By Virginia Sanders
If customer loyalty programs aren’t a part of your company’s strategy, they should be. Building customer loyalty matters deeply to your success:
“Loyalty leaders — companies at the top of their industries in Net Promoter Score® or satisfaction rankings for three or more years — grow revenues more than 2x as fast as their industry peers, according to Bain research.” (Bain & Company)
Not only that, but a customer’s relationship with you determines your brand’s reputation:
“Americans across the board report telling more people about poor service (15 people on average) than about good experiences (11).” (American Express, 2017 Better Business Barometer)
Basically, you must be proactive about building customer loyalty if you want to be competitive. Rewarding customers for their loyalty makes them feel valued and increases their confidence in your brand.
That’s why this article in the What to Send When series is dedicated to the ways that companies can build loyalty through remarkable brand experiences!
There are many types of loyalty programs, so you need to carefully consider what makes the most sense for your audience. You also need to think about whether to automate your program. Non-automated programs may work fine for smaller organizations; however, they can be time-consuming and require a lot of manual coordination.
Read on to learn about automation and find inspiration and strategies to make your loyalty program truly unforgettable.
Loyalty isn’t automatic, but encouraging it should be.
Loyalty programs can range from basic to complex tiered structures, but at the heart if it every reward is triggered by data. Your marketing tech stack then handles how you respond to that trigger. Here are just a few examples of what that looks like:
|Data Trigger||Possible Response|
|Customer’s birthday is in 2 weeks.||Send birthday card with a product discount or gift.|
|Customer accumulates 1,000 (or any other number) of loyalty points.||Send an email reminder to spend points. Link to a web page with reward options. (Yes, PFL can set up web pages that do that!)|
|Customer completes an advanced certification for your service or product.||Send a certification document, a small gift card, and info about maintaining certification.|
|Customer completes their fifth referral.||Send the reward that corresponds to five referrals in your referral program.|
You could try to handle rewards manually, but the more loyal customers you have, the more effort that becomes. Automation streamlines the sending process, making it efficient and scalable.
Your marketing software matters. Orchestrating complex, multichannel, data-driven direct mail is no mean feat. That’s where we come in. PFL’s Tactile Marketing Automation® (TMA®) solution integrates with your existing tech stack, automates customer journeys, and makes building those journeys easy for you. Whatever data trigger you want to create, PFL can automate it for the delivery of memorable, personalized brand moments.
Now we can dig into the fun stuff and figure out what to send when.
Staying Top of Mind
A thoughtfully executed loyalty program keeps your brand top of mind. By engaging and investing in the relationship, you edge out the competition well in advance of the next renewal or purchase decision.
What to send: Direct mail that keeps your brand top of mind can be as simple as a postcard or as complex as a package. Whatever you send, make certain you’re personalizing the content. At a minimum, address the customer by name. Better still, consider ways to make the timing and message relevant to the customer and their interests.
The possibilities for your loyalty campaign are as boundless as your imagination, but here are some of the top options:
- Holiday/birthday acknowledgements, such as cards or small gifts
- Product discounts (like the Take 5 Oil example below)
- Early access to new products or even samples
- Branded swag
- Care packages (like the Secure Code Warrior example below)
- Tiered rewards for participation in programs
- VIP membership exclusive items
Take 5 Oil, a company that provides speedy oil changes, uses an impressive level of personalization on their service reminder postcards. Their marketing department has created a wide variety of cards. Each card is highly variable and populated through TMA’s integrations with Take 5 Oil’s CRM, and they’re sent out at the optimal time when the customer needs an oil change. Discounts can even change to match the customer’s last purchase of an oil type, or might upsell to another option. By sending the postcard at the right time and meeting their customers’ needs with the right discount, Take 5 Oil continually improves customer retention. Click here to watch a presentation from Take 5 Oil on their strategy.
Secure Code Warrior is a company that, as you might guess from the name, offers secure coding tools for developers. They began their partnership with PFL early in 2020 to support demand generation efforts in North America. Like other businesses, they’ve recently put more focus into nurturing relationships with existing customers to keep them engaged and keep their brand top of mind. They created a clever kit that includes a small hand-held vacuum, a bag of popcorn, laptop stickers, and a static card with a social media hashtag for sharing. The messaging on their card (shown here) is especially clever. Well played, Secure Code Warrior, well played!
The strategy behind the play: What you’ve sent, whether it’s large or small, shows your commitment to making the relationship work. You’re demonstrating that you’re not just a service, but a partner. A service waits for a customer to call support when there’s a problem. A partner pro-actively provides value long before support becomes necessary.
Staying top of mind is an ongoing process, so it’s better to space out smaller reminders. Don’t go overboard with huge surprise packages, and definitely avoid sending things too frequently. Leave your audience wanting more!
