Brand loyalty is one of the more mysterious psychological concepts in business.
Every business owner dreams of having a robust and loyal customer following. While successful brands have figured out their own version of the magic formula to finding and retaining customers, many newer and smaller businesses struggle to show why their brand deserves customer loyalty.
This article is designed to help small business owners understand what brand loyalty is and how to create a loyal customer base.
So what is brand loyalty?
Brand loyalty is a great buzz-word, but what exactly does it mean?
According to the dictionary, Brand Loyalty can be defined as:
The tendency of some consumers to continue buying the same brand of goods rather than competing brands.
On the surface, that's a great summary and it's probably what most people think about when they think of brand loyalty. But this is really more a definition of the end result of brand loyalty. It doesn't really offer much insight into how to get there.
Let's look at the different stages of customer interaction with your brand and where you can focus on building brand loyalty.
How to create brand loyalty
1. Give a great first impression
They say first impressions are everything.
You never get a chance to give a potential customer a first impression twice.
Generally speaking, being able to provide a first-time potential customer with what they're looking for at the right time is the best way to give a strong first impression. Ultimately, if your brand is able to offer what the customer is looking for, they'll think positively about you.
In order to get this right, you have to think of all the different ways that a customer might come across your brand. Maybe it's a billboard, maybe it's seeing your product on a store shelf, it might be coming from a Google search or maybe it's in a social media advertisement.
Think about all of these initial interactions and how your brand comes across. The best way to do this is to test with someone who is unfamiliar with your brand. For instance, have a friend google search a term you know will bring your company's website up. See what types of things they notice comparing your website to other sites in the same search. This type of feedback is invaluable in making sure you're making a strong first impression.
Some other elements that go into a first impression are having design elements with your logo, packaging, website, and marketing materials that are professional and connect with your target audience.
If you leave a poor first impression, it's going to be very difficult to create a loyal customer.
2. Deliver on expectations
Once you've met the customer's initial expectations with a strong first impression, it's important to think about the promises you are making to the customer. These promises can be deliberate and obvious, but they can also be implied.
Think about the problems the customer expects your product to solve. Then go through the different guarantees you have for your product. Once you have a good idea of all the expectations that are on the table, you can diagnose whether or not your company actually delivers on these promises.
For instance, here at LabelValue.com we offer fast, free same-day shipping on every stock label order. We call this our "4:30 Rule," meaning that any order placed by 4:30 pm EST will be shipped the same day.
This is a great example of a deliberate expectation that we set for customers.
A largely implied expectation (although we do also mention this in some areas of the site) is that purchasing products from us online will be safe and secure. This is a general expectation for most web purchasers, but it's essential that we deliver on this expectation on each and every order.
Once you have created your list of expectations, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that your processes enable your employees to deliver on these expectations to your customers.
3. Go out of your way for great customers
If you have a great product then you likely already have some great customers, even if you haven't thought about brand loyalty specifically yet.
The key is to make sure these customers understand how valued they are.
You can do this with one-off promotions for your best customers, personalized letters, invoices or emails thanking them for their business, or if you want to take it to the next level, by offering great customer loyalty programs.
No matter what, go out of your way to make your best customers feel special. Even if it hurts your bottom-line initially, it will pay huge dividends long-term.
4. Make it easy for them to follow up
The next step is to make it easy for your customers a) to repurchase from you and b) to tell others.
When it comes to repurchasing, invest in letting your customers know other products that you offer that might fit their needs. Make it easy for them to reorder the items they've ordered in the past.
As for telling others about you, ideally, you would like this to happen naturally. However, it never hurts to provide a little push to get your customers to do so. Hey, it's a busy world so if you don't remind them and make it easy, they probably won't find time for it.
Luckily, social media makes this pretty easy. Offer customers unique hashtags to share their purchases on. If you have a shop online, include links to share products or reviews in your invoices and on your "Thank You" page after a purchase.
5. Do awesome things!
Everyone wants to be a part of something awesome. When you do awesome things that have nothing, or very little, to do with selling your products, people take notice!
You can do this in many different ways. Some ideas are to do something special for your employees, contribute to a charity, offer customers free gifts, or get involved with a movement that your audience loves that isn't necessarily related to your business.
If you think about these aspects of your business you'll likely find a couple of areas you can improve.
As you begin to focus on building brand loyalty, you'll see natural traction with your brand, which is truly invaluable.