Long-Term Customer Loyalty Starts (or Ends) With Your Earliest Interactions

There is an emerging truth in the business world: Companies that overlook onboarding will struggle to hold on to customers. The idea has grown and spread like a juicy rumor, and companies can no longer avoid it.

Companies in all industries have a priority problem, observes Gayle Teskey, CEO and founder of Membership Corporation of America and contributor to Entrepreneur. They devote countless hours and investments to acquisition strategies, with little left to spend on delivering an experience to customers after they’ve signed up. Companies assume that their marketing campaigns are enough and that customers know about their product because it’s so great. Conversely, customers are more likely to forget about your product almost as soon as they’ve signed up.

To stay in your customers’ lives, you have to go beyond acquisition and take them by the hand into your product, or else you’ll lose them quickly. Teskey shares five tips to help you prioritize onboarding optimization so you can nurture your customers, keep them coming back and eventually raise them to be loyal brand ambassadors:

1. Welcome consumers into your product like it’s your home

If friends knock on your door, you don’t say, “Come in,” and then leave them to it. You invite them in, hang up their coats and start brewing some tea. An authentic, friendly welcome is just as important with customers. Use the numerous communication tools at your disposal to greet customers who have recently joined.

Make sure one of your first outreach messages encourages consumers to connect with you on social media platforms. Let them know they are among like-minded friends in their new community.

2. Learn about what makes your audience happy

You’re not a mind reader. So how can you tell whether your customers are happy if you don’t ask them? Optimize onboarding by plotting surveys into your workflow. Keep surveys short and sweet, but craft them to reveal the following: How does a customer’s relationship with you change over time? How do the customer’s values shift? How can you use that knowledge to guide a new customer toward happiness faster?

3. Curb your preaching

You love your product, and you know all of its features and benefits inside and out, so it’s natural to want to impart this wisdom on new customers. But often, this good intention comes across as preaching.

Customers prefer to discover on their own. So instead of trying to teach them a lesson, start affirming their choices. For example, you can affirm a customer’s choice through messaging that shows others who found your product useful or by highlighting happenings within the brand community that align with the consumer’s values. With some focused effort, the power of curated influence can secure long-term customers.

4. Find your communication cadence

Great messages turn sour if they’re delivered too often or incorrectly. Customers respond to the frequency of communication almost as much as they respond to the content itself. Avoid sending multiple or repetitive messages before the first has been fully absorbed. Even if your messages steer clear of the spam folder, your customers could still categorize them as nuisance mail.

5. Make sure consumers know you’re listening

As an entrepreneur or company leader, onboarding is not about you. Too many companies alienate customers by crafting their onboarding process without considering how customers feel about it. Onboarding is your chance to take a breath, focus on one benefit or service at a time and gently teach your customers how to maximize the value of your product. It should be patient and fun, and it should transform according to customers’ experiences.

You’ve spent years growing your product, crafting all of its interconnecting features and designing the way it fits into customers’ lives. Why throw all of that away by ignoring customers once they step through the door? Instead, take them by the hand, provide a warm welcome and show them why your products are so great.

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