How to build Customer Loyalty for Small Businesses in Competitive Environments
The importance behind customer loyalty for small businesses cannot be emphasized enough. Repeat customers become the bread and butter for many small businesses especially in highly competitive environments. Business owners are often said to be living in paranoia, and this will especially become an asset when a mammoth size competitor comes along in your territory. Keeping your business alive means you must stand out to both existing and potential customers without having to battle toe to toe with the means of spending capital. Once this type of competitor sees you as a threat, they will swallow you whole with a blink of an eye with the ability to endlessly advertise and market. Cutting price is the name of their game and trying to compete in that field will end disastrously. Unless you have your own patented products or a small enough niche that they simply don't want to dip in, you must carefully decide if this type of battle is worth fighting. So how do you keep your small business alive and thriving in such environment?
Always give each customer exceptional service
Understand that customer loyalty doesn't come with product or price alone. For example, there are several studies that show customers are more inclined to change where they buy from based on bad customer experience rather than price or product related issues. Customer service whether its via phone or in-person, leaves emotional impact on the consumer more than just price alone. Going above and beyond in service means keeping your existing customers and grabbing bitter customers from your competitors. This simple approach implements the same psychological mechanism behind consumers' emotional attachments with certain products. The same way consumers overlook the price tag to fulfill their desire for the product, you must attain the same quality of attachment between your customers and your business through exceptional service. Start by having your employees remember the customers' names, purchasing patterns, and more importantly, to listen. Some of these actions will stand out especially because bigger businesses will not be able to accommodate the same level of service.
Invest in being reliable at all times
For small businesses with limited budget in marketing means that customer loyalty becomes more vital in competitive environments. A loss of a loyal customer can happen with just one bad experience and your small business can't afford to have that loss of revenue. But for many small businesses it's tough to have exceptional customer service every month of the year especially during the slower times of the year. Consistently carrying enough working capital even during the slower seasons could solve this issue by being able to invest in reliable customer service to try to attain each customer that come through your doors. Being able to always offer desirable customer service can be costly so having a business credit line in the time of need or having a reliable and quick small business loan company in your pocket will be in your best interest.
Have a story/identity behind your brand
Although many businesses may already have this intact, many of the same businesses also fail externalize it to stand out from their competitors. Keeping the story behind the brand for the sole purpose of preserving history is far different than creating an objective to increase customer loyalty. The main objective behind properly externalizing the brand's story or identity is to build lasting memories in the minds of consumers that go beyond just the products or services that are provided. Whether your brand's value go hand in hand with the customers or the fact the story emotionally touches them, it's important that you properly display why choosing your business means much more than what's on the surface. Especially in highly competitive markets, always remember to put yourself in your customers' shoes... why should they choose you over your competitors.
Get on top of digital marketing and social proof
In today's age, it's imperative to get behind digital marketing if you don't want to fall behind. Traditional marketing such as direct mails and newspapers are in the past. If you want to run with the bulls, it's time to go digital. Getting in front of your customers to remind them about your business can be as simple as weekly or monthly newsletters via emails. Marketing on the internet or social media can be costly but building social proof such as asking your satisfied customers to put positive reviews for your business can be more effective in the long run even for attaining current customers. It shows that you care to reach out to your customers and that their voice matters. Having substantial social proof also makes your customers feel safe to know that they are dealing with a business that's reputable and trustworthy.
Building customer loyalty doesn't come overnight, it will take a lot of time and effort. Stay behind what you believe in and do the right thing by your customers, especially things that matter. Always put yourself in their shoes and think what would really matter if you were on the other side. Stay patient and little by little you will start to notice the reactions from customers that will prove that you are going in the right direction.