When we in the marketing world speak about loyalty programs, we are often thinking of affiliate programs or referral bonuses – but in my opinion, it is time to reflect on how loyalty programs started, and refocus ourselves so we can take that idea a step further.
Back in 1929, during the great depression, General Mills started the very first ‘modern day’ loyalty program when they included stamps in bags of Betty Crocker flour. These stamps could then be collected and redeemed for household items from a catalogue. Restaurants do it still – from Subway to Starbucks – the idea of “get one free with the purchase of 5 or 10 items” still works today for those selling products.
But what if you are a solopreneir selling services? It is not likely you are going to create a stamp for the people who hire you and give away 1 in 10 sessions of coaching or speaking gigs. So what can you do?
In my mind it is simple – let your clients know you love them! When you are talking affiliates or referral bonuses – you are rewarding your clients for selling your services in one way or another. I’m not against that, I have a have referral program in place for my clients AND my team – but with affiliates or referral programs, your clients still have to DO something in order to GET something. And really, is that expressing love for them as people? It is expressing gratitude for helping you grow your business – but what if they never sent a soul your way. Would they still know you appreciate them?
The new loyalty programs are simply an expression of appreciation for just that – loyalty. When you designed your client intake process, did you collect any personal information? Do you know when their birthdays and anniversaries are? Do you know their favourite flower, or author, or wine?
Think about it, how special would you feel if a supplier (and face it – bottom line we are service providers – suppliers) sent you flowers on your birthday? Or recognized the 1 year anniversary of you working together? Or if a speaker you hired sent you a personal card and a gift certificate for a local coffee chain on your birthday, or even better, 6 months after the annual conference saying “I had a great time speaking at the conference last year, and I know you must be gearing up again. Take 15 minutes and, have a cup of tea on me.”
When your clients know you care about them as people, their loyalty is stronger. Period. They are less likely to shop around for price, they are more forgiving when you make an error, and they are better all-around to work with. Showing your clients you love them, whether they refer you or not. What a novel idea…