BY RACHEL HARTMAN
IF YOUR company delivers a solid product
or service, but you are looking for a simple,
key opportunity for further growth, consider a loyalty program.
Forty-six percent of consumers indicated that small businesses could improve
the customer experience by offering fre-quent-shopper or loyalty programs, according to the 2015 Cox Consumer Pulse on Small
Businesses survey ( coxblue.com/survey).
Having satisfied clients can increase
sales as well. “We started a rewards program
that has been very successful for us,” notes
Lisa Hennessy, Costco member and founder
of Your Pet Chef ( yourpetchef.com), which
makes personalized dog food and treats.
When a client refers a new customer to the
company, Your Pet Chef sends three days’
worth of food free to the established client.
“It’s a great way to thank our customers,”
Follow these steps to start a program
that rewards both your customers and your
Consider your objective
“Think about what you want to accomplish and about your customers,” suggests
Costco member Shawn Graham, founder of
Deep Varnish ( deepvarnish.com), a marketing consultancy that specializes in working
with small businesses.
If you want to increase brand aware-
ness and your top customers are active on
social media, a program that offers perks
for mentioning your company on Twitter or
Instagram might be a good fit. To encourage
recurring sales, a tiered program that offers
larger rewards after a certain number of
purchases may work well.
Simply getting to know your clients can
be a goal that helps your company stand
out from the competition. “It’s becoming
more important for small businesses to
deepen their relationship with the customer,” explains Graham.
Choose a method
Whether you offer a card, app or combination of online and print methods, keeping
the program simple will encourage customers to sign up.
Another way to attract a potentially
large crowd: Make a game. “Gamification
of rewards programs is an idea that can
work well, as people often like participating
in activities involving an element of game
and competition,” notes Vassilis Dalakas,
a Costco member and marketing professor
at California State University San Marcos.
For instance, a bookstore might set up
a summer reading challenge for adults or
teens. Those who register through the store’s
website or app would then track the number
of books they read, earn badges for completing books in certain categories and follow
their progress on a chart or leaderboard
that lists participants. Prizes such as free
products, coupons and discounts could be
offered for reaching certain goals.
Kendall-Jackson ( kj.com), a family-
owned winery in California, made an app
available that allows customers to earn
points and badges by taking quizzes about
wine. Users can share their results and prog-
ress on social media as well.
Select the rewards wisely
While some customers might appreciate a free car wash, haircut or ice cream
sundae, others could be drawn to a memorable experience. If you run a bakery, offering
customers the chance to spend an hour with
the head baker to create a favorite pastry
will likely leave a lasting impression.
Reltio ( reltio.com), a technology startup
that specializes in data management, offers
a wide selection of rewards to those who
participate in its program. Members of the
program first complete online activities to
earn points. Then, “we have a catalog of
what you can cash the points in for,” explains
Ramon Chen, a Costco member and chief
marketing officer at Reltio. Rewards range
from a laptop bag to a gift card, or even the
chance to play golf with the company’s CEO.
Let everyone know
After explaining the rewards system to
employees, try integrating your loyalty program into your current marketing strategies.
“We get the word out through email, as well
as our website and at events,” notes Chen.
Through these methods, Reltio is able to
connect with a number of groups, including
potential clients. “We start to build a relationship even if they haven’t acquired our
software,” says Chen. C
Rachel Hartman is a freelance writer who
frequently covers small-business topics.
Creating a rewards program that works
Try one of these apps to create a
streamlined loyalty program:
Punchcard ( punchcard.com).
After downloading it, customers earn
“punches” that lead to rewards.
SpotOn ( spoton.com). Consumers
earn rewards and incentives through a
SpotOn app or SpotOn card.
Pirq ( pirq.com). As a digital punch
card, Pirq provides a rewards program
for clients and sends you key data.
Spring ( springmarketplace.com).
Customers connect their credit or
debit card with your brand; when they
use the card, Spring tracks their
spending in real time.
Spendgo ( spendgo.com). In-store,
online and mobile shoppers earn
points through this app for making
purchases and receive rewards when
they reach a certain level.—RH
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