Last week we introduced you to a small business lead generation funnel, and the four sales stages within this funnel.

Today we are going to dig a little deeper into the final stage of the funnel, focusing on how to not only convert leads into customers but, more importantly, on how to gain loyal customers after you have made the initial sale.

Why are loyal customers so important?

First, and most important, a loyal, ongoing customer base is how your small business makes money! And money is, after all, the lifeline of your business, correct?

Once you have put in all of the hard work to close the deal and sell your customers on your product or services, why would you let them slip away? It’s certainly more profitable to keep an existing customer than to divvy out resources to find new customers.

This is your chance to make money from these individual’s business without going through the time-consuming and costly sales funnel process all over again.

Not sure if you buy it? Studies show that it is 10 times more costly to pursue a sale to a new customer instead of focusing on a sale to an existing, or “loyal,” customer.

Additionally, word-of-mouth referrals from a trusted friend or family member are an important factor in how customers choose which business they will use. This is why many small-town businesses thrive without marketing. It’s because their customer retention and service is excellent. Their customers are their marketers!

So keeping your current customers satisfied and engaged in your small business can lead to even more customers in the long run if your current customers recommend your business to those within their community. Your current customers can also be a great source of online reviews, another valuable source of gaining new leads.

So, yes, gaining and maintaining a loyal customer base of repeat customers is an important and critical part of your small business sales funnel.

However, aside from providing exceptional products and services, how can you ensure you customers return to your brand time and time again and earn the status of “loyal?”

This all comes down to email marketing through a mix of promotional and educational content to keep your customers engaged with and interested in your brand.

A look at the numbers

You may think email marketing is a wasted effort. In fact, email marketing gets a bad rap because companies use this personal delivery channel as a way to spam. Companies buy email “lists” and send out junk email in hopes that one of them will return some sort of positive ROI.

After all, Gmail now has a separate “Promotions” tab, and many marketing emails from well-meaning businesses like yours end up in the customer’s Spam folders.

But despite appearances, email marketing is actually alive, thriving, and becoming one of the best tools to increase customer loyalty! Still not sure if email marketing is all we say it is? Consider the below statistics.

Now that we have your attention, read on for some basic email marketing approaches to keep your customers coming back to your small business year after year.

Email marketing is effective because people hold their inbox as a very personal space. It’s not like Twitter or Facebook where they get bombarded with hundreds of ads a day, a person’s inbox is a collection of their interests. Personal contacts, news subscriptions, work communication, etc.

The inbox, when people are indeed interested, is a very powerful tool. Gaining loyal customers through email marketing takes forethought and is most certainly possible.

Gaining loyal customers through promotional content

The promotional aspect of email marketing is one key component of gaining a loyal customer base.

Approaches and methods will vary depending on your industry and company services, but a few familiar techniques include:

  • Promotional emails with coupons
  • Exclusive “member-only” offers
  • Website specials

Discounts and promotions can be powerful tools for customer retention. In fact, when surveyed, 52% of dissatisfied customers stated that they would come back to the business in question if a coupon or discount was offered. If dissatisfied customers are so easily swayed by promotional marketing, imagine how useful these tools can be for your satisfied customers!

Maintaining customers through educational content

We have touched on this topic several times in the past but have mostly focused on providing educational content by way of your company blog.

Aside from your company blog, there are several easy ways to provide your customers with useful and educational content through email marketing.

This can include a weekly newsletter with company updates and links to new blog posts, an invitation to a webinar from an expert in your industry, an educational email series on a relevant topic or a link to a free e-book.

So now that you know the importance of maintaining loyal customers, it is time to go out and start some email marketing campaigns of your own, combining promotional and educational elements to delight your customers!

What campaigns have you used in the past that have worked for your small business? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you providing the right content for your current, and potential, customers? Run your website through our small business checklist and see where you stand.