Showing Appreciation for Renewals
Renewing a contract is one of the biggest, brightest indicators that your customer is loyal. Don’t miss the opportunity to respond to their show of faith with a tactile brand experience.
What to send: Send something that’s fun, practical, branded, or any combination of the three. Consider tasty treats that are individually wrapped for sharing, organizational tools for the desk or home office, low-cost tech gadgets, or even a nostalgic kids’ toy that’s meant purely for entertainment and laughs. As always, take your industry and your audience’s interests into account. If the marketing budget is tight, consider an attractively designed thank you card.
If you experience any temptation to include guidebooks, newsletters, or other educational materials, hold that thought. You wouldn’t give your spouse an instruction manual for an anniversary gift (at least I hope not), so use the same consideration for your customer. They’ve just renewed, so you will have more ideal opportunities for sharing insider information with them. Now is the time to focus on a sincere “thank you” without an agenda attached.
Our friends at PROS are taking a “practical and branded” approach.
PROS is a SaaS company that’s pro at optimizing selling in the digital economy through their AI-powered platform. The PROS customer marketing department will soon be launching an automated tactile marketing campaign to be sent to EMEA and US customers upon renewal. The purpose of the kit is to thank the contact for renewal while also reaffirming the continuation of the partnership. Out of consideration for remote workers, PROS will securely collect preferred addresses without overwriting existing data (using the methods in our previous blog post and webinar). PROS is sending automated Marketo emails to encourage customers to opt in. After opting in, each contact will receive a kit that includes a personalized print-on-demand card and a power bank for charging their cell phone. The notecard also encourages the recipient to use a hashtag to share their brand experience on social media.
The strategy behind the play: By sending acknowledgement of the customer’s renewal, you reward their loyalty and prove that the renewal wasn’t just a “given” to you. You’re saying, “Hey, I realize you didn’t have to choose me again, but I’m sure glad you did. I’m still heavily invested in our relationship!”
This appreciation kit is a lot like a campaign to welcome new customers (also covered in the What to Send When? series), just without the effort of onboarding and education. Now that the upfront work is done and the honeymoon is over, sending a loyalty reward shows that you’re eager to celebrate the long haul of the ongoing journey!
Rewarding Product Testers
Some businesses rely heavily on their customers for trials, testing, or even promotion. In such cases, the customers are not only showing loyalty but an extraordinary level of commitment. Those kinds of customers see the bigger picture of the business relationship. They’re willing to put in extra effort now for your sake because they know that they’ll benefit from it later.
If you treat a regular customer like a loyal friend and partner, you should treat a product tester like royalty. When they complete a task for you, give them some love!
What to send: Your testers deserve the world, but short of that, send something that is industry-related and/or exclusive to the testers. Testers often consider themselves special because they get a first look at a product, and many would enjoy the chance to show off that fact. Go ahead and acknowledge that they’re special by distinguishing them from other customers, such as with apparel items that proclaim them to be testers. Don’t be afraid to show your playful side. When someone sends you feedback on your new interface, you could send them a mug or shirt proclaiming them to be the #1 Bug Squasher.
In some cases, the product might be the reward. Perhaps you have customers who test and review new products for you in exchange for keeping the goods. In that case, be sure that when you send the product, you include clear instructions and set expectations.
Linode is a company that develops Technology with a capital T. They provide cloud infrastructure for businesses and individual developers, like virtual computing, that supports applications delivered in the cloud. Complex tech like this requires deep user testing, which is why Linode created Green Light — a beta testing community of developers, business users, and partners. A beta period is used to seek out bugs in a new program or software feature before it is officially available to the public. Dedication to improving the product is a time commitment by customers that is greatly appreciated. To show thanks and encourage ongoing participation, Linode created a new direct mail program. The first time a customer participates as a Green Light member, they receive a kit with a sweatshirt, stickers, and a water bottle, as well as a personalized notecard with a hashtag for social sharing. As a contact participates in subsequent product beta, they receive a kit for each engagement that builds on their relationship with the Linode brand. PFL makes it easy for Linode to automate sending the right kit based on a contact’s participation history.
The strategy behind the play: This strategy is all about pride and exclusivity. If you can make being a tester a point of pride, not only do your testers feel good about what they’ve done, but others will see that and feel motivated to jump on board.
I’ll say it again: building customer loyalty doesn’t come automatically, but encouraging it should be automated. PFL can help you automate your programs and personalize the content for maximum impact. Stand out as a customer loyalty leader through remarkable brand experiences!
P.S. The subject of customer loyalty is extensive, and a single article can’t cover everything. Tiered reward systems, VIP memberships, and referral programs are complex strategies that deserve a discussion all on their own. If you’re still craving a deeper dive into customer loyalty, check out this guide by HubSpot.