Customer Loyalty Programs: How To SuperSize Your Results

Customer loyalty programs today are much more critical than ever before...and it's easy to understand why. Every customer you now have-even the oldest and most loyal--is daily bombarded with tempting advertising messages and "irresistible offers" from print ads, cable, direct mail, and especially email.

The lesson is clear: You'd better be on top of your marketing game or you're going to lose those customers you fought so hard to acquire. So just how do you do that? How do you fight the barrage of competitors and give your customers what no one else is?

For many companies, the hands down best solution has been a well strategized customer loyalty program.

The first strategy is that it's always easier to keep a current customer than it is to get an entirely new one. Your current customers know at least something about your company and your products.

They've already entrusted you with one or more purchases. And assuming you treated them well so far, they're more inclined to remain with you and continue to do business with you until something better comes along.

So your second strategy should be to provide them with some incentive that your competitors will not or cannot. That's where customer loyalty gift card programs come in.

Surveys show that most people prefer to receive gift cards over any other kind of present or incentive. Gift cards are usually wide open in the options they give the card holder. They can buy any number of things with the card, and it's all on your nickel. The advantage you have over your competitor is that you can, should you choose, offer the gift card as a reward for loyalty. You don't necessarily have to tie it in with a purchase, which your competitor almost always has to do.

In addition, because you already have built up some trust with your customer, gift card programs are very effective in improving retention. Because everyone loves a free gifts, most companies report that their future sales almost always increase after they run attractive gift card promotions. You substitute a small price in the present for larger, long term returns.

Not to be overlooked, of course, is the good PR that comes from free gift cards, even when the cards are of limited value (such as under $10 or so). Customers all have family and friends who will hear of your customer loyalty card programs and who will decide to become customers so they too can get in on the program. Your cards act as free advertising, and that will pay off in increased business down the road.

Another benefit of awards programs centered around gift cards is that, when the customer visits your business to cash in the card, his or her final purchase is almost always more than the value of the gift card. That $10 awards card turns into a $39 purchase, not counting purchases by friends or relatives who may have accompanied your customer into the store.

Finally, consider the convenience of customer loyalty gift cards from a distribution standpoint. Because they're so small, these cards can be easily slipped into your customer's shopping back at the checkout counter, inserted into direct mailers, or handed out at special events.

The important thing to remember, however, is that you have a clear strategy as to how you can use these cards to your best advantage and ROI. Always work with an experienced loyalty awards program provider who can show you how to avoid common pitfalls and how to achieve the maximum impact you're looking for.

Article Source: Bill L Quinn

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