Simple Tips for Customer Loyalty Programs

 Coffee Shop Owner

There was a segment today on Good Morning America about discount cards and it reminded me that a simple loyalty program can be an effective marketing tactic for a small business.

Loyalty programs are about understanding your customers’ buying behaviour including how much they buy, what they buy and what they spend. Once you gain an understanding of your customers’ attitudes and behaviour you can more effectively communicate with them based on their needs and wants.

Before you develop or a customer loyalty program in place, you might like to consider the following:

Retention of Customers
Any existing business needs to be concerned about retention of their customers. Loyalty solutions for small businesses such as off the shelf and SaaS software are now available and have simplified the process of implementing your own loyalty program.

Treating Customers Differently
All businesses have top customers that contribute the majority of their revenue and profit. A customer database can help you identify your most profitable customers and develop programs that provide special benefits and services to reward these customers for their loyalty. Resources can be allocated to these top customers that you can not afford to spend on all your customers.

What Do You Want to Achieve?
Before starting any loyalty program it is important to determine your loyalty program objectives i.e. what do you want to achieve? The definition of loyalty may vary depending on the type of products or services you sell and whether you sell to consumers or businesses. For example:

  • Do you want customers to purchase more often?
  • Do you want your customers to purchase more of one product or service (up-sell)?
  • Do you want your customers to purchase other products or services in your range (cross-sell)?
  • Do you want your customers to purchase your premium priced products or services?

Ease of Use
It is important that any loyalty program is simple to use and will generate rewards for your customers in a timely manner. Loyalty programs that are hard to attain can generate a negative feeling amongst customers and may be detrimental to your business in the long term.

Customer Relationship Management Software
It is possible to purchase software that focuses on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer loyalty. CRM software offers a way of capturing customer information, sorting information, conducting mailings and producing reports. Research the range of software available and determine which one will best meet your business needs. Most software companies can provide you with a free demonstration or trial offer of their product to make your decision easier.

Tracking Results
It is important to track the results of your loyalty program to determine if it is having a positive impact on your business i.e. are the benefits outweighing the costs of running the program? Tracking will also help you to identify customer behaviour patterns that you can use to increase loyalty and improve your profitability.

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April 7, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Is Your Communication with Customers Genuine?

How often do you receive an email that says “your business is important to us”, then the copy only talks about the latest product or service the company wants you to pay for?

This video whilst funny probably covers many mistakes we can make in business marketing when we send emails to our current or potential customers.

 
Other marketing tips for communicating with your customers, which are really just common sense include:

  • It takes less effort to strengthen your customer relationships if you are real and honest
  • Customers are interested in substance
  • Understand your customers your customers’ needs and desires as deeply as possible as this makes communication so much easier and more effective
  • Do not make promises or say things just to please them or to get the sale as it does not strengthen a relationship in the long term
  • Ask customers what topics they are interested in receiving information on. For an example see MarketingProfs .
  • Do not be quick to always bring the conversation back to you or your business as this actually shows you really are not that interested in them
  • Understand what type of communication your customers are interested in, not what is the easiest for your business
  • Don’t take yourself or your business so seriously because your customers generally don’t

 Do you have any tips to add?

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April 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm 2 comments

Small Business Marketing Tips From the Local Vet

 vet

How often do you really notice the reminder notices you get from your doctor, dentist, and optometrist for a check up? You perhaps glance at it and put it aside and maybe not make the appointment as quickly as you should.

Usually these reminder letters or notices just say it is now time for your annual check up, please phone to make an appointment. However, there is no sense of urgency nor do they usually provide a reason for the need to make an appointment now.

Yesterday I received a reminder letter with a difference to make an appointment with the vet. The difference with this letter is that it caught my attention for two reasons.

The first reason is that the letter contained both rational and emotional reasons why I should not forget to make the appointment. Sometimes we do not take advantage of including emotional reasons or messages when we communicate with our customers as they did in this letter.

For some reason the picture of the letter was unreadable so the key parts of the letter were:

It’s Time

for possibly

the most important examination

in Charlie’s life.

