If you don’t have a budget set up for customer incentives or loyalty programs, now is the time to start planning. It’s no longer enough to provide competitive prices and exceptional customer service. Consumers are looking for companies to recognize their loyalty and provide extra value that adds to their shopping experience.
Setting up a rewards program doesn’t have to break the bank, either. There are low-cost options available that reward customer loyalty without hurting your business’s bottom line.
Consider the Business First
The first step in setting up a customer loyalty or rewards program is to take the type of business you run into consideration. If you own a business that provides a product or service to consumers on a frequent or regular basis, it may make sense to set up a rewards program that offers free products or discounts on merchandise after a certain number of visits. This type of rewards program would work well for a bakery or coffee shop, where customers can buy nine products and get the 10th for free.
On the other hand, if you own a business that only sees customers once or twice a year, a frequent customer rewards card probably doesn’t make sense. Instead, offer a discount once a certain amount of merchandise is purchased, or send gift cards or follow-up cards after the purchase has been made.
Set a Budget…and Stick to it
Look at your overall sales or use a budget planner to help set a budget for your loyalty or incentives program. Once you know how much you’re able to spend, you can figure out what type of program to offer your customers. If your budget doesn’t leave much room for free products or services, offer other incentives like early access to promotions or sales, or recognition in newsletters and other brand material.
If you really don’t have the budget or resources to offer an incentives program, use traditional methods to reach out to your customers. Follow up with a phone call, send a card on their birthday, or send a handwritten note thanking them for their business. You can easily find a way to make a customer remember your business without having to spend a lot.
Use the Internet to Your Advantage
If you decide to offer a frequent buyers card, discounts, or access to special sales or events, make sure you advertise on the Internet through the use of social media. This means setting up a Facebook page, Twitter account, Yelp listing, and posting your sales and offers in various business directories.
You can also offer your customers a deal-of-the-day service offered by companies like Groupon or Living Social. These types of programs offer your customers big discounts on products or services but only when a certain amount is purchased. The provider then takes a cut of the commission and the business sees a rush of new customers.
Be realistic with your budget and don’t spend more than you can afford on customer rewards programs. The point of these types of programs is to retain customers and provide an edge over the competition, not cause the business to go broke in the process. Start small and build up, but be sure you are offering your customers some form of added value.
About the Author
Brian Flax is a freelance writer based out of the Washington, D.C. area. He is experienced in a variety of topics including Internet technology and business marketing.