A good customer rewards program should be unique to your business and to the kind of customers you want to attract. When you’re planning your program (CRMTrends offers a great step-by-step guide), it’s important to remember that loyalty and rewards are not the same thing. Rewards don’t necessarily translate into loyalty – that sweet spot where people love your products and your brand and will generally buy no matter what the cost. However, rewards can be a great way to attract new and return business.
Make Your Customer Rewards Program Different
If you own a small business, I know what you’re thinking – “Everyone offers a rewards program! What can I do to differentiate my plastic loyalty card program?” Let me share what I think are some cool ways my small business clients are using their plastic card products:
• Create customer levels (or tiers). You don’t want to treat all customers the same, so develop a system of levels designed to reward your best customers and encourage “cherry-pickers” to move up the ladder. You can call these levels gold, silver or bronze (highly recognizable progression), or you can customize them to your business. Whatever makes it memorable! You may even want to charge for your higher tiers; however, make sure the reward that customers receive is commensurate with what they must pay. As you know, there are way too many options out there for comparison. Make sure they want YOUR card.
• Get personal. With your higher tier customers, do something special. Send a hand-written note or call them personally about a unique offer. With all the junk mail and telemarketing calls we receive every day, something like this would really stand out. If you’re tracking what they buy (which you should be!), you can customize the offer just for them.
• Be surprising. Give your best customers a little something extra, even if they just stop by. Sometimes people have to rack up “points” or purchases for quite a while to earn their rewards, which may cause some to lose interest. But, if you surprise them on occasion with a special product or service (especially if it’s tailored to their interests), that can make a big difference.
• Get other local businesses on board. Partnering with other companies that have a similar customer base can be a great way to build a rewards program for you both. Do a promotion in tandem or alternately offer smaller rewards at different steps along the way to a big reward. Or, take a different approach and partner with a local non-profit that has an affinity with your business (i.e. restaurants and food banks). Many customers are willing to spend if a reputable charity gets a cut.
• Use experience- and service-based rewards. This is the great differentiator! You have unique products or services, right? Show them off. For example, if you own a local restaurant, offer your best customers the chance to meet the chef and have a special meal prepared to suit their tastes. If you own a hair salon, offer a “total makeover” evening with your most experienced stylists. You get the picture.
Make Your Rewards Program Easy
Many businesses make the mistake of designing a super-complicated customer rewards program. If people don’t understand it, they won’t use it. So, keep it simple for customers. And, keep it simple for yourself! Make sure you’re collecting and analyzing only pertinent customer information and buying preferences that will make your program – and your business – better.
Finally, don’t forget how important it is to communicate with your best customers on a regular basis in the manner they prefer (email, mail, phone, etc.). This, plus the touchpoint of your plastic card, will help keep your business top-of-mind with the customers you value most.