All of the world’s biggest brands – think Coca-Cola, Cadbury’s and Apple – have one big thing in common: trust. Their products are bought by millions of people every day, simply because they’ve developed special relationships with their audiences. While attracting new custom will always be important, it’s making sure these individuals remain loyal to your brand that really makes a difference in the long term.

What’s the big deal with brand loyalty?

The idea that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one is unlikely to be true. After all, it’s a pretty difficult thing to measure accurately. That said, these figures are widely accepted to be true – or near enough.

The more your customers come back to you, the more money you’re likely to make – that part is simple. More than this, though, if you’re constantly bringing in new customers but losing the same number by not looking past attention-grabbing introductory deals, your audience will, at best, remain the same size.

Building relationships with your audience is also the best way to increase market share – and this should be a goal for any company. The more loyalty customers have to your brand, the less they’re likely they are to buy from your competitors; you’re winning on two levels.

It’s easy to see why loyalty is so important, then, but how do you go about building it?

Is brand success all about relationships?

It wasn’t long ago that most brands saw outbound marketing as the only real way to sell; getting your products out there and in front of potential customers, regardless of how likely they are to be interested, was the done thing. Now, most markets are hugely saturated and consumers have more choice than ever before, so it’s important to build valuable and lasting relationships – something that takes time.

The digital revolution has helped to build many bridges between businesses and their customers; social media, for example, has put everyone back onto the same level by making certain types of communication much easier. It’s important not to forget, however, that providing a personal service is still crucial in this age of distant and often faceless messages.

How can you use data to your advantage?

The key lies in getting to know your audience well enough to ensure your marketing efforts – and the products/services you provide – are always relevant and well-received. This is where insight comes in. Valuable information comes from everywhere these days, which means that analytics tools are invaluable. Use these, along with a company website, to your advantage.

Once your knowledge of your target market begins to grow, you’ll be in a better position to reach out to customers on a more personal level – something that most will appreciate. Certain marketing techniques work better than others in this regard, though. SMS, for example, gives you the chance to reach individual customers – or just small groups – directly. You can also be pretty sure that your correspondence will be received and opened quickly. The same can’t be said for social media or traditional printed advertising.

How to reward customer loyalty

Once a consumer becomes interested or even passionate in a brand, they begin to need different things. Those which you will have initially focused on, such as raising awareness and pushing products, aren’t quite as important as they used to be. Now the focus has to be on making your audience feel valued.

According to brand expert and writer Mark Di Somma, consumers must feel like they’re being rewarded for their loyalty if they’re to remain passionate about a brand. This part really doesn’t have to be complicated either, especially when so much business is carried out online. Put simply, people love getting things for free, and it makes perfect sense to capitalise on this.

Make your regular customers feel like they’re a little more important than the averages shopper by providing access to exclusive information and products. Discount codes are hugely popular these days too, and with the right data and knowledge to hand, it’s possible to distribute them extremely effectively. If you’re about to launch a major promotional campaign, for example, it could help to warn some of your loyal customers in advance. With your audience separated into distinct groups based on things like purchasing history, age, gender etc., you’ll be able to send details of new offers to those who are most likely to use them.

Become the go-to business

The goal of developing loyalty is to ensure customers think of your business first when they’re in the market for something you can provide. Building trust does take time, but all of the little things that contribute towards it should become second nature for most companies. Then, investing the time and effort to make your existing customers feel special (whilst also attracting fresh interest) should become easier as well.