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Do You Want Sticky Customers? Absolutely!

Do You Want Sticky Customers? Absolutely!

A sticky customer is the kind you probably had in your head when you first thought of starting a small or medium-sized business. From the moment you sell them your product or service, they get it. They understand why it’s important and why they should appreciate it, or maybe even love it. They

A sticky customer is the kind you probably had in your head when you first thought of starting a small or medium-sized business.

From the moment you sell them your product or service, they get it. They understand why it’s important and why they should appreciate it, or maybe even love it.

They become so good at using your product or service — or even just talking it up to their friends or on social media — you could almost imagine them working for you, where they’d be among your best employees.

When the time comes to market something new, you don’t have to compete with a thousand other distractions to get their attention. They’re so deeply engaged with your brand they look forward to hearing your news.

Not everyone in your customer base will wind up in the “sticky” category, of course. That’s okay, as long as you have a critical mass of them.

The SMBs that grow pay close attention to the level of loyalty they enjoy among their customers. They look for possible areas of frustration and inconvenience that become part of the customer experience and when they find them, they make sure they’re either minimized or eliminated. They also offer incentives to increase repeat business. Create the right loyalty programs and you can dramatically improve retention. It’s important, but customer stickiness is one level above that.

Stickiness means customers keep coming back to you despite plenty of competition from other SMBs or larger businesses. They trust you to understand their specific needs. The stickiest customers will also forgive you when the company makes the occasional (and possibly inevitable) misstep, because the relationship is strong enough to survive it.

You can’t just hope customers will become sticky, however. It takes planning and ongoing effort, and should be brought into the customer journey from the very start. There are three general areas that will apply to most SMBs:

1. Make the time to value as short as possible

Imagine buying something from a store that comes in more than a dozen pieces. You have to take them all out of the box, read a confusing set of instructions and spend more than an hour getting it set up. When you’re done, you realize it will only do the thing you want it to do if you buy this other accessory. You do so, but then you discover you didn’t do all the necessary product registration first.

Now imagine a product that comes pre-assembled, with no additional parts required. There are no instructions, because it has buttons that are clearly labelled and is set to defaults that are common to the vast majority of customers. Registering the product takes one click on your smartphone, because the form is pre-populated with all your details.

Customers become sticky when the journey from buying to doing what they want to do with a product feels near-instant. It suggests the company has put itself in your place and understands you.

2. Encourage irresistible habits to form

Take out your phone and look at the apps you use most often. Why do you check them all the time, and what makes them your favourites?

Most likely one of those apps includes your email, which brings up messages that matter to you every time you hit “refresh.” Your social media apps, meanwhile, might light up with notifications or make your phone vibrate every time you get a new comment on one of your posts, or a new connection request.

These alerts, in-app messages and other prompts didn’t get there by accident. They influence our behaviour by teaching us we’ll be rewarded with something we want — like information or affirmation — each time we come back to them. That’s stickiness.

What if you’re an SMB that’s not selling an app, though? You can offer similar nudges, even with physical products.

A yoga studio could send students home with a postcard suggesting a new meditation mantra after every class. A specialty food retailer could include an original recipe in every customer’s bag. A consultant could send an email with curated links to the most enlightening articles they’ve read following every session with a client.

Keep thinking of ways to positively reinforce the act of working with your products and services. Then make them consistent, so customers come to look forward to them.

3. Recognize customer progress

How come people get so hooked on video games? One element is surely the ability to continually move from one level to another.

When a gamer moves from “beginner” to “advanced,” for example, they often see a badge of some kind flash on screen. There might be a celebratory sound effect to mark the occasion. Your stickiest customers deserve a similar kind of recognition.

Instead of just highlighting an employee of the month, for example, maybe you could profile the customers who have gotten the most out of your products and services over the past 30 days. This could be communicated on social media, your email newsletter or any other appropriate channel.

If privacy and consent is a concern, you can cheer them on privately via automated email messages, direct messages on social or even an old-fashioned phone call. The point is to make them feel as though they’re in an elite category as a customer — because they truly are.

Sticky customers aren’t valuable simply because they’re loyal and save you from having to continually generate more revenue from new ones. They also serve as a role model of sorts.

They show the wider world that the vision you’d had for the value you wanted to provide was the right one. In that sense, sticky customers are almost like walking, talking advertisements for your business. The closer your relationship with them becomes, the closer you’ll get to achieving your business goals.

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