Transactions, conversions, closing the deal. All good stuff in the grand scheme, but not what we should be focusing on when building sustainable relationships with customers. The problem is that when a transaction is the only goal, there’s little focus on keeping the customer coming back for more. Ten different people who make one-and-done transactions with your business may look the same in a spreadsheet, but one person who makes ten purchases over time is a much better indication that you’re doing something right.

Building that type of loyalty is far more valuable than focusing on transactions, and it requires frequent, meaningful engagement. I like to think of it as engagement to the “nth power,” a mix of marketing and customer service touches that builds lasting appeal.

Building loyalty starts with offering quality beyond the products or services that your business aims to sell. Customers also expect a high level of service, and this means different things to different people. Every interaction with a customer through social media, live chat, your website, or face-to-face conversation is an opportunity to build loyalty. Engagement throughout your relationship with the customer – whether you call it marketing, sales, or customer service – is the key to moving beyond transaction-based thinking. Here are a few of my tips for exponential engagement:

  • First Impressions – You don’t necessarily have control of how a customer first connects with your business, but there’s plenty you can do to form a positive first impression. Be helpful, present, and welcoming on social channels. Create memorable marketing materials that read less like a blatant sales pitch, and more like an introduction. Make sure that your employees are trained with the right values, no matter where they’ll be connecting with customers.
  • A Personal Touch – Data still plays an important role in engagement, especially if you do a lot of business online. However, if you plan to recommend products or services based on a customer’s purchasing patterns, be sure that you’re offering items that customer might actually want to purchase. Sending a broad, non-personalized list of email offers every week is unlikely to move the needle in a positive direction.
  • Checking In – Transaction-based thinking says the job is done once the money changes hands. Relationship-based thinking says you might want to check in to see whether the customer is enjoying their purchase, and find out if there’s anything you can do to help them make the most of it. This is especially true for major purchases, but it’s a great way to stay top-of-mind no matter what. If you want loyal customers, show them some loyalty from your end, too.
  • Resolving Challenges – No relationship is immune to the occasional speed bump, but even challenges are an opportunity to build loyalty as long as they’re not too frequent. If a customer has a dispute, hear them out and treat them like a human being. Finding an acceptable, amicable solution builds loyalty in the long run.
  • Social Fun – It’s not all about doing business. Social media is also a great place to connect with your customers on a personal level. Running photo contests, sharing content from customers, and getting involved in the conversation around your business helps keep customer loyalty strong. Just don’t get too caught up in trends. Being authentic is the name of the game.
  • Leave a Legacy – On the business side of social, every time you interact in public places on social sites, you leave a bit of evidence about why a customer should (or shouldn’t) be loyal to your business. If your Facebook feed is filled with friendly conversation, promptly answered questions, and quality customer service, you get a head start on building loyalty with anyone who’s paying attention.

No matter how a customer connects with your business, there will always be opportunities to build loyalty if you’re willing to take the extra step and make the effort. These tips for extra engagement are just the tip of the iceberg. If you think about your customers and your relationship with them, you can come up with many more common-sense opportunities to have dialogue. Place your priority on the customer, and look for your own creative ways to build on positive relationships over time. Engagementⁿ may rely on today’s tech, but successful businesses have been using the same basic template for generations. #RonR#NoLetUp

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