Creating a Loyalty Program That Keeps Your Customers Coming Back!
Loyalty programs are everywhere. I’m willing to bet you have several loyalty cards in your wallet. You may even have loyalty memberships you’ve forgotten about. Customers love them – and with good reason.
A well-thought-out loyalty program provides benefits to customers that can range from reduced prices for products to giveaways to exclusive access to special events and offers. For businesses, they help with customer retention by incentivizing loyalty.
The trick, of course, is creating a loyalty program that does both. There are lots of different options, including referral programs.
So, with that in mind, let’s talk about loyalty programs. Should you create one? What benefits and features are best for your customers and you? Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits of a Loyalty Program
Let’s start by talking about the benefits you’ll reap if you start a loyalty program that appeals to your customers. There are several that make loyalty programs a must for marketers and business owners.
- They can help you retain customers. One study found that a 5% increase in customer retention led to an average 25% increase in profits.
- 60% of loyal customers say they buy more frequently and make more purchases from the brands they love.
- Surprisingly, loyalty programs don’t cost companies as much as you might think. It costs far more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. When you offset the cost of a loyalty program against the cost to attract new customers, it’s still a far less expensive option.
- Customers who participate in loyalty programs feel valued and that triggers a cognitive bias known as Reciprocity. That’s the instinct that makes us feel that we should return a favor when someone does something for us.
- Research shows that loyalty programs increase sales. According to one study, members of loyalty programs generated between 12% and 18% more revenue for businesses than non-members.
- Loyalty programs can help you learn about your customers. It may take a bit of trial and error but creating a loyalty program allows you to collect valuable data about your customers and their buying habits. You can use what you learn to fine-tune your loyalty program and to create offers that will appeal to your most loyal customers.
Loyalty programs offer benefits to you as a business owner while also giving your most loyal customers a reason to return to your business, increase their purchasing, and recommend your business to their friends and social media followers.
Features of a Successful Loyalty Program
What features should your loyalty program have? There’s no one correct answer, but there are some things that most successful loyalty programs offer. Here are the ones that you should seriously think about working into your program:
- A structure that incentivizes customers to purchase frequently and spend more money than they normally would.
- Early access to special offers and products. A lot of loyalty programs offer members insider status where they get first access to new offers and a heads-up on the release of new products. It’s a good way to make your loyalty program members feel valued and special.
- Ease of use. Providing a frictionless experience is a must if you want members to participate in your program. It shouldn’t be difficult to join, and you should make it simple to accrue rewards and use them.
- Personalization. It’s a great idea to create a mailing list for your loyalty members and personalize what you send to them.
- Freebies. Customers must accumulate points to earn rewards, but there’s nothing wrong with offering them something just for joining your program. A key example here is Sephora, which offers a free birthday gift to members every year. It’s a nice reminder that they care about their customers – and who doesn’t like a birthday present?
- Brand relevance. Finally, your program should be relevant to your brand and deliver what your customers want.
“The key here is to think about your business, brand values, and customers and create a loyalty program that delivers on your customers’ expectations while helping your bottom line.”
Ideas for Loyalty Programs
Here are some suggestions for how to structure your loyalty program in a way that makes customers want to participate.
- Use a simple point-based system. I’ve seen some loyalty programs that are convoluted.
- Charge a fee for access. This option might seem counterintuitive but it’s often quite effective. Two examples are Amazon (Amazon Prime) and REI, which charges a $20 fee for lifetime access and pays dividends to customers based on how much they spend during the year.
- Build your program around shared values. Not every reward needs to be monetary – and some can be both monetary and do good in the world. A great example is Patagonia, which offers a “Common Threads” program that allows members to resell their used clothing on the Patagonia website. Since their customers care deeply about sustainability, this offer makes sense for them.
- Gamify your loyalty program. Everybody loves a game and there are lots of ways to make loyalty fun for your customers. For example. Safeway offers an annual Monopoly game that gives shoppers game pieces based on how much they spend. They can earn rewards including free groceries, prizes, and cash rewards.
- Create a tiered system to further reward big spenders. It makes sense to give your most loyal customers – the ones who buy the most from you – additional rewards. Creating different reward levels (Gold, Silver and Bronze, for example) will incentivize people to buy more to earn the extra rewards you’re offering.
Different products require different structures. A restaurant owner might choose a straightforward “Buy 10 meals, get one free” approach, while a retailer might be more interested in a points program.
Once you get your loyalty program going, track the results and use what you learn to fine-tune your structure and rewards. Your customers will let you know if something’s working – and your bottom line will reflect their increased loyalty.
