Susan - loyalty Program 2

My friends refer to me as the coupon queen because I’m always looking for a great deal.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I’m constantly signing up for loyalty programs. In fact, last night my husband and I dined at one of our favorite restaurants and our meals were free after we cashed in our reward points!

Loyalty programs are an excellent way to say thanks to your best customers, but they also encourage repeat business. Plus, loyalty programs allow you to gather valuable contact information that will help build your marketing database. According to the experts, email campaigns targeting your loyalty program customers are more effective too. The restaurant where my husband and I ate at last night frequently sends us special promotional emails and I look forward to receiving every one of them.

Subscription services can help small businesses create a loyalty program, but you can always do it on your own.

Here are a few ideas to get your started.

1. Structure your program carefully

You want to make sure your rewards are reasonably attainable for your customers, but you don’t want to give away the farm either. Be careful to strike a comfortable balance for your business. You can also base the program on a certain dollar amount or number of visits. My nail salon has a punch card system that gives you a free service after 10 visits.

2. Offer an incentive to join

Customers are often reluctant to provide their personal information. Offering an incentive can help tremendously. As a thank you for joining the loyalty program, give an immediate discount or a free item. Reassure them that you won’t share their information with other companies too.

3. Promote your program

If your loyalty program is a best kept secret, it’s not going to help you grow your business. Promote your program on your website, in marketing communications, and in your place of business. Social media is another great way to spread the word.

4. Be creative and fun

One of my favorite loyalty programs was used by another restaurant in my neighborhood to drum up post-holiday business. When you dined during the months of November and December, you received a sealed envelope when you paid your check. A warning was printed on the outside of the envelope that instructed you not to open it until you returned to the restaurant in January or February. This created quite a bit of suspense. Rewards varied from a free appetizer or dessert to a party for 20 of your friends on the house. Think of some fun ways you can bring customers back to your business.

5. Offer VIP promotions

Everyone loves VIP treatment. Offer your loyalty program customers special promotions, available only to those members. It creates a sense of exclusivity.

We all know it’s more expensive and difficult to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Focus on rewarding your best customers through a loyalty program.

Do you have a successful loyalty program? Share your tips with me in the comments below. I’d love to know how you reward your best customers.

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