Lately I’ve had quite a few people contacting me asking me how I go about creating loyalty from my clients and blog readers, resulting in repeat clientele and referrals. While I’m aware this happens (and I realize it has been happening more frequently in the past year), I honestly had not put much thought into exactly what I was doing to foster this kind of loyalty from people before being asked. What I did know was that (in terms of my clients) I was treating them how I would want to be treated by a company if I were investing thousands of dollars into their services. And I was being 100% honest & genuine in person, in emails, and on this blog – showing them my true self… even the vulnerable, difficult, and sometimes embarrassing parts of me I’d rather not show… which I think is a big part of where that loyalty comes from.
And while I could go deeper into attempting to analyze how it is I’ve created these relationships with my clients and readers – instead, I’m going to do what I often do in my day to day life – and look outwards at businesses that I love, and go out of my way to frequent & refer friends to, to learn some lessons about loyalty.
Every time I frequent a business I find myself thinking about our interaction – what I found positive about it, and what I didn’t like about it (if anything). I think about how I may have handled a situation differently and oftentimes find myself thinking – If this happened in my business, how would this situation make my clients feel?
Because we are a service-based business, I usually focus my attention on small service-based businesses we deal with – like our eyeglass store, doctor, dentist, and landlord. (I also note what I like and don’t like about other businesses – like the grocery store, Walgreens, J.Crew, etc… which can be helpful too, but I find it is more useful to take note of other small service-based businesses since they are the most similar to how we run our business.)
Here are some things I’ve noticed that made me LOVE the businesses we frequent more and more, and fostered loyalty from James and I…
1. First and foremost – their services are of superior quality and we feel we get more than our money’s worth in the value they create for us. This always needs to be first. A business could treat us like GOLD – but if the products and services they deliver to us are not a high enough quality to justify their pricing, and if we are not happy with the final product – we will not come back, and we will certainly not refer anyone to them. Bottom line. Always make sure that before anything else – you have mastered your craft – whatever it may be.
2. They make us feel like more than just a number or business interaction. (i.e. Make it personal.) These people remember our names and our dog’s name… they remember what we do for a living… they ask us questions and listen to our answers. My doctor actually sat down and gave me advice and chatted about life well after our appointment window was over. It may not have seemed like a lot – but it meant the world to me to feel she cared enough to have a real conversation and listened to me. Our new eyeglass place (after only one prior interaction) remembered James’ name when he dropped by the next time, and thanked him profusely for coming in again. Show you care for your clients as PEOPLE, and they will do the same in return.
3. They go out of the way to make sure we know our loyalty to them is appreciated. I think we’re so used to feeling like numbers during business transactions that we forget that businesses (especially small businesses) really appreciate our patronage, so it does make a big difference when a business reminds you how much you mean to them by simply saying Thank You. I think it is a lot like any relationship. For example – if you do something for someone and they don’t notice or appreciate it, how likely are you to do it again? I can promise you though – you will certainly be MORE likely to do it again if they expressed gratitude for it. I think the same works for business. If a business thanks me for my loyalty – it reminds me how much I mean to them and makes me want to continue to support them! For example, I went to our dentist for about a year before James started going to the same guy. After telling James how personable he was, how (mostly) painless the process was, and how prompt they were with their appointments – I convinced him to go. No less than a week after James’ appointment I received a handwritten letter in the mail from my dentist thanking me for the referral and telling me how nice it was to meet James. I honestly was blown away. We also received a handwritten holiday card in the mail from our eyeglass place – wishing us a happy holiday season and thanking us for our business. These things really do make a big impact, even if it is just a small note in the mail!
4. They surprise us (good surprises) along the way. There is really something to be said for going above and beyond what is expected. I think it makes a huge difference in separating some businesses from others. As you saw in the examples above – handwritten notes make a big impact in a world of email, Facebook, and Twitter. A similarly awesome surprise is an in-person connection/conversation. Our landlord drops by each December around Christmas time to make a personal visit to see how we are, if we have any problems with our place, and gives us a $50 gift certificate to a different local neighborhood restaurant he loves. How often do things like this happen with businesses? Rarely in my experience – I’ll tell you that. So when they do happen – they make a BIG impression.
5. They share personal stories with us. By sharing part of themselves with us it makes us feel that they trust us with these stories and that they want us to know them better. By showing they trust us, it in turn makes us trust them more. I also find myself cheering for them as people and as businesses. If I hear how they started out, how hard they worked to get where they are, and hear about their children, spouse, or pets… I feel connected to them on a much deeper level than just a business interaction and I find myself wanting to send them clients so that their hard earned success continues.
6. They are positive, and make us feel good about ourselves & about life in general. Positivity breeds more positivity. Even when I had to go in for a stupid cavity I somehow left my dentist’s office feeling like I just had a great day! How does that happen?! Smiles, laughs, and positive experiences are not things that are quickly forgotten. If someone makes me feel good about myself and about life – I’m going to want to continue to work with them in the future – and I’m going to want to spread the love by telling my family and friends about them too!
These are just a few of the things I’ve noticed over the course of the last couple years while dealing with businesses, mostly because I feel like I’ve become hyper-aware of it since we started our own business! haha. Each interaction I have with someone I tuck away in my brain to remember how I felt as a consumer, and I do my best to only perpetuate the positive experiences in our business if we can at all help it. Hopefully this helps to make you guys more aware of the experience you’re giving your clients (and people in your life in general), and opens your eyes to the learning experiences around you each day.
. . . . . .
(**I’ll be talking much more in depth during my Advanced Workshop this spring about what exactly we do for our clients to enhance their experience with CTP!)