For business owners, the idea of having loyal customers is a universal goal. It’s not so much that loyal customers can contribute to a known quantity of consistent business, but because loyal customers turn into advocates for your brand. “It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.” – Seth Godin
Creating a commercial environment where brand loyalty can thrive happens before any purchase, throughout the customer’s journey, and afterward. Think of every interaction you or your team has with a customer, and how your staff that might not have that front-end contact can still affect the public perception of your company.
- Develop a People-Centric Approach
- Actively Listen to Your Customers
- Identify Customer Needs and Wants
- Be Consistent With Your Marketing
- Be Ethically and Socially Responsible
- Embrace Brand Loyalty and Repeat Customers
What Does a People-Centric Approach Mean?
Every action or business decision should be taken after consideration of your brand purpose, and how being a people-centric brand is a part of that. The bottom line is that people will want to do business with brands that think like they do.
Think of any famous brand or industry-leading company… especially the ones you and your family can recognize at the dinner table. While every enterprise can have its vulnerable or bad sides, the most powerful brands make you remember certain things, or feel certain emotions.
More often than not, you’ll remember some unique campus or facility a brand has for their employees, or that all of the top executives dress a certain way that isn’t a traditional business suit. Famously, Apple had a series of “Mac vs PC” commercials a couple of decades ago which combined a number of these elements.
Sure, we’re talking about a spectacular piece of advertising… but what that campaign chose to focus on shows what being people-centric means. The ad didn’t display any product, or special features their machines had over other manufacturers. It was about people. More importantly, it was about Mac people… and how they looked like you, dressed like you, talked like you, and cared about the same sorts of ideas you do.
Without millions of dollars in ad spend, it’s likely you’re not going to foster newfound brand loyalty with a national commercial. But you can take the sentiment and rework your own business practices to have your team provide more value to your customers, and relate to them on a personal level.
The Importance of Active Listening in Customer Service
Once upon a time the commercial world was perceived to be an entirely different plane of existence from the real world that the average joe walked around in. It used to be that people expected just to have their needs met, or a specific problem solved, and nothing extra. If a brand didn’t go above and beyond, or didn’t make the news for some extra-curricular headline, it wasn’t a surprise.
Today, we’re all more connected than ever. People are starting to see themselves as not so different than the brands they buy. More importantly, they’re seeing more brands than ever.
The contemporary consumer wants to be recognized as an individual. A person. And they really want to be listened to, understood, and have their own opinions matter. That’s not narcissism, it’s only natural. If someone is willing to spend their money to purchase your product or service, they want an equivalent value exchanged… and that means offering something that embraces their humanity, not just another number on your P&L.
If you find your customer base has a set of goals that are more or less aligned, then one could argue it’s your responsibility as a business to take some action in that field. Make a difference. Show your customers that you care. Remember, the word “brand” is thrown around a lot now-a-days. But try to think of “brand” as equivalent to “reputation”, because that’s what consumers expect… and they talk with their wallets.
Identifying Customer Needs
Put yourself in their shoes, walk around, and get to know your customers’ desires. While it’s crucial to act and present your brand in a positive light, make sure you’re doing something your customer base will actually respond to. The goal is to be authentic.
Good business practice should already include touching base with your current and past customers frequently. When you or your team interact, ask what more you as a company can do to satisfy any needs.
Just like when analyzing any situation, place yourself in your customer’s position and think of what actions you as a band could provide a solution for, within your ability, that poses the greatest benefit.
Folding in this sort of thinking at every level of your business should become somewhat of a philosophy. Like the idiom you reap what you sow, keep thinking of your brand as your reputation. Make sure you continue to fulfill your promises and behave as if your company lives and dies by your word.
Nurturing your existing customer base and caring for their needs is how you’ll grow new business. Continuing with that mindset is how you’ll turn them into brand loyal consumers. There’s no denying it’s hard work, but the adage “Word of Mouth is the Best Marketing Tool” is true. By turning your customers into advocates of your brand, you’ll generate new business with clients that already hold you in esteem.
Continuously market your brand, produce content, and ensure your staff and sales teams are acting in accordance with your people-centric policy. Building and earning trust takes time, so be patient. Know that you’re doing the right thing, and you’re going above and beyond your competition.
By maintaining transparent and open communication with your customers on an internal level, or even addressing the public via social media channels and press releases, you’re doing a lot to establish your positive reputation.
If you fear a single negative review, post, or comment could derail your momentum, don’t. Because it can’t. Not if you’ve been honest and consistent in your people-centric business practices. People will view primary source information as more credible than any negative press they hear. If you work to make your community see your positive actions, and that your brand truly cares about them, negativity can’t compete… so long as you don’t give up.
“Never underestimate the power of going the extra mile.” – Chris Lo
Business Ethics and Social Responsibility
For a people-centric philosophy to work for your business, your core products and services have to be great. If you’re on the right path, you should have accumulated long-term and loyal customers simply based on what you have to offer.
What this new brand loyal focus is attempting to do, is help business owners like yourself replicate that experience.
So stay communicative, and continue to treat each and every customer as a VIP. That said, don’t sacrifice the strong morals and ethics you’ve worked so hard to cultivate just to land new sales.
Far too many companies lose patience and give in to the false security viral popularity can bring in the realm of social media. Impressions, post likes, and hearts on Instagram can be a valuable metric when measuring your engagement digitally. But you shouldn’t shift your practices with the goal of attaining more.
Instagram as a platform has been experimenting with this subject based on user behavior. As the app is growing to be the next dominant social platform online, how users (both individual and business accounts) benefit from the service is important to Facebook/Instagram as a company.
In select regions such as Australia, Instagram has been removing the ability for users to “like” posts – eliminating that metric for users and businesses to measure engagement by.
Increased popularity is always a good thing, but don’t sacrifice your own standards and implement extreme $500 click-bait giveaways to pad those metrics. A good rule of thumb is to treat any hypothetical digital engagement as if it were happening in your brick and mortar shop.
Would you present your walk-in or physical customers with the same offer you’re advertising online? Would you do the same for your past/existing clients privately via a closed newsletter or e-mail subscriber list?
That’s not to say your existing client pool shouldn’t receive additional value, but make sure you’re not giving more incentive to new customers than your current ones receive. You want your loyal brand advocates to feel embraced and loved… not wishing they could take advantage of some special with an increased value that only applies to new accounts.
The Benefit of Loyal Repeat Customers
Think of brand loyal consumers as an investment. Providing an exceptional experience will do your customers justice, and build the long-term value of your company.
“The more advocates you have, the fewer ads you have to buy.” – Dharmesh Shah
Imagining your most loyal customers as ambassadors for your brand is a good thing. That will help your team understand these actions as a form of advertisement. Developing new strategies within your core business, industry, and marketing will come easier if you keep an open mind.
Continue to communicate with your target demographic, be genuine, and stay relatable. As you implement new tools, introduce new technology, and adapt your strategy, focus on what you see works.
Keep in mind that the content that you produce – the written word, audio, video, and other multi-media engagement you publish needs to remain authentic, trustworthy, and valuable to your viewers.
Antiquated terminology like “best-in-class” or “customer-first” have become commonplace. Instead, work hard to share your unique story with your actions. Encourage your customers to share their own experiences of working with you, or using your products.
Each tip or technique we’ve gone over can be boiled down to this: make your customers feel like they’re part of the process. Show them that you care about what they do. Show your clients that you value them.