There is a lot of competition in every market, and you’ve got to do what you can do to stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

One area where business owners surprisingly fall down on the job is in developing customer loyalty.

Working with a customer should never be viewed as a one-transaction experience, but a chance to build a long-term relationship.  That requires you to treat your customers like individuals.

No matter how large my business grows over time, my goal is to convey to each client how special she is to me, because she is. It’s never about numbers, but about building relationships, trust and understanding with every woman who seeks my help.

I believe that by making a personal investment in each client, they will be more inclined to recommend me to the special people in their lives.

I wanted to hear from others on this subject, and learn what they are doing to build customer loyalty in their niches, so last week I asked -

In a tough economy, when customers don’t easily part with their hard-earned money, entrepreneurs must go that extra mile to keep their customers happy.  What is your best strategy to build customer loyalty in your business?

We received 37 responses that are as creative and unique as their authors to inspire you, to achieve outstanding customer engagement in your business. Tips range from rolling out the red carpet to building connections through cartoons. But I think the common thread was providing customers with a personalized touch.  See what tips might work best in your market from the suggestions provided below.

My sincere thanks to all our respondents this week! Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

If you would like to contribute to this week’s question, be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get involved.  We’d love to have you share your expertise!

Enjoy!

1. Give And Ye Shall Receive

Don’t be afraid to give away some of your expertise or product to help clients along the way – this will build loyalty and clients will acknowledge the value-added service. Some free advice or assistance with a project allows you to share what you do or sell, provides free customer service, and creates a solid “go-to” relationship. This value will translate into return business and referrals from those happy customers — the only expenditure is some of your time, talent and/or a little inventory

Thanks to Caryn Starr-Gates of STARRGATES BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS

2. Give Them What They Can Afford

Working with clients 1:1 gets them better results more quickly. But some clients are leery in spending the money they were spending just a short time ago. There lies an opportunity to expand. Create an audio, ebook or book that deals with the most common problem your clients experience. Consider creating a group process at a lower fee that keeps your clients moving forward. When they trust that things are getting better, you’ll be there to reap the rewards.

Thanks to Maria Marsala of Elevating Your Business

3. Offer A Price You Said You Would Never Do

In my business, the way you grow is by increasing your service price. The more esteemed you become, the more you charge. I am considered quite pricey in my field. I now offer a way for others to participate at 1/3 the price, by offering a way for my customers to take over some of the skills that it takes for me to run my business like marketing, organizing and the delivering the product itself. It has worked out fairly well and has been a major contributor to my business income.

Thanks to Beverly Dombroski of BeverlyD Luxe Organic Hair

4. Offer A FREE Trial To Show Confidence In Your Services!

At Shopping4info.com, we recently offered a free 1 week trial of our concierge services to all new members who registered. We were certain they would be satisfied with our services and recommend us to others and we’re already seeing results!

Thanks to Monette Williams of Shopping4info

5. An Army Of Brand Loyalists

I’m the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper Group. It may sound simple, but our best strategy for building brand loyalists is by making our customers feel special – here are a few ways we do that:

PROMOTING OUR CUSTOMERS: We understand that a lot of customers don’t have the time or marketing budget to invest in PR – but we do and we’ve developed some great media relationships. We reach out to our customer pool on a regular basis and learn something about their businesses – then when we’re having media conversations, we’re able to offer a wealth of non-self serving resources, which the media really appreciates. Promoting your customers this way builds tremendous brand loyalty because people see that you’re actively helping their business grow.

SAYING THANK YOU: People don’t say thank you enough. So every once in a while, we send hand written notes to some of our customers thanking them for being a loyal customer – and also include a Starbucks gift card for a cup of coffee on us. It’s such a great feeling to get a personalized note, especially from someone you do business with!

PICKING UP THE PHONE: If someone tweets about our company (@ghgroup) we immediately want to get on the phone with them. We want them to know we’re listening and we’re there to help – or just listen to why they love us! Taking conversations offline makes things more human and you can build stronger personal connections.

Thanks to Stephanie Bullis of Grasshopper Group.

6. Leading The Charge

As a business consultant, my clients depend on me to provide REAL results. I’m charging ahead, driving them to success in many dynamic ways:

They know I work round the clock and that I appreciate them. Best of all is that I do it while making them BIG $$$$!

Thanks to Lauri Flaquer of Saltar Solutions.

For the rest of the tips, click here.