Your loyalty program is a partnership with your best customers—they love your brand enough to buy frequently, so you engage with them more deeply, you reward them, you provide extra benefit. This isn’t simple engagement; this is the development of a relationship that flows both ways, benefiting everyone involved. It inspires trust, which blooms into loyalty. The next level in loyalty is to turn your members’ excitement outward and get them to engage new members.

Think Outside the Point

If you have a robust customer loyalty program, you have enthusiastic, committed customers motivated by rewards and a points system that gives them great value without destroying your margins. You have everything needed to convert that loyalty into growth.

Take American Express’ Membership Rewards program, for example. AmEx loyalty members swipe their cards more often to earn “points,” which they can then put towards travel, shopping with AmEx partners, and services like Uber.

American Express is able to get even more out of that program by incentivizing advocacy. Customers who refer a friend to AmEx receive as many as 5,000 points upon the friend’s approval. With the existing customer base, advocacy became a logical next step in the customer experience.

Leverage your existing customer base by:

  • Targeting potential advocates. Target your most active membership program participants with your share incentives, and they’ll become your best advocates.
  • Recycling your existing reward system. If you have an existing points system, all you need to do is figure out a reward structure that makes sense for your company and turn it on.
  • Encouraging self-referral. You can have regular customers enter the loyalty program by offering to let them refer themselves (if they’re not already members) and their friends in exchange for sign-up bonuses.

Make Customer Loyalty Addictive

Customer loyalty lends itself well to gamification because it rewards users for repeated, specific actions such as making purchases and converting new customers. If your members can see themselves making progress toward a perk, they’ll feel compelled to keep participating until they hit the goal.

The secret lies in a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. Incomplete tasks stick in our memories, and we can’t let go of them until we’ve finished and mentally checked them off. Video games leverage graphics like progress bars that show users how much of the game is left to complete—it’s one of the reasons they’re so addicting.

The Bing Rewards program, which gives members credits for performing Bing searches, taps into the Zeigarnik Effect much in the same way. Members can always view their personal credit tally on their Bing homepage, so they always know how far they are from a prize like an Amazon gift card.

Gamify your program by:

  • Giving top advocates special status. You can either do this with tiers, or through special titles like “superadvocate.”
  • Showing advocates their progress. Always show members how many points they have and how many they need for the next reward or membership level.
  • Emphasizing the next reward. Once someone converts enough to get a reward, congratulate them, but also keep them motivated by showing them what the next, even better reward looks like.

Make It Personal, Not Transactional

One of the biggest shortcomings of traditional “earn and burn” loyalty programs is that they feel entirely transactional. They don’t create a connection with your brand, keeping loyalty dependent on the rewards. Incentivized advocacy makes your customer loyalty program a more personal experience.

Take Starbucks’ Rewards, for instance. When members send invites to friends, Starbucks has them write in a message to tell friends in their own words what’s so awesome about Starbucks Rewards, which feels much more authentic.

Three simple ways to make your customer loyalty program more personal include:

  • Include a personal message. Personal messages reinforce to new customers that this is a personal invite from a friend, and not a dry marketing scheme, so they won’t just roll their eyes and ignore it.
  • Tap familiar faces. Everyone loves looking at people’s faces, especially when it’s someone they know—that’s why the selfie is so popular on social media. Including a picture of an advocate’s face in a message shows a new customer who’s inviting them.
  • Collect the data. These programs give you a wealth of data about what your customers like most and tells you how to nurture them better. You can use this data to provide your loyalty members with what they want, making them more enthusiastic advocates.

A successful loyalty program means you have everything you need to acquire new customers through your most loyal. You just need to properly incentivize loyalty members to advocate for your brand, and watch as they restock the top of your funnel with new customers who are primed to spend more, more often and tell their friends too.