Here’s a brief guide to building two highly targeted mechanisms to help you earn (and fuel) customer loyalty.
What does customer loyalty mean in the digital age?
In a recent MarketingProfs article, Laura Patterson defines a loyal customer as one who:
- Stays with the brand despite competitive offers, changes in price, negative word-of-mouth, and product failures
- Increases business/engagement in some way
- Actively promotes the brand to others
That last element really grabbed my attention. Surely we always hoped loyal customers would promote our brands, but now we can facilitate and measure WOM online.
Social media platforms (esp. Twitter) are the most obvious outlets we can monitor and influence to increase WOM.
But we can also create high-value mechanisms that give customers more targeted, substantial material for consideration and promotion.
The two loyalty builders I’ve had the most success with are welcome programs and customer communities.
Welcome: Help them get with the program.
Welcome programs launch as soon as a customer enters the onboarding process, and continues throughout their full usage of your solution.
Typically we set up customized content and resource microsites, with key triggers at milestones in the onboarding and usage process. These key triggers (associated with emails/content) allow us to connect the customer with useful content and resources at the right time.
For instance, early on, we send an email that provides the customer with names, pictures and contact info for all the people you they need to access.
During the solution implementation process, a customer may receive an email that introduces them to a customer community site.
And once a customer is up and running with the solution, we use this now-trusted (or at least familiar and allowed) communication channel to introduce them to relevant products or services with up-sell/cross-sell messaging.
You could say the welcome program eases the door open ever wider until customers effectively welcome us.
Community: Inspire customers to do the talking.
In my experience, establishing customer communities is one of the best means to engage, promote and excite! Ideally, not only do customers become more engaged with the brand, but they value that connection more because a) they have a voice in it and b) it’s shared among and partly fueled by their peers.
As always in B2B, the journey from first presentation to pipeline is measured in months, not days, so it’s key to set expectations and goals properly upfront. Here are some typical objectives to set for customer communities:
Developing a customer community draws on a multitude of creative and technical resources beyond the scope of this post, but here are five strategic must-haves:
- Personalized content based on user profiles
- A rich variety of relevant content
- Continual adjustment of selected content based on passive profiling of the content your users consume
- Interactive elements like polls, content ratings and forums that allow users to collaborate with their peers while your company gains insight to your audience
- Ample opportunities to share the site (“refer a friend,” LinkedIn and Twitter icons, etc) and access it conveniently (RSS feed, mobile-optimized version)
Not surprisingly, the top three key elements revolve around generating and delivering the right content. If this resonates with you, see my quick guide to Overcoming the #1 Challenge in B2B Demand Generation Content Marketing.
And for a very interesting and methodical way to gauge customer loyalty, see Laura Patterson’s seven steps to construct your loyalty vulnerability index.
Do you have more ideas on earning and keeping B2B customer loyalty? Please share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear them.