When it comes to customer loyalty, there is a guiding principle that is worth keeping in mind no matter what you do to try and keep customers returning to your business. In short, customers care when you care. It's a simple two-way process; if you show your customer that you care, and that you're loyal to them, they're more likely to do the same.

If you keep this in the forefront of your mind when considering the following suggested actions for boosting customer loyalty, you're more likely to see results.

Give back

Building on the principle of showing your customers you care, one successful way of improving loyalty is by being generous with a returning customer. This can be in the form of a loyalty scheme, personalised special offers, or free gifts, but the more personal you make it the more important and valued your customer is going to feel. There are lots of apps now that assist you in building loyalty schemes or initiatives by tracking customer data or automating promotions (like flok or stamp me) so don't assume that this would be a lot of work or additional effort.

Stay in touch

A customer will struggle to stay loyal if you they forget you exist. This doesn't mean you want to be getting in touch with them via email, phone and text message all day, every day, but rather you should make some effort to create an open line of communication with your customer. Newsletters sent by email are very effective at this because they also capture the customers who actively want to hear your news, i.e. they're already one step close to being returning business. The most important thing to remember about newsletters is that unless they're interesting for your customers or offer them some incentive to keep receiving the newsletter, people will unsubscribe and not stay in touch. Again, good ways to make a newsletter worth reading for your customers is by writing about special offers or exclusive discounts only available to newsletter subscribers, or perhaps you can send personalised greetings cards at relevant times of the year.

Get social

Another way to both remind customers you exist and show them you care, is by being active, and more importantly, INTERACTIVE on social media. In other words, don't use social media as a one-way sales platform; use it more like an open conversation with your customers. Ask questions, reply to comments, and be personable. Show the human side of your business and people will relate to that. Again, focus on sharing information that is actually useful or relevant, rather than empty fillers or pushy sales posts that will put people off your company.

Be active offline

There's a lot of focus on online networking these days, but for small businesses some of the best opportunities to cement customer loyalty come in the "real world". Whether it's through in-store promotions, sponsoring a local sports team or being generally active and present in the local community, when your company, your staff and you are visibly doing good things, this will be remembered by your customers.

Great ways to stay active in your local area include giving your employees paid days off to volunteer, inviting other local businesses to showcase their products to your staff at work (like the yoga classes and wellness talks we recommend in this post about employee wellness) or maybe even a football match with one of your competitors - that might get some attention!

Collaborate

Building on being active in the community, you should see other local businesses and professionals as potential collaborators that you can work with to create special offers or deals that will keep your customers loyal. Even if you aren't in a position to enter into deals with other companies, just be doing what you can to support and promote other local businesses - both on- and offline - and you may find that they will return the favour. While this isn't directly showing a customer that you care specifically about them, it's still showing them that you care in general, which can be just as effective at keeping them loyal to you.