It’s the gold standard of customer service, that customer who will seek out products (or services) just because they’re represented by your brand. Every business owner wants to cultivate customer loyalty, but wishing and hoping won’t have dedicated customers knocking down your door.

Cultivating Customer Loyalty

Be the one. Apple computers and the McDonald’s McRib sandwich have one thing in common, customer devotion. Providing a product that stirs consumer passion is part luck and part recognizing and capitalizing on a good thing. It doesn’t hurt that Apple supplied all those thousands of computers to public schools a few decades ago, making Apple indispensible to a whole generation of children who would later come to expect an easy to navigate graphical user interface (GUI) in their computers. That’s not all Apple did right, but it was a stroke of marketing genius. Do you always have to give something away to get customers interested? No, but it doesn’t hurt.

Create some buzz. From sponsoring a car wash manned by teens in shorts and halter tops, to installing an enormous sign visible from the freeway, buzz is about getting your name out there. Buzz is more than having a dynamite brochure and a nicely padded promotional budget, though. For it to work, you need to know your market — well. Building buzz that’ll appeal to an aging baby boomer is a very different critter from marketing to generation-Z. If you’re not an expert on your target market, rely on the experts to help navigate the terrain.

Back up your claims. After you start getting attention, interested buzz can start turning into angry buzz if you don’t stand behind your products. You can have the newest thing, the cheapest thing, or the best looking thing, but eventually that thing will need to fulfill its destiny by performing as advertised. Exemplary quality control and customer service won’t guarantee customer loyalty, but it’s a great start.

Jump into cyberspace. You’ve heard it here before, but having a website and participating in social media will enhance your reputation. It will get you noticed. Coming up with multimedia attractions like videos, games, and quizzes will also keep your content fresh and current. It’ll help create an online persona that’s forward thinking and responsive. How-tos for using your products, testimonials, contests, blogs and photo galleries will give you the very real opportunity to go viral and reach many more people than you would otherwise. You’ll also be able to address questions, suggestions and complaints in a way that’s easy for customers (and potential customers) to access and respond to.

Give it some time. Customer loyalty doesn’t happen overnight. It usually takes the purchase of a couple of your products, or one memorable purchase and enough time to appreciate its (and your company’s) value.

Cultivate your client list. Your existing customers are your easiest and least expensive source of new business, so protect them, cultivate them, and never let them go. From seeking their help in making your products better, to tapping them when you have new offerings available, your existing clients are an invaluable tool for growing your business and ensuring that you are on the right track when it comes to building customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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