Free versus Free... what's the difference?

How many times have you created or participated in promotions that offered a free add on to an existing product or service,  or a “buy one get one" either free or at a reduced price.  Probably many times.  But when was the last time you gave or received something unprompted just to say thank you for your support or loyalty?  It’s not something that you need to do all the time, but it’s good to do so occasionally to show you care.

Just like in a personal relationship, it’s the little things we remember. It’s getting flowers for no reason or receiving a text out of the blue that says, “thinking of you”. It’s the unexpected gestures that endear us to people and create loyalty.

Loyal customers are your ultimate profit centre. You need to view customer service and building a loyal customer base as an investment in your business. An investment that won't spoil, nor go out of style; it takes up no shelf space and there is no expiry date.

Give customers something unexpected that costs nothing. A free refill of pop, an extra pickle, a free reusable shopping bag, a free sample of their favorite product even offering to carry their purchases to their car. Do something that they don’t expect and they will remember that gesture forever. Relationships are crucial to customers. There is a certain expectation and level of trust to be developed and maintained in order to keep loyal customers “loyal”.  Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. Customers take promises very seriously and they do remember. Trust is paramount to building a loyal customer base. No matter how many customers walk through your door, you won't retain them if they can’t trust that you will deliver on what you offer.

Loyal customers are worth their weight in gold as they typically outspend regular customers 10 to 1. These “brand” fans are your best marketing tools. They spread the word about your business because you have been able to connect with them. If these fans outspend others 10 to 1 then even a small increase in your customer loyalty could increase your bottom line dramatically.

You need to get inside your customer’s heads and know what they are thinking. It is your responsibility to anticipate their needs and deliver if you want to keep them feeling valued.  But even with your best efforts sometimes you will have a customer who is dissatisfied. Try to resolve their complaint immediately. Listen to them, acknowledge them and then do your best to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The average customer with an unresolved complaint will tell 9 to 10 people, but if you can fix the problem and make them feel that you care, they will likely become an even stronger ambassador for your brand.

Offering a customer something free doesn’t have to be about a traditional giveaway. It can be a simple gesture of goodwill; remembering their name, offering to help them unprompted,  or just saying thank you personally for giving you their business.  Giving customers something unexpected that costs nothing can really mean something to you and building your brand.