Grow your business with your ‘Buy Local’ Customer Loyalty program. Is it still on the drawing board or already a work in progress? Did you know that from a customer perspective the best rewards are generally instant rewards? And ‘instant rewards’ are not necessarily instant.
Consider taking it off your ‘someday’ list. Customer Loyalty Programs can work well when properly implemented and applied.
Customer Loyalty Programs have always been around in one form or another. From Free Delivery to a Bakers Dozen to the ‘Happy Meal’ and the Gas attendant, who cleaned the windshield, checked the oil and filled the tank.
Certainly a warm smile and a sincere ‘Thank You”! are remarkable for building customer relationships.
There are as many options as the ideas we can imagine.
The fact of the matter is that we all appreciate being recognized for our patronage and loyalty and though an instant reward may not be the reason we shopped at X, Y or Z in the first place, it can be, at least in part, the reason why we continue to return.
If you don’t have Customer Loyalty Program it may be time for one. If you do have one there’s no better time than now to take it up a notch.
It’s in the news more and more. Competition is about to heat up as businesses from outside Canada are starting to make their way to our dooryards, malls and communities. They’re coming to do business and it would seem proactive to be prepared.
Let’s consider some things that can be done.
Consumer research suggests that ‘instant rewards’ or ‘instant gratification’ is the most desired form of loyalty reward program in the eyes and minds of consumers?
Those collector cards that many of us carry are often seen as part of the price of and reward for doing business. The thing that many of us fail to do is to ‘cash’ in on those rewards. The points or miles or bonuses become opportunity lost or under-utilized. And that’s a waste!
Another general characteristic of national and international programs is that the actual costs of these programs represent an export of actual cash out of any ‘local’ region. I’m not suggesting that large-scale programs are bad, certainly not; I confess; I carry a card or two.
In house Loyalty Programs for Local small and medium businesses are often difficult to market.
Think about the 1000 business cards you had printed last year or the year before. You give them out freely yet you still have 743 left. They’re a bit dog-eared, don’t have your current phone or email address and you forget that on the back they offer a Referral Rewards Program for old and new customers.
Or better yet, you can’t find one, let alone 743!
Buy Local, by local! It doesn’t matter which way you say it. The communities we live in, wherever local is for you is much healthier in social and economic terms when we buy and sell products and services from nearby local sources and locally owned businesses.
So how do we make our businesses more desirable and different from the other guys?
Have you heard the story about the two ice cream stores in a somewhat distant College Town?
The College sits in the middle of town. There are two ice cream stores in town. One of them is 3 kilometers East and the other about 2 miles to the West.
They both buy their ice cream from the same supplier and have very similar prices. The stores are arguably equally well presented.
One of these stores you can walk up to and get your ice cream after a short ‘lineup’ wait and be on your way.
At the second store there is a predictable line up of 20 to 30 minutes (sorry, I don’t know what that is in metric). When friends come to visit they frequently ask when they can go to the ice cream store with the long lineups.
The ice cream store with the short wait is ordinary by comparison. You can go anywhere and stand in line…right?
The ice cream store with the long wait…well, it’s different. There is always music and a friendly party atmosphere. There are greeters walking up and down the line taking orders on notepads and communicating your order in advance of arriving at the pick up window. They collect your payment so you’re not fusing over the complexities of the transaction at the window, simply collecting your favorite ice cream treats.
What does the store with the long lineups achieve? They turned a buying experience into an adventure and a social outing. I’ve heard it labeled as ‘shopper-tainment’. People sharing an experience and making new friends and more. Word of mouth comes from the experience and makes it into a must do event.
This ice cream store’s Customer Loyalty Program involves more labor cost yet more than makes up the difference in volume. The Reward is the experience itself.
So, how do you make your business unique? You read earlier on that there are as many Loyalty Program options as ideas.
The fact is that bigger businesses often are set up and comfortable with a National type of Loyalty Program. The secret to the success is the numbers of businesses that participate and the heavier customer traffic they may tend to attract. These programs have big engines to run and maintain and have affiliations that encourage us to entertain big dreams.
On a local level where local may mean your community or the communities in a closely connected shopping region, like Nova Scotia’s Fundy Shore and Annapolis Valley, it’s much more challenging to implement a Buy Local, By Local Customer Loyalty Program.
As you know the National Loyalty programs are popular and exist because of the strength of numbers. Different stores, the same offer; perhaps the reward is calculated a bit differently, maybe not. It’s still going to take a lot of ‘rewards’ to get the bonus someday.
Can you see the opportunity knocking? Imagine a broad base opportunity, where working together in your local region you could do it your own way! Add the instant reward element?
You’ll find communities that have already developed based on this business model. Locally you might think of Farmers Markets as representing this concept. They are ‘social’, ‘green’, ‘healthy’, ‘entertaining’, ‘local’…. you’ll think of other components I expect.
The Loyalty and rewards are a component of their reason for success in recent years and cyclically generations ago.
This October (2013) a new Local Customer Loyalty Program will be launched for businesses and services in the Annapolis Valley-Fundy Region of Nova Scotia. You’ll want to investigate Scoops iGuide.
Will you stand by and watch ‘how it does’ or will you participate with your own unique offer?
While you may not have any idea of what to offer, you do owe it to yourself, your family, employees, and your customers to investigate it further.
You’re at a loss when it comes to generating ‘loyalty program’ concepts? That’s a familiar song. Don’t let it be your ‘excuse’ for not participating.