Years ago, it was possible to beat your competition simply by delivering a better product. But in today’s competitive marketplace, almost everyone has a product that is “satisfactory”. If they don’t, they won’t be in business for very long. Today’s consumer understands value and expects to receive what they paid for, so it is no longer enough to just create a “satisfactory product.
So, how do you get that leg up on your competition in today’s market? The answer is know your customers, not just as companies that buy from you, but as people and individuals. Loyal customers are the lifeblood of our businesses. They are the key to creating a long-term competitive advantage.
How do you create that customer loyalty? Business relationships don’t start out “great”. Just as a small seedling must be nurtured, watered, and cared for, so must loyal customers. Customer relationships go through predictable steps. New relationships are just that. They may be one-time buyers until trust is built.
And this is not one-sided. Loyalty and trust must be built on both sides as each proves itself to the other. As the relationship strengthens, each party is more committed to continuing that relationship. Over time, as long as it is a win-win situation for both parties with both perceiving value in the relationship, it can be built into a “Great” relationship. It is these great relationships that produce your referrals and fans.
A customer’s decision to continue working with you and your business is a result of their loyalty to you. And that loyalty only comes through relationship building. People don’t deal with a company. People deal with people. This is just as possible with distant internet customers as with local ones.
If all you create is satisfied customers, they will leave you. Loyal customers will not.
So how do you build the relationships that will create these loyal customers?
Have a human voice answer your telephone.
Make any text on your website, in your newsletter, or in your letters sound like they are are written by a real person.
Use photographs of you and the people involved in your business.
Have testimonials from real people, using their real names and where they are located.
Include case studies that describe real results from use of your products.
Be consistent. Send out newsletters on a regular basis. Call occasionally. Even send a small token gift just to remind them that they are in your thoughts.
Be more than responsive — be super-responsive. Answer emails and voice mails as quickly as possible.
Samples of your products are great ways to show them that you produce a quality product, not just a satisfactory one.
Creating loyal customers takes much more work than just filling orders with a satisfactory product. But loyal customers are the backbone of a successful business and are worth their weight in gold.