Build Loyalty With Rewards Cards
You probably have more than a few of those club cards in your wallet from businesses you use. Why do so many businesses give these out? Because they CAN work to build business, even in the framing industry – if they are marketed correctly.
The theory behind these programs is simple- they provide an incentive for a client to use your business more often. Getting them to actually do this requires more than just handing out the cards, but the results of a well run program can build client loyalty.
Build business with your best customers by creating a rewards program
We’ve all had clients that frame with us several times. They seem happy with the work we do, and therefore we assume they are loyal to us for all their framing needs. Then one day, they let it slip that they occasionally frame at a big box. They just needed something done cheaply or they had a 50% off coupon and couldn’t pass it up. Wow! It’s like getting punched in the chest. You thought THIS client lived and died by your service.
WHY would they ever do something so disloyal to you? Because EVERYONE is influenced by value over quality and service in some instances. You can provide the very best framing in the world and yet sometimes that won’t be enough to keep even the most loyal clients. Sometimes they NEED a price break or a deal.
And even though it wasn’t an expensive piece, you would have loved the chance to sell them something- especially since they used the opportunity to visit your competitor, and now they know the way back to them.
A well designed loyalty program may have prevented this client from sampling your competition. That’s because your client would have had a “savings account” already on hold at your business, ready to be tapped for discounting their next project. They would have had a guaranteed amount ready to be applied to the next framing project they did, and they could have done it with the company they love- yours!
Sound good? It can be but it takes an organized approach to promoting it and above all consistency in how it is maintained. If you are committed to it, it can be a great tool to increasing the frequency of visits to your business by those who already love your service.
Here are a few tips in building a successful program:
Don’t call it a loyalty program
Customers don’t care that you want them to be more loyal, they want to know what’s in it for THEM. Instead call it a REWARDS program. That’s because you are rewarding clients for doing business with you.
Use a professional looking card and an electronic accounting system
Companies that provide these programs create attractive cards that have your logo and information for your business (see illustration). The days of using index cards to tally purchases and discounts are long gone. Today’s programs are tracked electronically via your credit card terminals, and they track balances and record client history. Some even have the capability of recording marketing data provided by clients signing up for your program.
Don’t charge a membership fee
Clients are bombarded with these offers. Most businesses that offer them don’t make it worthwhile and so very few will perceive the value of paying for your program. Your goal is to get EVERYONE to be on the program, so instead of asking if they would like to join, GIVE them something- a free card that allows them to save money on all future framing.
Make your incentive worthwhile
This includes more than just the percent you choose to reward your clients. However the percent you reward them with should be a minimum of 10% in our industry. The reward is added to their card balance as they pay for a current purchase, and is available for use on their next custom framing purchase. This way they always have a balance in savings for the next time they shop. Why go somewhere else when they have already earned money towards their next purchase with you?
Include more than the discount
Make your rewards club special. Make it stand out from other programs by including extras, like free delivery, reduced installation, free home consultations, free glass cleaner, special invitations to gallery events- things that reflect the special parts of your business that they can’t find somewhere else.
Don’t just hand out the card and expect anyone to get excited or remember you offer something special. Give them a handout explaining all the benefits of the program when they are added as members. Then send them a written thank you for joining and remind them about the benefits of the plan. In the thank you, tell them what their balance is for future discounts on framing. Require that clients have their card with them in order to have it loaded with additional discounts when picking up a project. This is key. You must create an urgency to carry the card. If you just give them the benefits without the card, you no longer have a rewards program, you have an ongoing sale. You must build a perceived value and attachment to your card. This is what keeps it in their wallet and your business fresh on their minds.
Make it hassle free
Don’t place restrictions on giving or redeeming the discounts. Make it easy to use and automatic. If you make your clients unsure about when or how it works, they won’t trust it or value it.
Use it for gaining demographic information
Some programs allow you to ask questions of those you sign up. The answers are then tabulated by the company and results are available for you to gain insight into your clients shopping preferences. For example, we found that over 40% of our clients listed two particular restaurants in our area as favorites. This gave us the idea to cross market with these businesses to find even more clients that were highly likely to us our business and also help them find more customers. You can also collect information about what newspapers and magazines they read and what they listen to on the radio.
Use this as an opportunity to collect e-addresses
Since you will be starting a new program that requires you to collect basic client information, use the opportunity to update and recapture current email addresses. Use this information to begin communicating to your customers by email to reduce direct mail costs. An effective email communication tool can be a huge savings to your company. Make it special to those who sign up. Give them special tips; advance notice to events and even special discounts- anything that encourages them to let you communicate by this method.
Jump-start your program
Recouping the benefits of a new rewards program can be a slow process. This is because you have to wait for clients to return to frame something, educate them about the program and then wait for them to return to frame their next project all before they actually see the savings they get from the program. Because people don’t frame monthly, this can take a couple years to really impact your business.
For this reason, you may want to speed up the process. You can do this by preloading cards and sending them to clients with a dollar value already added. Include a letter announcing the new program, the way the card works and the “extras” they now receive by being part of the program. Tell them the attached card gives them a preprogram incentive if they use it within 30 days. How much do you put on the card? Try two or three different amounts and see which ones are redeemed more frequently. It’s interesting to see how people react to the different levels, sometimes they are leery of a very generous amount- thinking it’s too good to be true, and respond better to a lower amount.
Track your results on the preloaded cards and if they bring in more than 5% of the people you mail to, consider doing another group to jump-start more of the program.
Loyalty programs are certainly not a new idea. In fact they are everywhere. That doesn’t mean that it’s too overdone to adopt for the framing industry. The key is the same as any successful marketing – how well the details of the program are implemented. Dedicate you staff to building a great rewards program and you will see your customers more often.