What Loyalty Marketers Can Learn From Dating

Brands that want to make deep, last­ing con­nec­tions with con­sumers must start slow­ly. Lis­ten, respond, and show loy­al cus­tomers some grat­i­tude.

Geoff Smith By Geoff Smith from CrowdTwist. Join the discussion » 0 comments

How many times while check­ing out at a store have you been invit­ed to join a loy­al­ty pro­gram? Often it seems like a has­sle. You’re in a rush, and the idea of hold­ing up the line and hand­ing over your per­son­al data – for a mod­est dis­count — doesn’t seem like a fair trade off. So when cus­tomers decline that invi­ta­tion, are they say­ing they don’t like dis­counts, or that they don’t like your brand? The answer to both these ques­tions is like­ly “no.”

Where’s The Disconnect?

For cus­tomers, the per­ceived has­sle – the dis­com­fort with shar­ing per­son­al details, such as an email, postal address or cell phone num­ber – can be a turn off. For brands, it’s a missed oppor­tu­ni­ty.

In essence, per­suad­ing peo­ple to join a loy­al­ty pro­gram is a lot like dat­ing.

When a first date comes on too quick­ly, the usu­al reac­tion is to push that per­son away. But when the rela­tion­ship moves slow­ly, when things are easy, and when you begin to feel com­fort­able, you’re hap­py to share more things about your­self. And when you do, you and your date can make the rela­tion­ship more mean­ing­ful and devel­op a deep­er con­nec­tion and bond.

This same dynam­ic exists for brands seek­ing to make last­ing con­nec­tions with con­sumers.

Mem­ber­ship in U.S. retail loy­al­ty pro­grams has grown to an esti­mat­ed 2.647 bil­lion mem­bers — a 26.7 per­cent increase from 2010. Clear­ly, and with grow­ing urgency, brands are try­ing to cre­ate last­ing rela­tion­ships with their cus­tomers.

Draw­ing from the world of dat­ing, the fol­low­ing are four steps loy­al­ty mar­keters can take — from that first hel­lo to meet the par­ents.

1. The Introduction: Ease Into The Relationship

In the dat­ing world, when you come across some­one who’s appeal­ing and you want to estab­lish a con­nec­tion, it usu­al­ly starts with a con­ver­sa­tion and ends with a request to con­nect online with a Face­book request, or if you are lucky, a phone num­ber. Loy­al­ty mar­keters can learn a lot from this exam­ple.

By ask­ing for a sin­gu­lar piece of data, such as a email address — in exchange for a nice dis­count or offer — mar­keters can make it easy to start a rela­tion­ship with a cus­tomer. If brands are smart, they would fol­low up with offer anoth­er incen­tive.

In dat­ing terms, this is sim­i­lar to the man/woman who received your phone num­ber, show­ing up well dressed, or in a nice car. In the world of loy­al­ty mar­ket­ing, a com­pa­ny might send that ini­tial email, but they also might inte­grate their loy­al­ty incen­tives into their stores and web­site — remind­ing the cus­tomer at every turn of the val­ue that comes with a rela­tion­ship.

By mov­ing slow­ly, and impress­ing the cus­tomer, the rela­tion­ship is off to a good start.

2. The First Date: Listen and Respond

Now that you have your date’s atten­tion, the key to advanc­ing the rela­tion­ship is to lis­ten to that per­son, and to respond in a way that cre­ates a greater con­nec­tion. With a cus­tomer, it’s the same thing.

The more you make the rela­tion­ship about that per­son, the more like­ly he or she will be to par­tic­i­pate in your loy­al­ty pro­gram. For instance, if your first offer to a cus­tomer is based on a recent pur­chase, as opposed to some­thing ran­dom, you’re more like­ly to make a con­nec­tion. As anoth­er exam­ple, if you call out the spe­cif­ic store where that cus­tomer shopped, that indi­vid­ual may feel that you’ve tak­en the time to know his or her pref­er­ences.

