One of your best assets as a small business is your connection with your customers and the connection they feel to you in turn. In order to remind your customers how much you appreciate their continued business, and to run a more efficient business, you might want to implement a customer loyalty program. Of course, these programs will vary wildly depending on the type of business you run (B2C businesses will show customer appreciation differently than B2B businesses, for example).
These nine ideas will help get your creative juices flowing to help you find the right customer loyalty program to implement for your customers. The fact of the matter is, every business should have some sort of customer loyalty program, whether you're B2B or B2C.
1. "Gamification" - Track points
A more complex version of the punch card, keeping track of "points" based on dollars your customers have spent (and then rewarding them accordingly) is a classic way to reward loyalty. The psychology behind it is simple: when a customer gets close to the next reward threshold, they'll spend more in order to enjoy the next reward level. When you offer sales, include offers like credit card companies do, double points for the day's purchases or some similar enhancement to the point program. You'll create competition amongst your most loyal and regular customers if you put up a "leader board". Give you top 10 point earners special perks, even if it's just a handwritten Thank You card- it will matter to them!
2. Discounts in exchange for email addresses
Offer free shipping or 10% off their first order in exchange for an email address. Then, remember to stay in touch! Extend the occasional discount to those customers who stay on your email list to let them know you're glad they stuck around. You can run similar offers with feedback cards, surveys, you name it! A super effective version of this strategy is to ask the customers for a person whom they think would like your services/goods. Get that individual's email, and send them a message explaining that their friend suggested them. This a new, but highly effective sales tactic, much like a personal or word-of-mouth referral!
3. Track and reward customers with Taggo
It's the punch card reimagined. Let customers join your "Fan Club" to give them access to your best offers, and get word of mouth social marketing in return. Taggo is great because it's connected to social networks; your business gets more "social proofs" (more fans and followers) and you gain some additional data about your customers. Win:win!
4. Check-in specials
Use social media to offer discounts or promotions to customers who "check in" to your business on apps like Foursquare or Facebook. This shows their friends that they're patronizing your business, and you reward them for doing so. Social proof of this variety is worth every penny! Combine this tactic with an actual sale to more effectively spread the word about your promotion/sale!
5. Celebrate birthdays
If you have basic information about your most loyal customers, make sure to celebrate their birthdays. Go all out with a nice little surprise: a free scalp massage with their haircut this month, a discount on their paper order that week, or even a thoughtful care package to enjoy the day. This tactic will definitely put you on the fast track to turning more of customers into super-fans!
6. Creative experiences
Arguably, the best rewards are experiential, at least according to FoBoGro. This independent grocery store offers creative rewards, like a 30-second, all-you-can-grab sweepstakes. Give your customers the opportunity to win an experience... and a story they'll tell their friends about later. This can take the form of behind the scenes tours, all you can stuff $20 paper bags, or a chance to pick some of your merchandise for next season.
7. Connect with emails
Sure, you can give the customers on your email list access to unique discounts or cool content. But you can also use a loyalty program like Belly to enhance your loyal customers' in-store experience. Personalize your emails as much as possible. When sending sale info or discounts, be sure to tell them it's for "email subscribers only"! Sending special opportunities via email will make your customers look forward to hearing from you, and encourage their friends to join your newsletter too. Use this email tactic for two-way communication when possible. Ask your email subscribers to vote on upcoming store merchandise, or new additions to the store, again making sure they know this is a perk for "email subscribers only". Tactics like this will make your email subscribers feel like the are a special part of your business, and in a special club.
8. Reward referrals
If a customer refers a friend, don't just reward the referrer; reward both of them! And rather than just giving a straightforward discount to the person who referred your business, go out of your way to thank them. Give them a T-shirt or sticker so they can continue to wave your flag proudly. Consider offering a larger reward if they refer five or more friends, etc.
9. Turn your customers into celebrities (with their permission)
A particularly long-devoted customer deserves more attention. Ask if you can highlight them in a newsletter or with a Polaroid on the wall of your store. Customers love small snapshots into the lives of others, and the interviewed or featured customer will very much enjoy their few moments of "fame". We LOVE to highlight our customers!
When crafting your rewards program, don't be afraid of technology. There are dozens of new apps and POS add-ons to make tracking your customers (and then rewarding them) easier than ever. Now, rather than worrying about logistics, you can use all your creativity to imagine your ideal customer, what he wants, and then give it to him!
Photo Credit: Customer Loyalty Program/shutterstock