Lasting businesses are built on customer retention. But today, consumers are more connected, distracted, and informed than ever before. So the margin for error for crafting long-term customer relationships is razor-thin. Want evidence? Consider these stats from new research:

  • 65% of consumers expect companies to interact with them in real time.
  • 7 in 10 consumers say technology has made it easier than ever for them to take their business elsewhere.
  • Only 15% of companies have advanced analytics, processes, and tools to engage in a digital economy.

On the other hand, a 5% increase in customer retention can impact profits by 25-95%. Maintaining customer loyalty isn’t a cake walk. But it’s necessary if you want to create a long-term customer fan base who buys from you repeatedly, tells their friends and colleagues about you, and saves you tons of money and effort in customer acquisition.

Creating that kind of deep customer loyalty requires practice and skill, so we talked to the customer loyalty expert for details on how it’s done. On this week’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast  —  the marketing podcast from Salesforce  —  Joel and I interview Noah Fleming, President at Fleming Consulting and author of the new book The Customer Loyalty Loop: The Science Behind Creating Great Experiences and Lasting Impressions. We asked Noah to share his proven, science-backed strategies for dramatic customer loyalty increases.

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You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are four tips straight from Noah to start increasing customer loyalty now and maintain it for the long haul.

1. Make customer loyalty core to your marketing strategy.

Noah says too many marketing departments are focused on the latest and greatest customer acquisition strategies instead of truly building customer loyalty efforts into their programs. Customer loyalty shouldn’t just be a goal for the service team. Marketers need to get involved, too. He advises, “It’s about really understanding how you keep a customer and how you maximize the value of that customer.”

“We’re finally realizing that the customer experience does not start once you have a customer. In fact, the customer is experiencing long before they decide to do business with you and long after they do business with you,” he explains.

Noah says that’s the whole gist of the customer loyalty loop, the concept on which this new book is based. “Every time the customer is engaged — whether it’s through an advertisement, marketing, or a tweet — the customer is having an experience, and there’s an impact happening in the customer’s mind.”

2. Start thinking like a movie director and plan for the ending.

Typically people remember the beginning of an experience and the ending of an experience,” Noah shares. “When a customer sees your branding and marketing, they’re already creating a movie in their head about what the experience is to come. We call this anticipated memories.”

However, when the experience doesn’t live up to a customer’s expectations, an anticipation gap occurs. This is common when overzealous sales and marketing teams are solely focused on getting new customers in the door.

Noah says companies need to ask, “How does the experience end, and how will that influence whether the customer will be willing to do business with us again?

3. Check in with customers about their experience and use their stories.

You may have heard that it’s five times less expensive to keep an existing customer than to get a new one. However, as Noah points out, “This is bad advice because they never tell us how to make that existing customer five times more valuable.”

Customer value comes in many different forms — the most obvious being direct revenue to your company, but word of mouth, referrals, and customer success stories are also highly valuable. Noah says, “Referrals and testimonials carry great value. Getting a case study from a customer carries great value.”

So don’t focus on how you can grow your customer base to a massive, and possibly unsustainable, size. Focus instead on reaching out to your customers and genuinely asking how their customer experience is shaping up. For those who are thrilled with their investment in your products and services, maybe it’s time to use their experience as part of a word-of-mouth marketing effort, or simply ask if they’d review you on TripAdvisor, Yelp, G2Crowd, or wherever your audience reads reviews online.

4. Use the four stages of the Customer Loyalty Loop.

According to Noah, marketers need to think creatively about customer loyalty in terms of these four stages:

  • Imagination before persuasion
  • Conversion not coercion
  • Experience choreography
  • Happily ever after

When it comes to the early parts of the customer relationship, if you’re dependent on the laws of persuasion, you might get the first sale but not the second or third. Noah suggests, “There are other laws of persuasion that we need to pay attention to. That’s removing resistance and reducing friction in the buying process.”

Once you have the customer, it all comes down to “delivering those remarkable moments and impactful memories that stick and make them want to come back again.” The easiest way to accomplish this? “Deliver on your expectations. Just be good throughout the entire experience. That’s incredibly impactful,” he says.

In the final stage, Noah urges companies to ask, “What is the most appropriate thing to be asking for at this stage? Most of the time it’s not a sale. You need to work on building that relationship so you can take that customer to happily ever after.”

In this podcast episode, Noah Fleming (@noahfleming) shared much more insight on customer loyalty tactics that you can use throughout 2017 to grow customer evangelists. Get the complete scoop on the Customer Loyalty Loop in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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