When it comes to developing successful loyalty programs, national retail chains have been the early adopters in the space, incorporating technology into the POS that allows new ways of implementing bold and successful relationship marketing programs. This makes sense, as they have the money and the people power to implement big new ideas, and budgets that can afford to win some and lose some.
In general, most business owners and managers, from mom-and-pops to Fortune 500s, are now growing increasingly aware of the value and significance of focusing on customer loyalty. Nevertheless, small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) continue to focus the much of their marketing budget on attracting new customers even though many studies have proven that keeping and growing the value of current customers costs just a fraction of what bringing in new customers costs, and can lead to a very substantial increase in profits.
Given the fact that these enterprise-level businesses have done much of the exploratory work, SMBs can learn from their successes and mistakes when developing loyalty marketing programs of their own. In addition, there now exists a number of affordable loyalty program tools available to an SMB-size budget.
Below, we’ve compiled some of the lessons we’ve learned studying Fortune 500 loyalty programs that a SMB can use when designing a loyalty program of their own. When evaluating these tips, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not the specifics of execution that matter, but rather the principles that lie behind them that count.
Successful customer loyalty solutions share the following overarching principles:
1. FLEXIBLE, PORTABLE, INTEGRATED
As we looked at a number of Fortune 500 loyalty programs, a major theme presented itself time and again: that is, a good program is adaptable to changing circumstances. The reward program and its rewards should easily flow from websites to social media, from advertisements to signage to the customer service interaction, day in and out.
2. INNOVATIVE, EXPERIMENTAL
Consistency in marketing and loyalty plans is not the same as blind adherence to the letter of the law. Keep the basic intentions behind the plans, but keep them updated to changes in the market, technology and any other relevant circumstances. Being different is part of good branding. Try new things and keep your efforts fresh while building on what’s already working.
3. MAKE IT WORTHWHILE WITH GENEROUS REWARDS
Loyalty program rewards need to be commensurate to the amount of investment on the part of the consumer; a free dessert in return for ten full course meals is not a reward, it’s an insult. Certainly you should watch your costs, but bear in mind that when it comes to acquiring new customers, many businesses spend money with wild abandon. Treat your existing customers right and they’ll be loyal for years to come. On the other hand, take them for granted and it will be very hard bring them back.
4. CARING AND PERSONAL
Today’s technologies allow for more personalized attention with very little effort or financial outlay. Talking with your clients via social media is just one of many solutions. Try to engage in a dialogue; don’t just broadcast monologues. Tell customer stories, recognize your own peoples’ efforts, and incorporate feedback into your marketing efforts so they know you’re listening. If you don’t have the time, delegate more, but be sure you’re participating in this valuable feedback loop, since they’ll be talking about your business whether or not you’re there.
5. TIERED REWARDS
Make sure your program is rewarding your best customers at a better rate than beginners. Customers love being recognized for their purchase behavior (provided you’re not selling some highly-personal hygiene product or the like). Create tiers, accelerate your rewards structure based upon purchase behavior, and recognize your all-star customers and you’ll have a program that keeps your best customers happy while encouraging purchase behavior.