It's Valentine's Day, and if you still haven't gotten that special someone something special, you should probably rush over to your local drug store. There's still time, and there are probably 2 or 3 fairly cheesy greeting cards left to choose from. Okay, maybe you deserve a little bit more credit, you actually made your dinner reservations weeks ago, and you have a genuinely heartfelt token of your affection wrapped and ready to go. Great work Casanova, but you're still forgetting some very special people who are also deserving of your love today. "Who?" you ask? Your customers, that's who.
After all, it's really those customers of yours who are paying for that romantic dinner tonight, right? Don't they deserve some attention, too? Luckily, there's not as much pressure to show your love to customers on Valentine's Day as there is to show your significant other. That being said, you should constantly be showing customers your love throughout the entire year.
The Benefits of a Loving Customer Relationship
When a business regularly shows its customers it loves them, that business also becomes a lovable brand. And making your brand lovable has a ton of great business benefits, including:
- Customer Referrals
- Customer Evangelism
- Social Sharing
- Press-Worthy Testimonials
- Customer Retention and Loyalty
Think about a brand you love. Let's call that brand 'Company X.' Chances are, you'd tell a friend to try that brand's products/services (customer referrals), you'd talk about how much you love them when the topic arises (customer evangelism), you're happy to share interesting content that brand creates with your social networks (social sharing), you'd be pleased to have that brand feature one of your "I love Company X" rants (testimonials), and you regularly choose this brand over its competitors (customer loyalty).
So, if you'd like your current and future customers to insert your business' name into the Company X scenario above, here are 11 things you can do to start spreading the customer love.
11 Ways to Give and Get Customer Love
1. Feature Customer Successes in Case Studies and Testimonials: If your product or service is one that helps make peoples' lives better in one way or another, feature your top customers in case studies or testimonials that you can publish on your website and share in social media. Whether your products/services help them succeed in their business or allow them to improve a certain aspect of their personal lives, highlighting happy customers not only gives them an ego boost, but it also contributes to a positive brand image. While the main benefit of this tactic will be on your end, considering that customer success stories are a very powerful sales tool, your customers will also get a valuable inbound link and quite a bit of pride out of it, too. And if a case study customer is one who shares similar buyer personas with you, the promotion of their case study to your audience could open them up to potential new business.
2. Offer Exclusivity: Giving your customers exclusive access to different things can be a great way to show them you value their customer status. Give them sneak peeks into product development, invite them to beta test new product features, allow them to be the first to try out a new service, or offer discounted rates only available to paying customers. They'll feel special, and you might even benefit from some valuable user feedback on your new product features.
3. Grandfather Them: If you charge your customers on a recurring basis for your product or service and your business makes pricing changes, grandfather your loyal, existing customers in so the price they pay gets locked in at the rate they started paying when they first became customers. For example, when Verizon changed its rates and no longer offered an option to purchase unlimited data plans for smartphones, I was grandfathered in to the former unlimited data rate since I'd already been using it, whereas new customers are not. It makes me happy that I use Verizon, and it keeps me loyal to the brand. Netflix, on the other hand, failed to grandfather in its existing customers when it hiked up its pricing in July 2011, and, needless to say, the resulting sentiment among its customers was not a happy one. The number of customer subscriptions it lost was nothing to shrug its shoulders at.
4. Offer Loyalty/Rewards/Referral Programs: If it makes sense for your business, offer a loyalty or rewards program for your customers. If your business follows a recurring revenue structure, reward customers when they hit certain benchmarks such as offering a discount once they've been a customer for a certain amount of time. Or give customers a frequent buyer's card that rewards them with points when purchases are made. Once they hit a certain number of points, give them a gift card, a coupon code, or another reward. Starbucks' My Starbucks Rewards program is a great example of a business that effectively leverages this tactic, offering perks that increase in value over time like a free drink on your birthday, free Wi-Fi, free refills, etc. for loyal patrons. You could also implement a referral program that rewards customers who refer potential customers or new business to you. Many online retailers do this well by offering a discount to customers who get a certain number of their friends to register for their website.
5. Show Some Personality: It's hard to love a business. It's easier to love the people behind the business. That's why the most lovable brands are the ones that have a recognizable and lovable personality. Let your business' personality shine through in your marketing and your customer communication. Be personal, relatable, and interesting. Be fun. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your employees or how your products are made (Pinterest is great for this!). Show your customers that you care about the values, lifestyle, and interests they care about. For example, if your customer base is one that cares about the environment, make a donation on behalf of your customers to a non-profit that supports going green.
6. Provide Social Media Recognition: Social media is the perfect channel to spread the customer love. Respond to positive mentions of your brand and your products in social media, retweet customers' tweets of things they care about or successes they've had, and show appreciation for the love your customers are spreading about you. Using social media to recognize customer success, happiness, and interests is a great and easy way to show your customers you care about them.
7. Solicit Feedback: Ask your customers for feedback -- on your products/services, your marketing content, their user experience, your customer service, etc. You can do this in a number of ways: with an email, through social media updates that link to a survey, by pulling together a customer focus group, or in a blog post with an embedded survey. Asking for your customers' feedback shows them you value their input and are committed to making their experiences with your brand as positive and valuable as possible. A commitment to improvement makes you lovable.
8. Provide Stellar Customer Service/Support: Let's say the feedback you got from your customers using the last tactic reveals that your customer service/support could use some work. Well ... act on it! If your customers are complaining about your subpar customer service, improve it. Better educate your customer service teams, work to decrease wait times on your support line, and maybe hire more support reps. If you're a software company that continually onboards new customers, for example, you'll need to hire enough support reps to handle your increasing number of customers. You can also use social media as a mechanism to deliver high quality customer service (here's how). A really powerful customer service experience can go a long way.
9. Offer Guest Blogging Opportunities: If it makes sense for your business, offer guest blogging opportunities to your customers and partners. You'll benefit from some free content for your blog, and they'll benefit from the link love and exposure. Win win!
10. Refer Complementary Products: Take opportunities to refer to your customers' products/services that complement -- not compete -- with your own. For example, if you sell industrial coffee making machines for office buildings, suggest to your customers some vendors that sell coffee beans in bulk for great prices. Doing so will show your customers that you genuinely care about helping them, not just about selling coffee machines.
11. Say Thank You: This one is so simple yet so easily overlooked. Take every opportunity to thank customers for their business. They chose to give it to you over your competitors, and you should be grateful. Use marketing automation tools like those in HubSpot's software to send customers a thank you note after they've made a purchase. Or, create a dedicated campaign that uses a video to thank your customers for their loyalty.
In what other ways do you show your customers some love? Share them in the comments, or tweet them below! And join us for today's Twitter Chat at 3 PM ET at http://www.hubspot.com/inboundchat, where we'll be talking about creating customer love (hashtag #inboundchat).
Image Credit: Dan Moyle
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