Rising inflation and the specter of a recession have led to consumers tightening their purses. Small businesses face challenging environments during the best of times. Economic conditions such as the ones we currently face can break even the most resilient businesses.

One solution to this problem is building customer loyalty. Typically, small business owners choose to cut prices in the hopes of driving foot traffic (or web traffic.) However, all this does is attract bargain hunters and reduce your margins.

To build a business that sustains itself through tough times, you must use creative ways to boost customer loyalty. Here are 3 ways to achieve this goal.

Build marketing lists

Most small businesses have shifted their marketing online these days. However, shifting your marketing online and using digital channels to build loyalty are completely different goals. Many small businesses post content on social media and leave it at that. To connect with your customers, you must take an extra step.

Email marketing is the best way of building strong customer relationships. Begin by contacting your regular customers and gathering their emails. If you have a sizable database of customer emails, you can skip forward to creating a newsletter.

Make sure your newsletter messages are heavily personalized. Sign the newsletter using your name, so that your customers can see the human behind their favorite small business. You can draw inspiration from Wisestamp’s email signature examples to craft a perfect signature. The more human you appear, the more your customers can identify with you.

Use paid ads with a lead magnet to keep building your email list. For instance, give your prospects a free checklist or some unbeatable offer and collect their emails. Run regular newsletters to them, and you’ll manage to draw more people to your store, boosting sales in the process.

Work with influencers

Influencers get a bad rap for the most part. However, this happens because many businesses misunderstand who or what an influencer is. An influencer is any entity that has a large audience relevant to your business. For example, a magazine or publication that targets the same people as you is an influencer for your business and is a great asset during a recession.

Using influencer relationships is great for boosting awareness. However, you must follow these relationships up with value-added offers. For instance, if a popular influencer tags your business, you’ll receive a boost in traffic. However, you must offer that traffic some value to keep it around. Fail to do so, and you’ll receive a one-time boost.

Discount codes or bonus offers are a great way of keeping people around. However, it’s best to offer value without reducing your margins. For example, a special product or a one-off gives people the feeling of specialized attention, and it maintains your margins. You could throw in a few low-cost bonuses with the product to entice these people to return.

Needless to say, make sure you collect those people’s emails and give them helpful content they can relate to. You’ll build relationships over time and end up creating a loyal customer base that sticks by you through tough times.

Build a community

The most powerful brands have dedicated communities. Communities are the reason why companies such as Apple and Nike have stood the test of time. No matter how bad conditions get, their customers are unwilling to drop these companies from their purchase lists.

While aiming for those levels of brand loyalty might be unrealistic, you can create a loyal customer base by engendering a sense of community. Your newsletter will go a long way towards establishing this feeling. In addition, you can offer special event access or other value-added offers to make your customers feel special.

For instance, you can host member-only sales events or previews to reward loyal customers. You can host member-specific events that put people in touch with each other. Leverage social media for such purposes too. Create a list of loyal customers and send them special content on social media platforms.

For instance, you can target them with exclusive stories on Instagram. Every social media platform gives you the ability to highlight specific people. Use those features to felicitate loyal customers. You could feature their content or talk about them in a post.

All these methods will build a sense of belonging. Since you’re a local business, you can feature local causes, showing you care about your community. Consumers these days are highly attuned to sustainability and other social causes. Promoting them and showing your willingness to improve your community will increase your standing in their eyes.

Building loyalty

Building customer loyalty takes time. Understand that discounting prices should never be your only option. If you have to reduce your profits to bring customers in, you’re not attracting the right people to your business. Follow the tips in this article, and you’ll never have to rely on discounts again.