Businesses seeking to attract loyal customers need to start with the most crucial and basic building blocks of loyalty: building relationships and creating experiences with customers. These are the missing links that businesses and loyalty programs have lost true focus of in recent times. Businesses need to engage and create valuable relationships with their customers, because your customers really want to engage with you!
It’s very true that customer service is paramount in generating loyalty and creating brand advocates, but businesses that really want to set the bar need to engage their customers like never before. What does engaging mean? It means making customers feel special and a part of something, which is your business, no matter how big or small. It means giving them a say in your businesses’ products or services. It means inviting them to your business for special events or inviting them to give you feedback or giving them special access to things/information not offered to others.
All of these things and more are great ways to engage your customers and they will love you for it. Here are a few tips to create engagement:
1. Special activities. Businesses can create engaging custom activities that customers can do, like special contests, VIP-only events and treasure hunts to get them into their business, have fun with you and start building relationships one by one.
2. Gamification. More and more businesses are using gamification concepts (leaderboards, status, challenges, virtual badges) to engage customers. This gives businesses more opportunities to connect with their audience in other ways beyond social media or dollars and cents. One such product uses gamification to perfection.
3. A great loyalty program. Most loyalty programs offer reward points to consumers that purchase from them and then consumers can redeem their points for items/services and…that’s pretty much it. A true and engaging loyalty program adds more intrinsic motivators to the “earn” aspect of the program. A well-designed loyalty program that engages customers AND rewards them is a win-win for both parties. The most successful rewards programs will be those that widen their focus from offering just rewards, to providing value-added benefits to their relationships. Don’t think that you need to discount to bring your customer to you. A great loyalty program allows you to offer customers reward points for purchases, like giving them points per dollar or if they spend a minimum amount, given them a certain number of points. There is absolutely no need to discount (and reduce your profit margin).
4. Engage customers emotionally. Satisfied customers that are emotionally connected to a business outspend and outlast extremely satisfied customers. Emotionally connected customers have the power to promote and refer a business, forgive them for their faults, share their positive experiences, purchase more frequently and maintain loyalty over a businesses’ competitors. Most customers make purchases based on their emotions: be it fear, happiness, or sadness. Maybe invite them to a “Members Only” event with special access or invite them to a “limited stock” event or ask them to bring a friend or family member with them to receive extra special attention.
5. Segment your customers. It’s important for businesses to recognize and employ new strategies to segment their diverse customers who may respond differently to various types of offers because let’s face it, not all customers are created equal; they have different purchasing patterns and profitability. Businesses wanting loyal customers require a customer-centric tool that allows for segmentation to identify and differentiate sets of customers, such as their VIPs, employees and friends and family. When businesses meet customer’s specific profiles and deliver targeted offers, they can demonstrate to their customers’ that they understand their needs and values, helping create customer satisfaction.
Take this away:
Something engrained in human behavior is the need to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves and a desire to feel part of a community. Make your customers feel like they are your only customer, engage and build genuine relationships with them and you will endure over others.
 Maritz, A New Paradigm for Loyalty Marketing, Barry Kirk, August 2010
 “Customer Satisfaction Doesn’t Count” by William J. McEwan and John H. Fleming, August 2011