To Your Success!
Retargeting is all the rage right now, especially since so many ad platforms make it possible. But a lot of people scratch their heads and ask, “Just what is retargeting, anyway?”
You can get the answer to that question and how retargeting benefits you by checking out the retargeting FAQ below…
What is Retargeting?
Have you ever felt like a product was “stalking” you as you travelled the web? That’s retargeting.
Basically, retargeting refers to showing a warm audience the same product or ad that they’ve already seen.
Let me give you an example, one that’s probably happened to you…
You go to Amazon and check out a product, such as a beard warmer. (Yes, they totally exist.)
Then you go to Facebook to catch up with your friends. Low and behold, there is an ad for a beard warmer from Amazon in Facebook’s sidebar.
Then maybe you travel to your favorite news site to catch the headlines. Ta-da, there is another ad from Amazon, trying to tempt you into purchasing that darn beard warmer.
Pay attention, and you might see that beard warmer following you all over the web for several days, or maybe even a week or more.
Technically speaking, how does retargeting work?
Retargeting uses technology to work, namely cookies. When you visit a site like Amazon, it drops a cookie onto your computer. Then when you visit a site like Facebook, its advertising platform reads that cookie and shows you an ad related to the products in which you’ve expressed some interest.
The cool thing is that you don’t need to know a lot of techie mumbo-jumbo in order to use retargeting. Just use a well-known ad platform like Facebook, and they’ll tell you exactly how to drop a special link onto your web pages so that they can show your audience related ads when they log into Facebook.
So why use retargeting For Your Business?
The reason to use it is because it works to close the sale.
Experts figure it takes an average of five to twelve “touches” before a prospect is ready to buy from you. This is the reason you should have a mailing list, so that you can reach out to your prospects repeatedly. However, not everyone joins your list, so retargeting is a good way to reach out to your prospects long after they’ve left your site. It builds familiarity, which increases sales.
Secondly, sometimes prospects already know and trust you, but they’re on the fence about a specific product. They might leave the sales page with the intention to “sleep on it.” Except when they leave the page, they totally forget about it.
Enter retargeting. Just when the prospect forgets about the product, you put it right back in front of their face. End result? A higher conversion rate and bigger profits.
So what’s the bottom line?
Retargeting is a great way to close the sale and boost your conversion rate.
It is incredibly powerful when done right. That being said, it can have adverse effects when it isn’t done properly.
Remember, retargeting is just a tool, and, like all tools, it must be used properly.
If you want to take advantage of this phenomenal marketing resource but want to make sure that it is done properly in order to maximize your sales please contact us today.
The good news is if you read through this article and have decided to take action, you are probably ahead of most of your competitors in your niche.
Retargeting is a relatively new phenomenon, so you have the advantage being an early adopter and beating your competition.
We can help you to explore new ways to grow your business profitably and be creative with your campaigns allowing you to generate thousands of extra sales. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
To Your Success
I recently discussed with a small business owner the lack of social media presence his business had and one of the points that came up was the possibility and fear of a negative event occurring. So I thought maybe an article on this very topic could help other SME business owners break through some of their fears also!
Social media is a very powerful promotional tool for business. To quote the famous superhero, Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
The same is true for social media. With access to an information network that is directly connected to your target audiences, it is your responsibility to ensure that every tweet, post, picture and ‘like’ doesn’t open up your company to a social media disaster.
It seems like there is always a story in the news about a business suffering a public relations meltdown on social media. One ill-thought out tweet or post quickly and suddenly spirals out of control and suddenly a whole raft of negative feelings and emotion is poured into the social media channels that causes a great deal of damage to their public image.
So what are the main types of social media crises? They tend to come in two main varieties: those caused within an organisation, and those that are external.
The most destructive and long lasting tend to come from mistakes publicised by internal sources, so it is within your power to prevent any damage to your brand by stopping them before they even happen.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO AVOID A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS?
Prevention is better than cure.
The first thing you can do is to prevent a crisis occurring in the first place. It sounds simple, but the following steps will help to substantially reduce the risk of a social media meltdown.
Make sure your accounts and passwords are safe
Keeping your accounts safe is a big priority. It might seem like common sense but it is easy to forget or get complacent about securing accounts. Even large companies have fallen victim to account security issues. For example in 2013, hackers took control of Burger Kings Twitter profile. They changed its picture to the McDonald’s logo, and then sent messages claiming the company had been taken over and that it would adopt McDonald’s branding. As hacking goes, it could have been a lot more sinister. This was pure mischief making but it caused a lot of embarrassment for Burger King and caused havoc with the companies 5,000,000 followers.