This is a reminder that it is time for Charlie to have  comprehensive physical examination to detect or prevent a health problem and a Vaccination Booster to maintain Charlie’s strong immunity to the following potentially deadly diseases ( they included details of each desease):

  • Feline Enteritis
  • Feline Flu
  • Feline Leukaemia.

The letter then went on to urge me to ring and make an appointment.

The second reason is that this type of communication can be used as a marketing tactic to include additional services that you offer your customers and as a way of strengthening the relationship. Business opportunities can also arise after the completion of the check up. Examples where this type of approach may be appropriate includes:

  • Marketing Consultants offering a quarterly check up of a customer’s marketing activities
  • Business Advisors offering a business check up every month or quarter
  • Web Developers offering a check up to see if the sites they have developed are still performing at peak levels
  • Graphic designers who designed a brand’s identity could offer a yearly check up to ensure that the identity is consistent across all types of communication a business uses.

Sometimes the simple ideas that other small businesses employ can be used very effectively in your own business.

Do you conduct check ups for your customers?
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March 31, 2009 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

How to Choose From the Marketing Tactic Smorgasbord

 smorgasbord1

There are so many small business marketing tactics to choose from that it can be a little overwhelming as to which ones are the best to implement.

Like an appetising smorgasbord the long list of available marketing tactics can look great, seem to be just the one to get your business a lift in sales and of course attract all those potential customers you desire.

However, life isn’t that simple and to help you select the right marketing tactics you might want to consider the following:

Marketing Objectives
Before you select your marketing tactics you need to decide what are the 2-3 key things you want your customers to do. For example, you may want your current customer to buy from you on a more regular basis for the rest of the year. This will mean that the marketing tactics you choose should be aimed at achieving this objective.

Marketing Strategy
The marketing strategy is the over game plan and describes what your business intends to do to achieve the objectives. If you take the marketing objective above, you may decide your overall marketing strategy is to focus on retaining your current customers. You then may decide that you are going to concentrate on the services or products you offer. In fact to achieve your marketing objective you might decide to launch a new product or service to your range.

You should also select communication as a key area of focus so that your customers can be made aware of your new product or service. It is a good idea at this stage to know how your customer like you to communicate with them as this will help in the selection of your marketing tactics.

Once you have made these decisions then choosing which marketing tactics to implement gets a lot easier. Remember before you actually choose your marketing tactics, decide how much time and money you are going to spend first.

Marketing Tactics
By going through the above your choice of marketing tactics has narrowed and you can select those that you know will help you get more of your current customers to buy from you more often. Examples of marketing tactics that fit include:

  • Email marketing campaign
  • Direct mail
  • Social media announcement
  • Announcement page on your website or blog
  • Special Newsletter
  • Sampling new product or service with the current range

 Don’t forget that when you implement the marketing tactics it is always a good idea to track the results. This is so you can see which marketing tactics achieved the best results and which ones need fine tuning.

How do you choose which marketing tactics to implement?
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March 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

Do You Keep Your Customers Informed?

Help online

Customer service is one of the most important elements of marketing and the steps you take to keep your customers informed when problems occur can strengthen or harm the relationship.

Yesterday the server hosting our website went down. I only found out in the afternoon when I tried to go into our admin area to do an update. I rang the company and they said yes there was a problem, they were working on it and it should be fixed by 8pm last night.

What a difference it would have been if they had emailed or contacted all those companies that were affected to alert us to the problem, instead of expecting us to find it out ourselves a few hours later. They could have also included information as to where to get updates on the situation.

This morning it was still down so I rang again but eventually was told by a recorded voice that all operators were busy and to go to the website for information, complete a support ticket or leave a message. I eventually found the right section on the website, submitted a ticket and the update was that they did not know when the problem would be fixed.

Throughout this morning I kept checking to see if the site was live again and could only keep thinking of sales we have lost in the past 24 hours as we sell our product online

Eventually at about noon today, the site was live again and about one hour later the company informed me everything was working and apologised for the inconvenience.

As a customer you understand that problems occur from time to time, however it is the way the company handles the issue that can have lasting effects on the relationship. By letting its customers work out there was a problem and not being proactive the company did miss an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships.

The lesson we learnt from this is when you have customer service policies and procedures in place, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and test the procedures to see if they are acceptable in different situations.

