality level of customer service, where you don’t just present them with what they need to make them happy, but be able to anticipate those needs before they have even thought about it.

Thanks to Jennifer Chiongbian of Rutenberg Realty NYC

This week’s question is –

As small business owners, we are all looking for ways to keep expenses at a minimum, while still maximizing productivity. What is your favorite online business tool for streamlining your operation, that gives you a huge bang for your buck?

Why should I join the discussion?

Because this online forum is a great place for us to exchange ideas, learn from each other and network. My goal is to unite successful women entrepreneurs to share our insights and solutions to the challenges we most commonly face in our businesses.

How do I get involved?


Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response before the deadline, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR RESPONSE

I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!

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4 Comments

  1. Posted April 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and terrific style and design.

  2. Posted March 19, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great post Shannon! I really appreciate you listing my suggestion and see that the other suggestions are great as well!

    Monette
    Shopping4info.com
    monette@shopping4info.com

    • Posted March 19, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Monette, Thanks for your submission! Great to have your experience to add to the value of the post. 🙂

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