7 Strategies for Gaining Loyal Customers for Your Online Business

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Consider the Pareto principle, commonly known as the 80-20 rule:  80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.  While these figures may differ somewhat from one company to another, experienced business owners can testify that repeat customers are responsible for the bulk of their success.

So how can you acquire more of these high-converting customers?  This article examines 7 practical techniques you can implement right away in your own online business:

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make Use of Social Applications to Build Brand Awareness

Out of sight, out of mind.  In a world where countless distractions and competitors are vying for the affections of your customers, social applications offer a powerful solution for positioning your brand.  Use social media platforms to actively engage your customers, letting them know there’s a real person behind the logo.  You can also use e-mail newsletters to great advantage by creating helpful content and keeping customers posted about upcoming sales.  Including incentives such as product coupons within your newsletters will encourage your customers to stay subscribed.  Make use of RSS widgets on your website and invite customers to subscribe to your blog. 

Make Sure Your Company Policies Validate and Protect the Customer

Having overly rigid policies in place can be a business hazard.  Many customers simply won’t buy from a company with a no-returns policy.  This is especially true online, where customers can’t actually see or touch a product until it’s delivered to them.  Be as flexible as possible.

Offer Incentives at Every Opportunity

Let your customers know you value their business by rewarding them.  You might offer an incentive, such as a gift certificate, to a customer who refers you to a friend.  Besides creating a positive experience for existing customers, this has the added benefit of drawing in new clients and promoting your brand by word-of-mouth. 

Another great way to offer incentives is to have a savings program in place for your most loyal buyers.  By rewarding good business, your customers will view a sales transaction as an investment rather than an expense.

Make Your Website Approachable

Approachability is a key factor in building trust.  Make it easy for customers who visit your website to contact you, and be available for questions for as many hours of the day as possible.  Respond quickly and personally to e-mails rather than using an autoresponder.  Besides an e-mail address, your website contact page should include your phone number and a business address.  Consider using a live chat application on your website to address immediate problems. 

Having a comprehensive FAQ section and an About Us section on your website can also be very helpful in alleviating the concerns of first-time buyers.  Simply being open with your customers will establish your reputation as a professional, and new visitors will feel safer knowing you’re not some kind of fly-by-night scam. 

Keep in Touch Year-Round

Don’t just send chocolates on holidays.  Get in touch with your customers on a regular basis – ask them if they’re happy with their latest purchase.  Don’t underestimate the power of small talk.  The more you engage your customers, the more quickly you will build a trust relationship while getting to know a lot about them in the process.  Simply listening to your customers will open up opportunities to make them feel valued and win their loyalty.  This might come in the form of a wedding or a graduation, for which you might send a letter or a gift.  Get creative. 

Be Willing to Negotiate With Difficult Customers

Handle customer complaints as soon as they arise.  Be prepared to be flexible in providing solutions, even if this means bending the rules of your regular policies.  If a customer posts a negative review online, you can harness this to your advantage by responding promptly and politely and resolving the issue as reasonably as possible.  Other customers will trust you more if they see that you’re willing to work with buyers to ensure they’re satisfied with your product or service.  In this way, uncalled-for negative reviews can become a positive marketing tool.

Poll Your Customers

There’s no better way to do market research than to go directly to your customers and ask them how you can improve your product or service.  One of the simplest ways to do this is by adding a poll application to your sales page.  Simple checkout polls are less hassle for the customer than a lengthy survey sent several days after a purchase requiring them to fill out a lot of personal details.  With a quick poll, you might simply ask how a customer’s experience was and how you might improve on it the next time around.  You should also follow up with your customers a day or so after their purchase to make certain they’re satisfied with their product.

By taking advantage of every opportunity to strengthen relationships with existing customers and to win the trust of new ones, you’ll be able to position yourself as the go-to guy for your product or service.

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