Payback Time: Affordable Ways to Reward Your Customers
By Liza Horan
Anyone trying to make a dime certainly treasures their customers. Even when the customer isn’t right, “the customer is always right.” Right?
Making your customers happy — and keeping them that way — is the secret to sustained business. As W. Edward Deming, Ph.D., a statistician best known as the father of the Japanese industrial revival, put it, “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product or service, and that bring friends with them.”
Your first interaction with the customer can determine whether or not you’ll have repeat business. By delivering a quality product with efficient and professional service — whether that’s booking a lesson for them over the phone or taking the time to outfit them with the proper racquet and shoes — you win a chance to prove that they should spend their money at your establishment.
Keeping them coming back for more becomes the next step, and research shows that they will be more likely to return to your place of business if it’s a rewarding experience. And today that literally means delivering “rewards.”
Loyalty programs abound these days. You probably have a frequent-flier account that earns you a point for every dollar you spend on your airline-branded credit card. American Airlines’ loyalty program helps travelers earn miles on all retail spending, not just flights.
The internet has created lots of opportunities for small businesses to offer thoughtful thanks to their customers, through gestures of simple means to large-scale reward programs. Putting forth a little more effort toward customers can work wonders for loyalty.
Here are cool — and convenient — ways to reward your best customers:
From Me to You
If you don’t collect e-mail addresses from your customers and members, start today. It’s the most convenient and affordable means of communications, and it provides an easy way to tell business contacts you are thinking of them. Send out tennis-themed e-cards as invitations, thank-you’s, birthday greetings or other messages. Remember, it’s replacing a hand-written note, not a marketing pitch. Go to 123Greetings.com for e-cards and Evite.com for invitations.
You’re the Star!
Grab a digital camera, or find a friend or club member who has one, and pick one day to photograph the goings-on at your facility. It could be a regular day where people are participating in clinics or league play, or a special event like a tennis festival or open house at your club or shop. Then upload the images to a photo website, such as KodakGallery.com. Your members will able to view the photo album online and purchase prints for 29 cents each.
Take the digital photo idea one step further by printing them on T-shirts, greeting cards, and other merchandise. Just go to Zazzle.com to choose a product and upload a photo. Bonus: You can earn up to 17 percent commission from Zazzle when customers purchase through links on your website.
Cost: $2.49 and up
Not sure what to give your long-standing customer who has referred lots of business, or even your hardworking employees? Check out GiftCertificates.com. An online voucher can be purchase in denominations to fit any budget, and there are solutions for small businesses seeking incentive programs.
Cost: $5 and up
Make bill payment a little more enjoyable for your customers and players by giving U.S. Postal Service postage. Sounds boring? Actually, tennis-themed stamps wed function and fame. Commemorate the great Arthur Ashe by purchasing his official stamps at USPS.com, and upload a league team’s photo or your store logo for custom stamps at PhotoStamps.com. (Remember that the 1-ounce rate for first-class postage is now 39 cents.)
Cost: $7.40 for 20 Ashe stamps (37 cents); $17.99 for 20 custom photo stamps (39 cents)
Personalize Shopping With A Loyalty Program
Perhaps your key chain is full of tiny cards with bar codes that score you extra discounts when checking-out at Stop & Shop, PetSmart and CVS, or serve as your membership card at the gym. Every time you swipe that card, your actions are being tracked by that company for marketing reasons. Trading privacy for discounts and free merchandise is a concession America is willing to make.
Rewarding customer loyalty is nothing new. Remember those S&H Green Stamps that used to earn prizes? Well, what started in 1896 as the Sperry & Hutchison Green Stamps loyalty program went digital in 2000 (greenpoints.com) and counts 9 million card holders. Customers can redeem their loyalty points on everything from blenders to airline vouchers.
The S&H model calls for inviting your customers to join the loyalty program, then analyzing the data of their purchases. When you crunch the numbers and see trends, you can better serve your customers.
“When people are playing tennis or witnessing a tennis event or shopping, the success of that particular endeavor is related directly to the experience,” says Ron Pederson, president and CEO of S&H. “And if the tennis experience is captivating and stimulating to a wide variety of people, you can translate that experience to a really wonderful loyalty program. For your best shoppers — the ones who are profitable and are loyal — their experience is enhanced. So loyalty marketing is simply personalizing the experience.”
See all articles by Liza Horan
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