Today on my Blog Talk Radio Show, “Words That Work,” I’ll be speaking about retention and loyalty marketing strategies. In the world of direct marketing, there are three phases of direct marketing: acquisition, retention and loyalty building. I like to apply these concepts to the world of content marketing.

Most businesses spend a tremendous amount of time, money and attention to the acquisition phase of the business cycle. They emphasize bringing new customers and new business into the firm, and spend princely sums on wooing new customers in the door. The problem with that model is that eventually you do run out of new customers. Worse still, it’s difficult to bring in new customers if you haven’t put any emphasis on retention or loyalty-building strategies.

Your best marketing is conducted not by some fancy advertising or marketing agency, but by satisfied customers. Consider the following statistics, all gleaned from 7 Surprising Facts About Customer Referrals:


  • 5% of new business comes from referrals – New York Times
  • 92% of respondents trusted referrals from people they knew – Nielsen
  • People are 4 times more likely to buy when referred by a friend – Nielsen

Given these statistics, focusing on retention (keeping a customer for the long term) and loyalty (keeping long-time customers happy and eager to be your “brand advocates”) makes good sense.

Encouraging Happy, Loyal Customers and Brand Advocates

Over the course of my 20+ year career as a marketing executive, I’ve found that the following 10 ideas and concepts will help any business grow their base of happy, loyal customers, customers who are eager to become your brand advocates. See if you can implement any of the following ideas:

  1. Reward existing customers first before offering deals to new customers: Satellite TV and cell phone companies are notoriously BAD at doing this. They offer great discounts to new customers but treat their existing customers badly, raising rates, hiking fees, and charging for every little thing. Instead of giving great discounts to your new customers, reward your longest and most loyal customers with surprise savings. Waive fees for them. Give them coupons, discounts, special gifts not available to your new customers. Let them know you value their loyalty.
  2. Surprise and delight your long-time customers: This is a corollary to item one, above. Surprise and delight your long-time customers. Waive a monthly service charge. Give them one thing free.
  3. Say thank you:  This may sound corny, but in an age of fast-paced digital everything, an old fashioned, hand-written thank you note may really surprise and delight existing customers. This is especially good for service-based businesses. Let customers know you DO appreciate them.
  4. Ask for their opinions and ideas: Engage your long-time clients in customer panels, surveys and discussions. Call them and ask them what you can be doing better. They will be flattered and honored that you are asking for their opinion!
  5. Change only what’s broken; don’t change what you are doing right. You’re obviously doing something right if you have customers loyal to your company for many months or years. Don’t noodle around with what’s working. You can add product or service extensions, but avoid the “new Coke” trap and don’t mess with what’s working. People DO like classic things and don’t always crave the new!
  6. If you do add something new, offer it to your long-time clients first: If you do add a product or service, let the old timers know first. Make them feel like they are part of an inner circle of advocates by releasing new product information to them first.
  7. Go the extra mile: Set up a special hotline for your long-time clients. If they have a problem, prioritize your customer service by loyalty, giving special attention to customers who have been loyal to your company for a long time.
  8. Send a token gift: A small gift to say thank you may be appreciated by your customers.
  9. Share information freely with them: Add rich content to your website that continually strives to help your customers solve problems, learn new things, or interact with your brand. Make the content free. In the long run, you will reap new sales from existing customers that will more than pay off your investment in long-form, rich content.
  10. Integrity builds loyalty and trust: When all is said and done, it is professional integrity that builds loyalty and trust for your brand. All the free gifts in the world won’t make up for a company that misses appointments or deadlines, sells products that break, or doesn’t live up to its brand promise. Make your word and keep your word to build long-term loyalty.


This post was written by Jeanne Grunert, president of Seven Oaks Consulting and author of Pricing Your Services: 21 Tips for More Profit. Please feel free to share a link to this content via your favorite social media outlet. Thank you.