Whatever the relationship, there’s one thing that’s valued most. Trust.
Most know it’s easier selling to an existing customer than acquiring new ones. While developing loyal customers presents a whole different set of challenges, your customer is the pulse of a business and can define your success. Their loyalty comes from your ability to build trust.
Developing loyal customers begins with getting things right. Identifying issues, providing resolutions, and fine tuning along the way. It’s building on trust that certain standards are met, and maintained. It reflects on your brand, and a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
What does this have to do with loyal customers being your best marketers? We’ll get there.
Creating loyalty is more than meeting customer expectations. It’s achieved by exceeding them every chance you get. To be worthy of referrals, positive reviews and repeat business requires earning such a reward. It’s a promise to your customers, and one that should not be broken.
In one study, Gartner suggests that 65% of a company’s business typically comes from their existing customers, and it costs as much as five times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied. What’s important to realize, while at risk of stating the obvious, is that loyal customers aren’t acquired, they’re nurtured over time.
It’s those loyal customers that can become advocates, praising your product or service, that have real impact. Those endorsements are far more trusted than any form of advertising could deliver, providing reach, exceptional branding, and leading to higher conversions.
Loyal customers make for great marketers on many levels. When they share news of your product, service or brand within their personal network, it acts as an endorsement. When it comes to learning of a new company, many rely on a select few resources. The primary being friends and family, with online reviews following close behind.
Endorsements such as these have a more influential effect, and forms of advocacy should be recognized and rewarded. Word of mouth is a highly desired form of advertising, and possibly not just due to the results. Because of the challenges to implement, it isn’t just another campaign you can simply turn on, it’s something you work towards, similar to building trust.
According to business consulting group Lee Resources, 80% of companies are convinced that they deliver "superior" customer service. But when surveyed, only 8% of these people think the same companies were able to provide "superior" customer service. Which leads to the fact that what you might think is exceptional could only be adequate. Without monitoring, you aren’t managing the outcome. One way to gauge sentiment is through online reviews and social media, which is often the most telling in terms of satisfaction and social proof.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of a little website called Amazon, attributes much of their success to “focus like a laser on customer experience”, and comments further that it’s essential online, where “word of mouth is so very, very powerful”. Consumers have a voice more than ever, and being able to meet those expectations for recommendations builds equity.
To ensure you’re meeting customer expectations requires business reputation management as part of your overall marketing strategy. A passive approach will simply not suffice. Customer experience is an integral part of any marketing plan. It contributes to retention, referrals, and while it’s often summarized with phrases or metrics like Lifetime Value (LTV), Customer satisfaction (CSAT) or Net promoter score (NPS), few considerations compare in terms of impact to the bottom line for a company.
As “good enough” becomes increasingly substandard with increasing competition and market fragmentation, your company stands to gain a serious competitive advantage from referrals when you recognize and reward those loyal customers.
Mark Nicholson is VP of Marketing and Business Development at NiceJob review management, and writes on assorted digital marketing topics.