Monitor what is being said about you
Generally before a social media crisis develops there is an upwelling of negative commentary first. There are lots of monitoring tools out there that can help you access what is being said about your company. By setting up some simple filters, you can track when something is said about your business and brand even if it is across multiple social media platforms.
Handle negative comments quickly and correctly
As any good customer service manual will tell you, you need to limit the initial damage before it spirals out of hand. For social media, this means dealing with the aggrieved party in private messages, but you also need to post a public response to show you are dealing with the problem and care about your customers. A lesson can be learnt from UK retail giant, Tesco, who according to SocialBakers, the highly respected social media analytics and publishing company, has a great customer care reputation on social media. The report said that it answers the majority of queries within 81 seconds.
Be clear about who has access to your accounts
It is crucial to have a staff social media plan in place for your business. You need to think carefully about how you want your employees to use social media. The music retail giant, HMV recently discovered this to their cost when a disgruntled employee used the official HMV Twitter account to chronicle the firing of 50 of its employees.
This doesn’t mean simply blocking their access to social media at work, but you need to make your company policies very clear as to what is allowed to be discussed, where and when.
You also need to establish who ‘owns’ your accounts. For example, Phonedog, the phone review network, got a shock when an employee and Twitter handler left the company taking 14,000 followers with him. They are not the only ones. Many other businesses have fallen foul of key members of staff leaving, taking what is seen to be a personal account with them and having direct access to clients as a result.
Ensure that your social media users are trained
It may sound obvious, but do you really know your hashtags from your direct messages? Make sure that whoever is operating your social media channels is fully trained and understands the subtleties of each social media channel. They are not all the same and they each come with their own set of rules and etiquette.
The effectiveness of responses to unfolding crises depends a lot on how appropriate the messages are. An example of a big Twitter fail came in 2013 from Michael O’Leary, the controversial owner of budget airline Ryanair. He decided to host an online question and answer session but forgot to include the #GrillMOL tag which caused a lot of confusion among the audience who wanted to take part. All of the questions were being directed to the wrong place.
Check the facts on every post you make
Anything that you put on social media platforms, or anywhere else online, is subject to opinions and fact – checking. Therefore, it is vital that whatever you post is correct, as any inaccuracies will inevitably be flagged and cause damage to your company image and brand.
It isn’t just accuracy that you need to be aware of. For example during a heavy snowstorm in 2013, Luton Airport in London tweeted a picture of a crashed plane along with the message. “Because we are such a super airport…this is what we protect you from when it snows…Weeee 🙂 “
The image that the airport had used in the tweet was of an incident in which a child had died. A lot of people were understandably very offended and it led to a swathe of negative comments and coverage by the national press. If only they had done a bit more research before posting the picture.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE MELTDOWN IF THE WORST HAPPENS?
Be polite or it will come back to haunt you
It might seem fairly simple to anyone who has ever worked directly with customers, but you need to be polite. You are still communicating to your audience, albeit, through a computer, so there are no excuses for being rude.
Once you have published a post, people will see it, and even if you remove it, it is likely someone will have made an undeniable record of it.
Listen to your audience and deal with their issues
DKNY was able to minimize what could have been a complete meltdown. After it was caught using Brand Stanton’s imagery in a storefront without his permission, he found out and publicly declared that they should pay $100,000 towards a New York children’s charity in compensation. DKNY listened to the negative commentary and promptly made a donation of $25,000 with an apology.
Don’t delete comments unless absolutely necessary
Deleting what you see as the worst negative comments might seem like a good idea at the time, but people tend to get even angrier if they feel that their messages are being removed.
One of the worst examples was from restaurant chain Applebee’s. It publicly fired a waitress for leaking a receipt, which showed a pastor writing a sarcastic comment, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?” The shoddy handling of the situation caused an uproar and after around 60,000 mishandled comments, it was forced to publicly apologize.
Have a crisis plan in place to identify who is involved and what they need to do.
Having a plan in place should a public relations meltdown occur is a must. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, but it should identify key people to deal with the problem, set a timeframe which a resolution needs to be found, and have the backing of key decision makers.
One Internet marketer, who has a lot of experience in social media, managed a number of social crises. The most notable one was when the B2B service provider he worked for had its servers affected by a fire. With service lost, clients were unable to contact technical support, view the website or access any online portal.
