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Although returning customers may account for only 20 percent of the people your company serves, Forbes reports that this 20 percent drives as much as 80 percent of your revenue. Statistics like that are hard to ignore, so here are ten steps you can follow to maximize audience loyalty online and increase brand loyalty overall.

1. Discover your brand message.

Give your customers a reason to be loyal by defining a clear, consistent brand message that sets your company apart from its competitors. This message should explain what your brand stands for, why it matters and how it can deliver superior value to consumers. Once you have developed this message, keep it in mind every time you create a marketing campaign, launch a new product or interact with your audience.

2. Know your audience.

Every brand has a target audience made up of the people who are most likely to resonate with the company’s message and become loyal customers. Find out as much as you can about your “typical” customer and speak directly to that person each time you develop content for the brand.

3. Show your personality.

One of the best ways to connect with consumers on a deeper level and build lasting relationships is to emphasize the “human” side of your brand. Whether you’re posting on social media or creating website content, make sure that everything coming from your company is expressive, personable and consistent with your brand’s established values.

4. Don’t come on too strong.

Consumers want to connect with brands on their own terms. Offer plenty of opportunities for interaction, including newsletters, Facebook Fan Pages and loyalty programs, but allow consumers to opt in to each one. In addition, to prevent consumers from feeling “trapped,” provide them with clear instructions for opting out of any program or mailing list they join.

5. Reward customers for their loyalty.

American Express’ OPEN Forum recommends giving customers an incentive to be loyal to your brand by offering rewards for their dedication. For example, you may offer coupon codes or free gifts to consumers who connect with you via social media or sign up for your mailing list. You can also increase audience loyalty by offering rewards to consumers who share links to your website or social media profiles with their friends.

6. Respect your customers’ time.

Show your customers that you know their time is just as valuable as yours. When customers send you a message, either publicly or privately, respond as quickly as possible. Likewise, avoid spamming your audience with too many emails or posts. Although you should reach out to consumers on a regular basis, you don’t want to overwhelm or annoy them.

7. Deliver something of value.

Too many brands make the mistake of flooding their audience with overt advertisements and promotional material on a daily basis. Although this content is sometimes welcome, too much of it can drive consumers away. To avoid this trap, make sure that all of the content you post or email to consumers provides them with something of value. Whether it be entertainment, information, or a discount, every interaction should be meaningful.

8. Customize communications.

Customers can spot generic messages from a mile away. When reaching out to an individual consumer, aim for a personalized message tailored to the consumers’ interests, preferences and history with your brand. For example, instead of sending a generalized message to everyone currently subscribing to your email list, write several versions of the message to target different groups of consumers on the list.

9. Mend fences quickly.

If one of your customers has a problem with your products, services or actions, address the problem as soon as possible to repair the relationship and minimize negative publicity. If the customer has already gone public with the issue, respond to him or her publicly as well. Regardless of the nature of the dispute, always be courteous and respectful.

10. Pay attention to feedback.

Actively solicit feedback from consumers about every aspect of the customer experience, from connecting with the brand via social media to making purchases from the company’s retail website. Use the information you collect to make improvements as needed. For example, if consumers complain about your website’s loading times, consider looking for a new web hosting provider. Likewise, if consumers indicate poor response times to social media communications, make an effort to respond more quickly in the future.
Loyal customers are profitable customers. By following these 10 steps, you can improve the quality of your interactions with consumers, establish lasting relationships and build a loyal audience that will not only return to your brand for content, but also to make future purchases.

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