The biggest challenge facing any new business is how to attract customers. As businesses grow, this challenge grows into a slightly different equation - how to attract new customers, while encouraging brand loyalty among your existing customers. Master this delicate skill, and your business will thrive beyond your wildest dreams.

Why is this critical? As an entrepreneur with a promising new business, odds are that you have put most of your marketing efforts into obtaining those critical first customers. And no doubt you've noticed how expensive conversion costs are to attract those potential customers and convert them into actual paying customers.

Repeat customers do not have this expense. They have already been converted, all you have to do is keep them interested in your company and excited about your product. They are already in the sales funnel - all you have to do is guide them that few extra feet needed to close repeated sales.

This is why it is critical that a young company explore ways to encourage customer loyalty as soon as possible. In fact, depending on your industry, you may find that anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of your bottom-line is from sales to existing customers.

Here are ten ways to build and encourage customer loyalty to your company:

1. Make your customers feel special

Keep track of important dates such as birthdays and other important dates regarding your customers and use them to create a personal relationship with customers. For instance, sending a customer a personalized card on their birthday or on the anniversary of their first purchase or other business transaction sends a clear message that you value their relationship to your company.

2. Connect with social media

Use social media to build a relationship with your customers, and remember that social media is a two-way street. The secret behind business with successful social media campaigns is to use the various social media platforms for a friendly, two-way conversation with your customers.

3. Solicit customer advice - and act on it

Customers want to give you valuable feedback. Customers need to give you valuable feedback. The question is, are you willing to listen, and act on their feedback? The only way to really know if your company is doing well, or if a product needs improvement, is to ask the people who should be buying it. Solicit customer feedback wherever possible - your website, social media, customer reply cards, e-mail - and be willing to act on it.

4. Reward customer loyalty with free upgrades

Loyal customers are the bedrock on which successful business are built. If a loyal customer orders a product, send them the accessories for free, or upgrade them to the next product tier for free. The cost to you will be a fraction of what you will get in return in the form of increased loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and increased sales.

5. Be there for your customers

The greatest product in the world is useless if customers cannot get support when they need support. Provide your customers with the best support possible - both before and after the sale - and they will reward you with loyalty.

6.Give your customers something that your competitors do not

Differentiate is the key to success in a crowded market. Give your customers something the competition is unable or unwilling to give them - such as free shipping, 24-hour support, better warranties or customer support - to gain an edge over your competition. Remember, your goal is not to provide equal value with the competition, but better value than the competition.

7. Be more convenient than the competition

Time is money for your customers, and added convenience equals time and money savings. Auto-billing, automatic orders, auto-refills and order reminders are a few services you can provide that will win you customer loyalty.

8.Make special offers to your special customers

One way to build customer loyalty is to remind your best customers how much you value your relationship with them. A great way to do this is to offer special sales, loyalty discounts or rebates to your existing customers. This sense of exclusivity encourages loyal customers to stay loyal.

9. Keep your products fresh, and keep your customers in the loop

Good products are products that steadily evolve and improve. However, part of this equation is making sure your customers know that you are striving to make your products better. Keeping customers informed of product changes makes them feel that they are part of your team.

10. Ask the magic question

The most important question you can ever ask a customer is this: 'What product or service would you like us to offer?' The answer to this one simple question is the Holy Grail of marketing. You already know which of your products your current customers are buying, but finding out what other product they would like to buy if only you offered it can turn a semi-successful company into a commercial juggernaut. Again, customers want to give you the information you need to succeed, but you need to be willing to listen - and act upon it.