He moved the support teams over to their social media channels and answered users questions directly through Facebook and Twitter. Whilst the situation wasn’t ideal, they were able to quickly address the concerns of clients and make sure people understood what was happening and how they were able to rectify it.
Summing it all up
Being prepared for a social media crisis might seem complicated at first glance, but it doesn’t have to be.
You need to make sure that you listen to people and that you are sensitive to current issues. If you prevent a crisis through responsible use of your social channels, you shouldn’t need to worry. But if the worst does happen, take control with a plan, give feedback, be polite and most importantly, listen to your audience.
To Your Success!
Online marketing is becoming a really important tactic for every SME. E-mail marketing is one of the most used strategies for online marketing. This helps build relationships with clients and also increase sales.
The first thing that you have to do is to test your e-mails. This can be a sort of little experiment that you do to test which e-mail works best. You can create at least three different copies of your e-mail message. Send the e-mails to different groups of recipients. Track every click-through for every e-mail and compare which one is working best. This is a form of split testing. A client recently did this and recorded an additional 8% increase in email opens simply by changing the subject line.
Make sure that you send the e-mails on the best days. When you send it at the wrong time, it may take a while before your recipients get to read your message. Most people do not check e-mails during the weekends. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are said to be days when recipients respond to e-mails. You’ll most likely get favorable responses with these days.
Lastly, every marketing strategy boils down to having the best practices. Know what you want and find the best ways to achieve it. You have to be persistent. Oftentimes, goals take time to achieve so you have to frequently think of ways and methods to reach that target. Know how you will measure the success of your campaign. This can help you in improving your tactics and reach your goal.
To Your Success
Sarah & Brendan
The success in social media marketing comes from building strong and long-lasting relationships with customers and professional contacts over many months and years and giving them the type of content that they will want to share with their family, friends and colleagues.
This approach will help you to attract and keep loyal customers and connections, and get them to sell your business for you, not the other way around.
While this approach is a world away from the way that most traditional marketing works, this open, two-way communication is now what billions of consumers around the world expect from the businesses and brands to whom they invest time and money.
This article will help you get the most from your social media marketing with a ten-step process for creating a successful marketing plan.
1. Determine Your Goals
Determining the goals of any marketing strategy is absolutely vital. This is probably the most important step because if you aren’t clear about what you want to achieve, or why you are doing a specific task you won’t be motivated to do it correctly and eventually, you are going to stop doing it.
It is like kicking a ball in the middle of a football pitch in a championship game and not knowing that the idea was to get to the end of the field and kick the ball into the goal. You wouldn’t stand a chance against the pros and you would walk off the pitch in shame.
To help you to determine your goals, ask yourself these questions about what you want to achieve when using social media for your business:
- What do you want to get out of your social media marketing efforts? Do you want more customers/leads? If so, how many?
- Do you want greater brand awareness? If so, you need to clarify exactly what this means for your business.
- Do you want more visitors to your website?
- Why exactly are you doing social media marketing?
The goals are endless and vary from business to business. They key is to determine what your goals are and to make them doable and measurable. Write them down and then move on to the next step so that you can work through creating the foundation of your social media-marketing plan.
2. Decide who will manage your social media networks
Again, this is a very important step. Why? Because social media requires interaction, and if you are going to use social networking as one of the tools you need to know who is going to maintain that and where the content that is going to be used is coming from. It is crucial because this is your online reputation that we are talking about. If you ignore this, your strategy will suffer and you could cause lots of problems for your business in the future.
To help you, answer these questions:
- Who is going to create the social media content? (Blogs, articles, videos, images, status updates etc.)
- Who will maintain the social media accounts?
- Who will be the voice(s) of your business, the one responding to questions on your company’s behalf?
- Do you have an in-house technical expert to be part of the online conversation and to look after your social media accounts? If not, are you or a member of your staff willing to learn or are you able to outsource the work?
- Can you, or someone you have on your team, write well?
Knowing if you have the right people in place is vital. Without the right people your social media marketing campaign will fail, regardless of how incredible your plan is. If you don’t currently have these key people, talk to us and we will help you.
3. Know Your Audience
We are going to assume for a moment that you know who your audience is. You may have already spent the time needed to establish the demographic you are after based on the products and services you offer. When it comes to social media marketing, understanding your audience is really what you need to do.
You also need to understand where your target audience is online. This isn’t the same as your demographic or running an ad in the newspaper or putting up a billboard somewhere to catch the attention of everyone, including your market. No, social media marketing is about getting to know your market on a more intimate level.
