The beginning of the year is a great time to reflect on the past year of your business and think back to all the loyal customers who helped you grow and succeed.
It’s also the perfect time to come up with a plan to reward customers for their loyalty and encourage them to keep coming back in 2015 and beyond.
Here are a few simple, inexpensive ways to help you develop and extend customer loyalty:
1. Celebrate your customers
Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions; your customers are no different.
Feature a customer of the week or month — someone who has truly helped you grow your business — on your website, social media, or in your next email.
Put a sign up in your storefront or office highlighting that customer. The recognition will go a long way towards encouraging other customers who love your business to get more involved in your success as well.
Here’s a great example of how one business, Wrapsody, recognizes its loyal followers right on its main website and keeps them involved and engaged as brand ambassadors. Wrapsody showcases the personalities and stories of its customers, making both the brand and its loyal followers partners in promoting the brand’s baby carriers and products.
Image: Wrapsody Facebook page
2. Create an early-access program
One way to reward loyal customers is to give them something exclusive.
It could be giving them access to a new product that hasn’t officially launched to anyone else. Or it could be offering them some new service that’s not open to the general public yet. Many tech companies, such as Google, offer consumers the opportunity to be part of a beta release of a product.
Consider setting up a similar program where loyal customers can sign up to be the first to hear about new products and services. With email marketing software like Constant Contact, you can create a separate email list for people who sign up.
The simple act of making customers feel like they are part of something exclusive can be a big help in building trust and loyalty with your audience.
3. Ask for customer feedback
Everyone appreciates being asked for their opinion. As fans of your business, your customers will provide you with informed opinions that could be helpful in determining a new service to release, a menu item to introduce, or a marketing tactic to try.
Send a survey to your loyal customers to ask their opinion. Be sure to make it clear that you’re asking them because they are such valued followers.
You could even ask them a few questions in person or have a questionnaire ready for them to fill out the next time they visit your store. Whichever way you ask for feedback, make sure you’re taking their input seriously. If they take the time to provide you with feedback, it’s your responsibility to take their advice to heart.
4. Invite customers to a special event
Similar to giving customers first access to a new product, inviting customers to a special event can be a great way to spread some positive goodwill and get people talking about your business.
You could hold a wine and cheese event at your store, a charity event to support the local community, or a celebration event for a holiday. Encourage your customers to bring friends and family too — this could introduce a whole new audience to your business.
With an online registration tool, customers can sign up to attend in advance and also provide information about other guests that will be joining them.
5. Offer a referral bonus or reward for recruiting new customers
You don’t have to give a huge bonus to make a positive impact and increase referrals. Try providing a small discount or some company swag to show your appreciation. Depending on how extensive your referral program is, you could create a more structured loyalty program to reward customers on an ongoing basis.
Make sure the rules and guidelines for your program are clear and that you’re promoting the program both online and in-store.
Inspiring long-term loyalty starts with a smart plan.
As you think about growing your customer base in the year ahead, remember that keeping your current customers happy plays a big role in growing your customer base.
With these five simple and cost-effective ways to reward your customers, you’ll be well on your way to a successful year of growth.
What rewards have you introduced that your loyal customers love? Let us know in the comments!
About the author: Ali Hyatt leads marketing and product for Upward Labs, which creates software for businesses to build and manage brand ambassador programs to drive customer engagement and increase revenue and reach. Upward Labs participated in the first session of Constant Contact’s Small Business Innovation Program.