April 30, 2015

5 Ideas To Help You Build A Customer Loyalty Program

customer loyalty programCustomer loyalty.  Every company wants to build a loyal customer base that purchases from them over and over again but how do you actually do it?  No one’s be able to crack the code just yet and provide a bullet-proof plan (though some companies – like Apple – have certainly managed to build a loyal (some would even say – fanatic) customer base).  So, instead, marketers look for ways to implement programs that will keep customers coming back to them.  Here are some ideas that Big Company marketers use that might translate over to your small food business.

1. The most obvious way to develop a customer loyalty program – though the one that’s most often overlooked – is to offer exceptional products and exceptional service.  You do that and customers will want to purchase from you time and again.   Yes, it really can be that simple.  Here’s one example for you: Kiehl’s, the skin care company, offers all customers several sample size items when they make a purchase.  The idea here is that the customer walks away feeling like they got MORE than they paid for (no small task given the price point on Kiehl’s products).  It makes the customer feel like they are being treated special and who doesn’t love that.  Not to mention that this is a way to get other products into customers hands and, who knows, they may come back next time and purchase more products than before now that they’ve had a chance to test run some of them.  So, first and foremost, take a look at your customer’s experience with your company and see where you might be able to exceed their expectations.

2. Loyalty cards are another method most of us are familiar with and it’s an inexpensive loyalty program that most small businesses can implement.  Print up some business card-size ‘Buy 10 Get 1 Free’ (or something similar – I’m partial to ‘Baker’s Dozen’ where they buy 12 and get the 13th for free as it has a nice food history tie-in) and then stamp, hole punch, or initial every time your customers purchase from you.  For your customers, they know that they’re working towards something that will benefit them so it’s to their advantage to keep coming back to you.

3. Believe it or not, you can ask your customers to pre-pay their way into special programs (think – Costco memberships and Amazon Prime as examples) and that as members they’ll receive benefits and discounts.  Pre-paid loyalty programs work when customers truly see the value they’ll get over the long-term by purchasing a membership now so you need to make sure the benefits are clearly explained.  This may ultimately mean you have to discount your products (or your shipping costs) to them slightly but with the goal of their purchasing more from you over the course of their membership.

4. Invite your customers to be ‘friends & family’ and offer them specials that aren’t advertised anywhere else.  When your customers get a postcard or email inviting them to take advantage of a secret ‘friends and family’ sale that makes them feel like they’re an insider and gives them a reason to purchase something now at a reduced price rather than waiting until later.

5. Give back to your local community.  If it’s important to your customer market, you may want to align yourself with a charitable organization and give back to them.  This can be through a certain percentage of your revenue going to charitable causes or, as I’ve seen at one local coffee shop, inviting customers to ‘vote’ on their preferred charities.  In this latter case, everyone who orders something from the coffee shop is given a coffee bean – symbolizing $.25 – and asked to place it in one of several boxes which each bears the name of local charities.  The benefit here is that your customers feel as though your company is in alignment with their values and goals too.  Be careful if you go this route though that your chosen charities make sense and are authentic for your company.  Nothing turns customers off faster than feeling as though you’re trying to leverage charitable donations in exchange for public goodwill.

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