This is where a little research needs to be done. You have to determine the places that they frequent online. Everyone almost always assumes that Facebook is the first place, or even the only place to go. While it is true that Facebook is an excellent start, it should only be part of your social media marketing plans. There are many more platforms that your target audience may be using instead, depending on their age and what they are interested in.
Each social media network has their own audience, and this is why Facebook can’t be the only social network that your business uses.
Beyond the social networks, there may be particular discussion forums or online communities that your audience prefers to visit. Think about where they would go and seek advice if they had a particular problem to solve relating to your niche.
Once you have established where your audience is you can figure out what type of information they want from you. You will need to know their likes and dislikes. Never forget that social media marketing is really about getting to know your market and catering for their needs. The selling and promotions come later.
All of your communication on social media needs to be helpful and engaging. Your aim is to find out their exact needs and start building a relationship based on trust and respect. You are giving them a reason to buy from/work with you and not your competitor.
4. Create Amazing Content
Once you have figured out where your audience are online and you have spent time finding out what they want, take the time to create content that gives them what they want and makes them feel happy that they found you.
If you notice that your audience prefers videos or images and that really gets them excited and talking, it really wouldn’t make sense just creating a plain old text blog post.
This isn’t about reinventing the wheel. This is about making the wheel you are offering better than everyone else’s out there, so check out what is working with the other wheel makers and do it better or different (in a good way).
5. Integrate your marketing efforts
All of your social media marketing efforts need to work together. This means that they need to feed off one another. Cross-promote your social media accounts to your audience. If your audience is on a social network and they tend to visit specific blogs and they like video, then you need to make sure that they can find more great content on your blog with integrated YouTube videos and on playlists on your YouTube channel by promoting this on your social media network page.
Your social media marketing and the traditional marketing you are doing also need to work together. You need to be promoting your online endeavours on your brochures, advertisements, letterheads, radio etc. These marketing efforts should all be working together to support one another. This is marketing synergy at its core.
6. Create a schedule
If you are an entrepreneur starting and running your own business, creating an effective social media schedule is very important. It is very easy to spend more time than is actually needed on a social network. If you are using multiple social media platforms you want to make sure that you are allocating enough time in your day to use them effectively.
Getting sucked into emails and social networks are two of the biggest productivity killers that a business person or employee can get caught up with. From a marketing perspective, you don’t need more than 20 minutes on a social network.
7. The 80/20 rule
This is an important rule to remember regarding social media marketing. We have already stressed that social media isn’t really about you; it’s about your audience. We have also mentioned that social media isn’t really about where you sell your product or service right off the bat. So when you are online using your various social media tools, keep in mind that 80 per cent of your time should be spent on activities that are not self-promoting. Social marketing is all about helping your customers and clients. Only around 20 per cent of your social media posts should be about promotion.
8. Quality over quantity
On social media, time is twofold. It is far better to post content that is useful to your customer whether it is just once a day or a couple of times per week than to flood them with useful valueless posts. It is also better to have 1,000 loyal engaged followers than to have 10,000 followers that sign up to get something and then never interact with you again.
Quality goes a lot further than quantity. Less is most definitely more.
It is your audience that will dictate the flow of any online conversation. The reason that you want them to do this is that you want your audience to feel as if the conversation is theirs. When someone is able to take ownership, and make something theirs, they develop an emotional connection to whatever that thing is. You want your current and potential customers to have an emotional connection to you, your company and your brand. They need to feel as though they are the most important thing to you and not their wallets.
10. Adapt your business and watch your profits soar
Social media marketing is exciting. As you use it, you will learn more about your audience and this knowledge will only grow the longer you do it. Who your audience are today may not be who they were 18 months ago or who they’ll be in a year’s time. Needs change, likes change, people grow and change. Social media is your inexpensive way to stay on top of and anticipate what your customers will need next.
You can use these changes to create and launch new products or services. Think about how compelling it is to the consumer that a new product or service was created just for them based on what they have said to you. Can you imagine anything more powerful than that? Over time, as you change and adapt your business providing exactly what your customers want, your business will be in a very powerful position and you will watch your profits soar.
You Don’t Need to do this Alone
We realise that social media marketing can seem daunting for some small businesses. Although it will be hugely profitable for your business it requires patience, time and commitment in order to see results.
We are here to help and are happy to offer advice and assist you setting up a profitable social media campaign. To find out more why not sign up to our monthly newsletter where we share information and resources designed to help any SME grow profitably.
To Your Success!