strategies.

Incentives and Brand Loyalty: A Winning Combination

Imagine if your customers felt compelled to purchase from you. How might that change your business, and your bottom line? We see this approach everywhere, but small businesses rarely take advantage of this concept. Perhaps they are not aware of how to implement such a program, or simply aren’t convinced it will work. The reality is that small businesses may actually be better equipped to implement these programs, and can begin to see real benefits in fairly short order.

Reward points are used by credit card companies, gas stations, book stores, airlines, and almost any large chain in order to reward the loyalty of their client base. These companies understand the importance of brand recognition, and incentive-based compensation for being a loyal customer. These points are redeemable and can be applied as credits or used as a form of payment.

So, how can you go about doing the same thing?

Creating Unique Promotions:

Steer clear of those complicated card and points systems used by the major chains and corporations. To some extent, these programs have backfired — the sheer number of programs, coupled with the often complex terms and processes have made them difficult and inconvenient to the very customers they are meant to attract. If your system becomes a burden on the customer, they won’t use it — the best practice is to keep it simple and unique to your business.

We must first come up with a system of rewards for clients who continuously achieve and exceed expectations. You may already use a similar approach with your own sales department by providing quarterly bonuses for achieving or exceeding quarterly sales forecasts and budgets. You will provide bonuses every quarter to your best customers, much in the same way you currently do with your sales department.

The most successful companies have distinguishable characteristics and appeal that separate them for their competition. What unique offering does your company possess that your competition does not? Start with this first, and progress from there. To help guide you along, below are a couple of ideas on how to present these reward programs and administer them to your top performing customers.

Volume Incentives and Back-End Rebates:

Offering volume discounts is a perennial favorite among retailers and customers alike. When a customer purchases a larger quantity of merchandise, they are offered a lower price. Some customers may offer to commit to a quantity order over a set period — but what if they don’t meet that quantity by the end of the time frame? Rather than offer the customer the discounted price in advance, you could instead provide a credit to the customer’s account for attaining a certain level of business within a given quarter. Once the customer meets that volume, you immediately apply a rebate to their account. If you are selling a product, you apply a credit based on the number of products purchased. This accomplishes the same incentive, but does not present the same liabilities for the retailer.

Offering Free Consulting or Tech Support:

Perhaps instead of a product, you are selling a service. You can employ the same approach by offering free consulting or technical support if the customer attains a certain sales volume within the quarter.

Don’t offer this for free — and be sure that you assign a dollar value to what the customer is going to be receiving. Be firm with the condition that the customer must attain and meet their requirements. If you simply provide this free without conditions, there is no incentive to attain the specified sales volume.

Free Units with Volume Purchases:

Another popular incentive includes offering free units with a specified volume purchase. This is another effective way of providing incentives for your customer to continue purchasing from you. The free units could be the same product purchased, new product introductions or popular accessory items.

Don’t look at this type of an incentive as a loss on the cost of the item offered for free. Instead, view it as a way of guaranteeing the 30 unit volume.

Exercise caution in throwing around the word “free.” You want to make sure that the customer is aware that they are receiving something of value — in order to do this, you must be sure to assign a dollar value to the item. If the customer doesn’t value the incentive, they won’t work for it. Never offer up any reward when the client hasn’t earned it.

Monthly Progress Reports:

It is extremely important that you provide monthly updates on how your customer is progressing. Make sure to send your customers a balance sheet of their volume, and how far they are from achieving their goal. Discuss their volume requirements with them. This will help ensure that they are an activeparticipant in meeting the goals you’ve set together. Many companies will include this information on invoices, or direct mailings. Keeping your customers updated will provide both a reminder of the goal, as well as the motivation to strive to attain it.

It’s important to be aware of those customers who show real initiative in taking part in your program. If they are a couple of days away from attaining the goal, but are at the end of the quarter, work with them to extend the reward program a couple of days so they can be rewarded for working with your company so closely. This small gesture will pay long-term dividends.

Retaining customers is essential to growing your business. Moving from simply a transactional sales approach, to a valued partner willing to reward customer loyalty, will put your company at the front of the line. Everyone needs to feel a sense of accomplishment, and customers are no different. When you work alongside your customers, you are able to strengthen the relationship and create long-term loyalty.

Author:.

Traci Hayner Vanover, aka The Promo Diva(R), is a freelance copywriter, publicist, coach and consultant that specializes in working with authors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Drawing on over twenty years experience, Traci is a one-stop source for all of your marketing and promotional needs -- with plans for every project and budget. Traci's blog, located at http://www.PromoDiva.com, blends helpful tips and resources with a healthy dose of humor. Traci i...

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