Consider these statistics: The average business loses 50 percent of its customers every five years. A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent. Acquiring new customers can cost as much as five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers.

Obviously, keeping an existing customer is far easier than attracting a new customer. Loyal readers of this blog know that that idea has become my mantra these past few weeks. Unfortunately, as consultant Noah Fleming notes, that insight still gets forgotten as businesses go after the far-sexier acquisition of new customers.

In his book, Evergreen: Cultivate the Enduring Customer Loyalty that Keeps Your Business Thriving, Fleming explains how you can create customer loyalty, and how that helps your business. To retain customers successfully, he argues that businesses should follow a set of core principles he calls the “Three Cs of Evergreen Organizations”:

  • Content
  • Character
  • Community

Create Your Content

Businesses realize that without a great product, they will fail – and so spend 99.9 percent of attention on their “content”, Fleming’s term for their core offering, service, or product. Unfortunately, in today’s competitive market, that is not enough. “Just having a fabulous product is no longer enough to guarantee long-term success,” he writes. You must offer more by creating a genuine, lasting relationship with your customers, and enabling them to connect with one another.

Create Your Company’s Character

Customer’s today take more than price into consideration when choosing to do business with you: they want to know your company’s character. “It’s analogous to a person. It’s your brand personality, and who customer’s think you are,” explains Fleming. You cannot treat customers like a transaction – they give you money, you give them a product or service. Instead, develop a story explaining your brand’s founding principles and values that draws in your customer’s interest. Make it memorable and meaningful, and then conduct business in a manner consistent with your story, as well as how you want to be perceived by your ideal customer.

Create Your Community

The best companies in the world are creating communities out of their fan bases. “Humans desire and crave connection,” says Fleming. He points out that companies who recognize this desire, and create structures allowing communities to form “will have a significant competitive advantage in the future.” These communities cement loyalty because they allow fans to built a relationship with not just the company, but also with each other.

To help you implement the above principles, use the following four values as guidelines for company-changes:


In your marketing initiatives, rather than a “here is what we offer” tone, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What would they want to hear? What are the benefits of doing business with you? For which problem is your business or product the perfect fix?

Not sure what they need? Ask. Regardless of the medium, a survey is a powerful tool. You will often get more detailed answers than anticipated, which saves you the cost of market research. Focus groups can lead to even greater insight into your customer base.


When a customer comes to you with a complaint or problem, you have the chance to show them you care. Handling customer service issues with empathy and backing it up with action proves your company values its clients. Customers are more likely to stay with you after a positive customer service experience – and extremely likely to leave after a negative one. Especially in today’s world of social media, it is best to side with your customer: one dissatisfied client can do a lot of damage.


Giving your employees flexibility in decision making allows them to feel empowered to deliver whatever solutions necessary to built trust and loyalty with your customers. Finding the quickest and most effective solution demonstrates you are the kind of company willing to put the customer first. A customer who feels taken care of is more likely to assist you in solving the problem and identifying how to prevent the problem in the future.


Personalization is the way of the future. Customers are both demanding, and expecting, custom experiences. Allowing your customers choices demonstrates that you care about them. The choices do not have to be huge: simply giving them the option of how to pay, adding an online chat function to your website, or making sure the customer service phone line reaches a live person instead of a recording are all easy, but valuable, options.

While there is a lot to keep in mind when creating programs to build customer loyalty, following the guiding principles and set of values I outlined guarantees your success. Continue to put the customer first, and recognize their importance in the future of your business. Making a company that would win your loyalty is the first step in keeping your customers loyal forever!