We are reviewing our customer service procedures and policy to see where we can improve to ensure that if a problem arises our customers are never left in the dark.

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March 24, 2009 at 5:00 pm 3 comments

What is Your Brand’s Personality?

 labrador

As individuals we all have characteristics and traits that make up our personality. However sometimes how we perceive ourselves differs from how our family, friends and acquaintances see us.

This may also be true if we were to compare our perception of our brand’s personality with those of our customers. If you perceive your brand to be fun and lively but your customers’ perception is that your brand’s personality is dull and a little boring then this can affect the involvement and engagement they have with your brand.

 At the Small Business Marketing Guide, a do-it yourself resource to help your business grow, I wrote an article on how to develop a strong identity for your brand.

One important part of the process of developing your brand identity is determining your brand’s personality and this can be a fun exercise.

As a starting point think of comparisons with other things such as animals, cars, trees, drinks or even chocolate. Compare your competitors, also. For example you might describe your brand as a Labrador; friendly and faithful, whereas your competitor could be a German Shepherd; direct and fearless.

If you haven’t determined your brand’s personality why don’t you write down your thoughts and get some of your customers, employees or business partners to do the same and compare the results.

Before you complete the exercise check out the article – Does Your Brand Have a Strong Identity? and please add your comments or tips.

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March 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm 3 comments

Building Quality Relationships

 networking

If you could describe the quality relationships you have in your personal life you may use the words such as trust, respect, honesty, unselfishness.

The same words can be used to describe the relationships in your business life and networking has grown over the years to be one of the most powerful ways to help develop quality relationships. Whilst networking may require little or none of your marketing budget it should be part of your small business marketing plan as it does take planning as well as your time and effort to get it right.

Before you undertake any networking for your small business you may like to consider the following:

Have a Plan
As with all marketing tactics, you need to decide what you want to achieve from your networking. Your networking plan should answer the following questions:

  • Which associations or networking groups are those that you should join and are best suited to your business needs? This includes online and offline.
  • How many associations is it realistic for you to be a part of?
  • Who are the types of people you want to meet and build relationships with?
  • Once a member, what can you do to actively participate in the association and make yourself known?
  • What can you do for others involved in the association?
  • How many quality relationships will you need to make to build your business in the future?
  • How many networking meetings or functions can you realistically attend per month, per quarter or per year?
  • How much time will you allocate to online communities?
  • What online communities will you join?

Find the Right Associations and Communities
It is important that you choose networking associations and communities that are best suited to your particular industry and will support your future business development objectives. Ring your trade association and ask them about networking groups available for your industry. Talk to customers and people in related industries and ask what associations they are members of.

Have a Long Term Strategy
Networking does not provide an immediate boost to sales. Attending a few meetings and swapping business cards will not automatically lead to greater profits for your business. The benefits of networking occur over time, as you get to know people and start building long term relationships. Networking is not just about the colleagues or peers you initially meet. It is also about the people you meet that tell others about you and refer business on.

Be Prepared
When you attend association or group meetings think about the questions you can ask other people to engage them in a conversation. Asking questions about their business and how you can help them is the best way to get them to remember you. Most people are comfortable talking about themselves and their business. Listen to what they have to say and learn from the information they provide.

Seek Quality Not Quantity
With networking you must be selective about your efforts and focus on where you can start building long term relationships with the people you meet or converse with. It is no use handing out 20 of your business cards to people who you haven’t properly spoken to and who will not remember you.

Get Involved
A great way to get involved with an association or trade show is to offer your services as a guest speaker. Organisers are usually looking for a variety of guest speakers who are interesting and can provide relevant and helpful information to their members or attendees. With a little work and creativity you should be able to come up with a presentation that is informative, educational, entertaining and one that people will remember you and your business by.

Follow Up
It is important that once you make contact with someone that you do not let the relationship lapse. Have a plan in place of how you are going to follow up the contacts that you have made.

Talk to them about how you can help to refer business to them i.e. the sort of customers they are looking for. If you refer someone to them, make sure you let them know who you are referring and why you referred them.

How do you build quality relationships?
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March 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm Leave a comment

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