Today, small businesses are struggling. Struggling to get their voices heard above the noise of multinational competitors. Struggling to catch up and adopt the marketing techniques that have been mastered by digital-savvy agencies and companies. And some are struggling to get their brand online in the first place.

However, as the big brands continue to innovate and deliver greater value, small business owners need to work harder than ever to keep up and ensure their customers are happy. In the last year, brand expectations have increased by more than 23%, but brands have only managed to improve their services by 4%. So, how can you buck the trend and get ahead?

Brand loyalty has to be earned

Before you start panicking that all of your customers are going to disappear overnight, it’s reassuring to know that 77% of consumers would consider themselves as brand loyal. If you’re building strong relationships with your customers, delivering a great level of service and keeping on top of your competition to ensure you’re offering the very best value for money and the most innovative product or service you can, then you don’t need to worry.

Customer loyalty: likeability is an important factor

Customer loyalty: likeability is an important factor

In fact, you don’t even need to be the best at what you do to keep your customers on your side. As Rare Consulting recently found out, 86% of consumers said that likeability of a brand is what drives their loyalty, so creating a wholesome, family-oriented brand can prove more lucrative than investing thousands of pounds in marketing and product development.

Consumers need to remember you

The internet is a loud and scary place. Social networking platforms and news websites are littered with advertising, and so keeping customer retention to a minimum can be a challenge – especially if you don’t have a marketing budget. In order to compete against this noise, you need to create something compelling, or at least contribute to the noise yourself by using content marketing and social media marketing strategies.

A great way to increase loyalty through marketing and branding is writing a blog. Post regular content that’s targeted, well-researched and engaging, and you’ll give your existing customers a reason to keep coming back to your blog – and an opportunity for you to market your new products and services direct to them. Email marketing, guest blogging and retargeting through Google AdWords or Facebook Ads can all be used to similar effect.

It’s a never-ending cycle

Converting followers into customers and keeping your existing customers engaged is an ongoing process, and as new technologies and digital marketing practices come into play, the methods you’ll use will continue to change. The only way you can truly remain competitive and ensure that your customers remain loyal to your brand is to deliver the very best service you can, keep a constant eye on your competition (both corporations and small businesses) and research into the latest customer service and marketing trends. In the digital sphere, you have to be proactive if you want longevity.

What have you been doing to increase customer loyalty and reduce the chances of losing out to your competition? Let us know on social media – we’re on Twitter and Facebook.