Jan 18, 2005, 9:21 PM
Over the years, I've studied the various programs different companies have tried, and many (most) have been failures. The reason is, they may seem attractive, but they fail to deliver on the most important points.
Gift & Loyalty Cards & Programs
Similarly, most advertising campaigns do not perform as they should. Businesses advertise, but do not realize the return on the "investment" as they should. Most advertising is throwing money at some "cool" outlet, but little reguard is given to the demographics of the audience, and benefits (and interest) the advertised product or promotion has to them.
We are approached often, to advertise in local publications, and they try to push how many copies they distribute, and how long the issue is read, or kept, or how successful it's been for some other company. Few have dealt with bead shops, or even gift/jewelry shops for comparason demographic information. We cautiously have tried different outlets, and despite the claims made by local outlets, our *best* performing outlet has been Beadwork Magazine -- a national publication. It costs us less, and reaches more people -- even in our local area -- than anything else we have done. It's classic demographics. A highly targeted audience. Long shelf life.
A few of the programs, I've made an offer -- give me the space for a deep discount, or free, and if it performs as you claim it will, I certainly will continue advertising with you. *NONE* of them have taken me up on it. They are used to hooking the first ad, and if it works, the advertiser will advertise again, if not, they still got that first ad. *BUT* they hyped it up, and the business/advertiser took all the risk. If the opportunity was *really* that good, a free ad is a mere pittance, and the most cost effective way of getting and really hooking new business.
Gift and loyalty programs have suffered from the same lack of insight into what is to be gained, and the sales pitch and hype.
Giving away something that is not related to the product, or customers at hand, will not bring in the customers that are going to be repeat business.
Giving away discounts, money or other items to people who are already buying, or who would have bought already may seem like a good idea, but it doesn't generate new business or customers, and may actually cost you your existing customers in the long run.
A gift & loyalty program has two functions.
1) bring in new customers
2) retain existing customers.
It's common wisdom, that it costs 5-10x more to get a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. How much, depends on the business you are in, the area you are in, and other factors.
Loyalty programs are (or should be) designed to capitalize on that idea.
The best programs are ones that give the customer both an incentive to come back to the store and shop, *AND* a bonus or discount that they really need, want, or can use.
Many small businesses will give discount coupons, or other incentives to bring in new customers. If similar discounts aren't given to existing customers, then the competing business offering the same "new customer" discount will take the business. The phone companies and calling plans are *classic*. People jump around, because there is always a new deal being offered by someone else. No loyalty.
Most of these sorts of programs "give away the farm" on the first purchase, hoping to pick it up on the next purchase -- which often never comes. Everyone loses.
The best programs, like the best partnerships, are ones where everyone wins.
Businesses want more frequent, and larger, purchases.
Customers want better value (in all it's various forms).
To that end, it makes sense for businesses to encourage, and to provide an incentive for, customers to make more frequent purchases, of a larger size, and to reward those LOYAL customers with added VALUE.
Most programs fail on almost all counts. An ideal program would succeed on all counts.
Finding something that works for you, in your business, is the key to a succesful Gift & Loyalty program, Advertising program, or even overall successful business. This is anything but a one-size-fits-all item. Customization isn't the key, it's the whole mechanism.
What would work for you, as a customer, for your favorite businesses? What did you wish some company would do for you?
The first step to creating a successful program, is poll your customers and find out what THEY WANT.
Part II soon.
PUGDOG's Rock & Bead Shop
Pittsburgh, PA 15217