Ask SCORE: Strategies for businesses to increase loyalty

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Ask SCORE by Dean Swanson

As we begin the new year, how can a CEO grow the business in 2022? First, focus on keeping current customers and then consider what loyalty strategies can a small business use to attract and retain new customers.

Dean Swanson

Brett Farmiloe.one of SCORE’s resource partners, is the founder and CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He enjoys converting insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands. I will share what he found out when he asked successful small businesses for their experience.

To help small businesses keep current customers and attract and retain new customers, we asked marketing professionals and business leaders for their insights. Here are a few of the suggestions.  

Prioritize excellent customer service. Providing excellent customer service is a brand loyalty strategy you should implement if you don’t already. Especially regarding dentures, if there is an issue or concern, it has to be addressed quickly. Since this is about a quality-of-life issue, our patients deserve more. We earn our patients’ trust with timely responses and actions to ensure their satisfaction and comfort, and that leads them to recommend us to others. — Henry Babichenko, European Denture Center

Create valuable online resources. When you know your audience and the people you serve well, you understand their needs in a way that encourages long-lasting client relationships and loyalty. As a child-placing agency, we provide comprehensive online resources for pregnant women and are considering adoption as well as families who are hoping to adopt. In our case, we offer detailed information about the adoption process and support for each individual as their needs are different. By focusing on providing valuable resources that truly help your clients or the people you serve, you can nurture strong, loyal relationships. — Kenna Hamm, Texas Adoption Center

Make a memorable first experience. To earn brand loyalty, it’s important that you provide your customers with a memorable first experience with your brand. We all know that a happy customer is the best customer; so be sure to provide hands-on customer support to make their experience with your brand is positive. Send personalized “thank you” notes that show your appreciation for their business, then follow up with them to ensure they’re satisfied with your service or product. Even if they’re not, by providing them exceptional customer support and listening to their feedback, they could very well want to return in the future to give you a second chance.   Greg Gillman, MuteSix

Uphold a commitment to good corporate citizenship.  Today’s consumers are savvier and more discerning than at any previous time in history. Companies are expected to make and uphold commitments as good corporate citizens. The loyalty strategy that has the longest shelf life and the farthest-reaching impact is through social impact programming and responsible business leadership. By focusing efforts on altruistic actions, collaborative approaches and on the general betterment of society, companies can gain brand loyalty that can last a lifetime. Those businesses that continue these efforts as a central tenant to their culture reap the biggest benefits vs. those that attempt to leverage corporate responsibility as a strategy for short-term gains. — Tyler Butler, 11Eleven Consulting

Encourage user-generated content. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide a great way for you to encourage customer interactions through user-generated content (UGC). When you receive a new customer review, create a post or engaging story on your social media highlighting your new customer to make them feel like part of your business and putting them in the spotlight!  Amit Raj, The Links Guy

Use referral programs.  Small businesses can use referral programs to increase their customer loyalty by providing a small incentive for referrals. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool, and a referral program helps you scale it up.   Wesley Jacobs, Apollo Medical Travel LLC

Partner with a micro-influencer. Partnering with a micro-influencer and using them as a brand ambassador is the best way to attract and retain new customers. Influencers can reach a larger target audience than a brand normally can, even when you boost posts and focus on a certain type of consumer. Influencers can sell your product in a unique and creative way that will catch the attention of others, and show potential customers that they’re passionate about the brand. When working with an influencer, offer a loyalty discount to attract new customers as well, specifically for this demographic. This shows followers that their business is valued and appreciated and can result in returning customers in the future.  Lance Herrington, UNICO Nutrition

Include a Freebie.  While it may seem counterintuitive to give away something for free, countless studies have shown the ROI is there.  Giving a consumer something risk-free, nothing out of pocket is a sure-fire way to get their foot in the door to see what you’re all about. It’s a relatively small customer acquisition cost to drive traffic and in return, you can gain brand loyalty for years to come.  — Alexa Reynoso, Mosaic North America

Dean Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director, and regional vice president for the Northwest Region.