Building a loyal customer base is one of the most important aspects of operating a small business. Customers are essential to your success, and when you have a loyal buyer base, you benefit from a group of individuals who choose to purchase your products or services every time they need what it is you’re offering.
In addition, loyal customers can be a powerful referral engine for your business, which is one of the most effective—and free—forms of advertising that a company can have. In fact, recommendations from personal acquaintances are one of the most trusted forms of advertising in the world.* Loyal customers are more apt to tell their friends, relatives, or coworkers about what your business provides, and they’re more likely to share testimonials or post reviews about your business on social sites like Yelp. (On the flipside, if you aren’t receiving much referral business, you might want to survey your customers to see if your customer service or product offering needs some fine-tuning.)
So how can you build—and maintain—a loyal customer base? One of the easiest ways is to send out an email newsletter on a regular basis. Email marketing is a quick, inexpensive, and efficient way to connect and communicate with your customers, and it can help to increase customer satisfaction and boost sales—all at a fraction of the cost of an advertising insert or a direct mail letter. An effective email newsletter can:
- Generate leads
- Drive customers to your business or website
- Motivate existing customers to make additional purchases
- Target your customers based on their shopping preferences
Plus, when you include forward-to-a-friend or share-with-your-network links in your email newsletters, you’re providing your customers with another referral mechanism for your business.
After you distribute an issue of your newsletter, you can use the analytical tools that come with your email marketing program to pinpoint the parts of the issue that readers are paying the most attention to as well as track the number of readers who share links and click through to your website. By taking the time to evaluate the results, you can better understand your customers’ behavior, and you can make any necessary changes to the content and format of your newsletter to enhance its effectiveness.
Another advantage of email newsletters is that they can help your small business build credibility and good will in the marketplace. How can you accomplish that? Here are some of the ways:
- Offer special discounts to your existing customers
- Make heard-first-here announcements about new products or services
- Include write-ups about your award-winning products or specialized services
- Share tips and tricks that help customers get the most out of your business offerings
And to strengthen your personal connection with customers, you can send special birthday or anniversary e-letters to those who have opted to share such information with your business. That personal touch goes a long way in making people feel that you care about them.
The fact is: people like doing business with people they know and like. Communicating regularly with your customers is one of the first steps in gaining that honor. Because you’re the best proponent for your business, when you personally and regularly connect with your customer base through an email newsletter, you have the opportunity to generate positive brand recognition and develop loyal patrons who are sure to refer you the next time they know someone who needs your products or services.
*Source: Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey, April 2009.
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