Whether you’re a real estate agent or a chef, an entrepreneur’s common goal of growing business (because no matter how altruistic one is, we are in it for business) depends greatly on customer loyalty. First step’s first: define the purpose of your brand. Your brand reflects your mission and the identity of your service or product. If you don’t know the purpose behind your service or product, how will customers decide if they should be devoted to your brand? Once you define the brand and what it looks like (a.k.a. what activities reflect the brand’s purpose), here are 5 ways to build customer loyalty and show that purpose.
Be present on social media—we mean, Instagram.
Social media can be a helpful method for sharing your brand story with both present and potential customers. And, the idea has long been tossed around that social media is the essential marketing tool for the digital era. Actually, user interaction appears to be heavily concentrated on one channel in particular: Instagram.
According a 2014 Forrester Research Inc. study—which examined 3 million user interactions and more than 2,500 brand posts across seven different social networks—six of the seven social networks achieved an engagement rate of less than 0.1%. Alternatively, Instagram hoisted a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21%. Meaning, the platform delivered brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.
To point, here are some successful Instagram profiles: Yoga Beyond has 296,000 followers yet they follow 410 profiles. How did they create such a huge circle of onlookers? One evident tactic is the quantity of their posts: 2,151 images are live on their account to date. Huckleberry Roasters—a coffee shop in the Denver River North neighborhood—completed its Kickstarter campaign November 1, 2013. Less than two years later, 1,000 images are live on their account (meaning they’ve posted more than once per day on average) and the local café has 11,000 followers but only follow a fraction of that: 948 accounts.
Another incentive of utilizing virtual methods for building customer loyalty is that the potential outreach is well beyond the geographic location of your company’s headquarters. (Coffee lover in New York City can find Huckleberry Roasters on Instagram and when they come out to visit the Mile High City, they’ll know where to get their cup of Joe.) Plus, having a profile is cost-free marketing.
Hit the YouTube Spotlight.
Do you run a restaurant that’s inspired by your family’s Italian heritage? Film yourself giving cooking lessons and share it on a YouTube channel, labeled after your restaurant. So—you’re wondering, if you divulge your cooking secrets, does it mean your service will lose its novelty? First off, no one will be able to cook those recipes better than you. Also, the food—albeit a central reason for dining out—is just one element of the dining experience, which can’t be recreated in a cooking session. For the lessons, you can also focus on teaching cooking techniques rather than specific recipes. Also brainstorm guests you can invite onto the show.
Host a Website.
In this day and age, having a website helps to build credibility with customers. You might even go as far as saying NOT having a website makes you LESS credible. There are countless user-friendly platforms for website creation: Weebly, WordPress, Wix, and Blogger amongst the pool. If you don’t have a website, it’s time to get one.
Start a Meetup Group.
Are you a dance teacher? Do you own a publishing house, art studio or leather goods factory? Start a Meetup group based on a common interest of your customers—like a painting session in the park or a poetry reading—that’s related to your business. Knowing and being a part of your community is one of the most important parts of developing long-term customer relationships. View the Meetup as an opportunity to get to know the group members versus making a sale’s pitch. Make your identity known from the get-go: You don’t want any group members to feel like you weren’t being transparent. Remember, you can be a business owner and a group leader.
Collaborate with local businesses.
Get together with businesses that have like-minded goals and co-create a product, service or even social media posts. When you crosshatch ideas with other brands you can share—and strengthen—your customer base.
Keep in mind, while these methods of building customer loyalty are pretty much free (minus the costs of computer access and WiFi) building a social media presence is time intensive and building a brand following does not happen overnight. Remember, patience and consistency are key. Define your brand style and post often. How do you know you’re succeeding at building a solid following? To help, here are 5 ways to measure customer satisfaction.
Morgan Tilton is a contributor to the Connectivity blog.