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Win over your existing patrons with a customer loyalty program, and watch sales reach new heights.

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This story appears in the August 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

With the skyrocketing cost of customer acquisition, it makes sense to focus on retaining and up-selling current customers. It can cost as much as five times more to win a new customer than to keep an old one. Yet many entrepreneurs remain fixated on prospecting-at the expense of programs for existing customers that would build sales more cost-effectively.

Customer loyalty programs (aka reward programs) have become essential in price-sensitive arenas and where there are similar products or services. About half of all Americans belong to at least one. Drugstore chain CVS Corp., for instance, has 32 million "ExtraCare" card members. And Regal Entertainment Group rewards frequent moviegoers with free concession food and discounts.

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