Getting customers is hard. Keeping them should be easier. But with fierce competitors building communities and aggressively marketing on price, you have to put real energy and effort into maintaining a consistent customer base.  Just providing a great product or service is rarely enough to keep them coming back for more.

In the consumer world, daily deal sites have eaten away at loyalty, but now the tech world is making an effort to bring loyalty marketing back in vogue. As easy as downloading an app, you can now shift hard-earned time and marketing dollars to pinpoint and secure tried-and-true loyalists. It seems loyalty is now trendy. Ido Gaver, CEO of loyalty-marketing platform LoyalBlocks, announced last week that his company has signed up over 40,000 new merchants in the last four months with their unique loyalty solution for small businesses and national franchises.  He was able to share his insights into making customers come back again and again.

1.  Get hyper-personal. 

Gaver says this is a remarkably simple, but underused, strategy for building loyalty. Customers want to feel that you care about them. Create a system that recognizes when return customers enter the building and sends a message that makes them feel appreciated. You can push a message to their mobile device: "Hi Johnny, welcome back to Stuart & Ham! Congrats on your 10th visit--How about a free glass of wine to go with your meal?" If you can tie the special offer directly to their previous purchases and tastes, even better.

2. Let your best customers skip the line. 

Everyone hates to wait. If they truly desire your product or service, people will stand in line for it, but don't punish your loyalists by leaving them out in the cold or heat.  Gaver suggests that you recognize your most faithful patrons by giving them perks like a separate line, advance purchase capability, or immediate seating. Find a way to entertain them while they wait. Show that you value their time and they will respond with gratitude and fidelity.

3. Meet the chef.

Have you ever been at a restaurant and had the chef come out to your table after the meal? Wasn't it fun to shake the hand that stirred the soup? How fun is it to do a warehouse tour or visit a manufacturing plant? Gaver suggests giving customers a chance to meet the makers of your products and services whatever your business. Let them see the genesis of your product behind the scenes. Exclusive meet-and-greets with company executives, tours, and other interactive encounters will humanize the company and connect customers to your story and service.

4. Appoint true ambassadors.

Gaver advocates customer referral programs allowing current customers to invite friends to the loyalty club. Social media can be helpful for this but Facebook likes are not the key result. Make your loyalists real ambassadors by giving them power. Let them send discounts and invites for unique experiences. People love to treat their friends, especially if there's no cost to themselves. Offer your best customers an extra benefit they can share when they bring the gang along. They'll appreciate their increased status and that you made them look good by giving real value to their friends.

5. Get all tiery-eyed.

Gaver says, loyalty isn't simply a matter of on or off. Some customers are loyal because they grab a coffee every day; others sit down for a full meal once a week. To reward them properly, businesses should develop tiered loyalty programs that provide rewards based upon levels of engagement. Instead of using a one size fits all system create packages that fit the style of your customers.

6. Let the tools do their job.

Sure, every single social network on earth would love it if every interaction on earth took place on its platform, but that's not how people behave. Consumers want a normal relationship uninterrupted by the requirements of a third party. Gaver believes, the more immediate and seamless the connection between business and customer, the better. Make tools like social media and LoyalBlocks facilitators of the relationship rather than the main attraction. Get the message across and then focus on delivering a great experience with your product or service. Customers who spend more time playing your online game versus using your offering won't support a long-term growth strategy.

7. Let Nature take its course.

As soon as mobile technology got advanced enough to become a crucial marketing tool, people started randomly using it trying out to figure its best applications. For many restaurants or retail stores, Gaver thinks just using a dedicated iPad or touch screen located somewhere in the store can be a terrible idea. The best way to integrate a loyalty program as part of the shopping experience is if the customer is doing absolutely nothing additional. Use the tech to support a better process behind the scenes so the customer has a better human experience.
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