  • Does that cus­tomer dis­like fre­quent emails?
  • Does the per­son always shop at the same store?
  • Is this a pas­sion­ate fan of your brand, or some­one who is more pas­sive?
  • Does this shop­per buy from you year round, or just for spe­cial occa­sions?

How and when you reach out is all part of show­ing your cus­tomers that you’re inter­est­ed in serv­ing them that you lis­ten and you care. And just like with dat­ing, it’s usu­al­ly best to move slow­ly in the begin­ning. The same is true for data and brand loy­al­ty.

You’re more like­ly to suc­ceed long term when you advance incre­men­tal­ly and col­lect valu­able pieces of new infor­ma­tion over time, care­ful­ly act­ing on each bit of gained knowl­edge about your cus­tomers. This notion is called Pro­gres­sive Pro­fil­ing.

3. Getting Serious: Establish A Deeper Connection

Once you’ve estab­lished your val­ue and have shown respect for your date’s needs, chances are good he or she is now ready to trust you and even con­sid­er the long-term rela­tion­ship. In the dat­ing world, that might take the form of an anniver­sary date or an expen­sive gift. In the busi­ness world, you need to close the deal — to show this cus­tomer that he or she is the one by show­ing your appre­ci­a­tion.

One increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar form of grat­i­tude mar­keters use is expe­ri­en­tial rewards. These kinds of rewards aren’t typ­i­cal­ly found in stores and are viewed by cus­tomers as spe­cial.

Expe­ri­en­tial rewards could mean hard-to-get sports tick­ets or mem­o­ra­bil­ia, all access pass­es to a local con­cert, a shout-out­/­men­tion on Twit­ter from your favorite brand, or exclu­sive access to a pri­vate sale. What­ev­er they entail, expe­ri­en­tial rewards will always cre­ate deep con­nec­tions because of their unique­ness and exclu­siv­i­ty.

Anoth­er way to estab­lish a deep­er con­nec­tion is through a con­cept known as sur­prise and delight. With sur­prise and delight, the reward is not incen­tive dri­ven, but is rather – you guessed it — a sur­prise.

Imag­ine receiv­ing a free bev­er­age when your loy­al­ty card is scanned at your favorite cof­fee­house, or an unex­pect­ed upgrade to a new tier that offers addi­tion­al perks and ben­e­fits. You’d prob­a­bly nev­er for­get the com­pa­ny that sur­prised you with a perk. And chances are, your ongo­ing loy­al­ty would be set in stone.

4. Meet The Family

Now you’ve met your match, lis­tened to your match’s needs, and deliv­ered great ser­vice, incen­tives, and rewards. It’s time for the final step: you meet the fam­i­ly. In the dat­ing world, this step can be excru­ci­at­ing, some­times mor­ti­fy­ing. But here is where this dat­ing com­par­i­son diverges.

In the world of loy­al­ty mar­ket­ing, this step involves only hap­pi­ness and suc­cess. Your match loves you—and he or she wants to share you with every­one clos­est to him or her. Best of all, thanks to social media plat­forms like Face­book, Twit­ter, Foursquare, Pin­ter­est, and oth­ers, this shar­ing is eas­i­er than ever before.

Your match might even go online and post reviews, com­ments, or blogs about your great prod­ucts and ser­vice. And now that you’ve been exposed to your match’s 300, 500, or 1,000 online friends, you now have a whole new set of rela­tion­ships to get to work on. But remem­ber: take it slow!

Geoff Smith

Written by Geoff Smith

SVP Marketing, CrowdTwist

Geoff leads the Marketing team at CrowdTwist where he is responsible for developing thought leadership and innovative ROI-focused programs designed to build client and prospective client relationships. He helps the sales team move opportunities further, farther, and faster through the sales cycle. Geoff is a seasoned marketing technology marketer with more than 16 years of experience in marketing email, loyalty, and CRM solutions.

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