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  • Create a company consumers obsess over

    From the time most people are children, they've been told not be obsessive. Whether it be a relationship, an addictive television show or a sports team, allowing something to become all-consuming is not healthy - or so we've been told.

    Having customers obsessed with your company provides a major lifeline. According to Abigal Manders from Marketing Leaders' Exchange, the only type of companies that will survive are those that have obsessive customers.

    "Over the last few years, customer expectations have increased dramatically, leaving many companies struggling to cope," said Manders.

    She offered three vital ways for chief marketing officers to invest in to ensure customers keep coming back: joining forces with internal stakeholders to marry marketing and technology strategy, opening relationships with agencies to drive more effective customer engagement, and staying ahead of digital trends to deliver effective digital marketing strategies.

    "Rapid advancements in technology and the growing use of social media have also come hurtling into our lives and changed the way in which consumers access information, making them more powerful than ever before," Manders said. "Because of this companies have had to change the fundamental way they market to their customers and prospects. We felt it was vital to research with some of the leading marketing minds, to really understand what will be driving marketing strategy in years to come."

    Keep customers coming back
    For Dan Epstein, owner of Eppie's, a restaurant in Charlottesville, Va., technology was an excellent route to keep customers engaged and coming back. He told Entrepreneur that he uses Cardagin, a mobile loyalty application and customer retention program, to send customers special offers on their smartphones and reward them with loyalty points.

    The program costs Epstein $100 per month, but he thinks it's well worth it. Cardagin lets him send regular customers special offers if he hasn't seen them in a while, and it allows him to notify customers of a special on their favorite product or a free item upon returning.

    "Smartphones are so powerful these days that we didn't even consider something like a paper punch card," says Epstein, who employs 15 at the restaurant. "Going mobile sets us apart, and helps us keep our customers engaged."

    Sending a customized deal also shows customers that you're invested in them and know what they are looking for.

    "What I really like about that is they're not just sending out a blasted, mass message," Kevin Stirtz, a business consultant who runs a site focused on customer service, told Entrepreneur. "Knowing the customer's order by heart and using that knowledge to your advantage is smart."

    Let your business be transparent
    If your small business is offering a service rather than goods, it's important to allow your clients to see what's going on behind closed doors.

    Take KMGI, a New York-based producer of TV-style ads for the Web, for example. KMGI doubled its existing clients since 2011 by allowing them to monitor the ad design in real time. The company now lets customers see which project tasks are completed, and they can gauge the cost by day, week and month.

    Clients have also stopped calling the company to ask about the status of their projects.

    "Their calls used to eat much of our time," owner Alex Konanykhin told Entrepreneur.

    Not only was it a time-saver for KMGI, but the transparency helps builds trust, a key component for retaining clients.

    "One of the big issues a customer has is that there's too much away time - too much time where the customer feels they don't know what's going on," Stirtz says.

    Enabling customers to offer feedback on a project or product during the process allows your business to catch and resolve problems early on.