The Art of Feel-Good Loyalty Incentives

Reward your customers -- they'll reward you with repeat business.

By Roger L. Brooks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This article has been excerpted from The Power of Loyalty by Roger L. Brooks, available from Entrepreneur Press.

The best way to motivate customer behavior is to provide an incentive or reward for that motivation. Rewarding your customers for a specific purchasing behavior is not much different than training your puppy. With enough repetition and positive reinforcement, your pup can be motivated to act upon instruction. That's because the pup knows if he listens to your command, he'll receive his reward.

Human nature isn't much different. People can be motivated to take specific actions that accomplish their buying goals while also accomplishing your goals to increase their spending, frequency of visits or combination purchases (or comparative goals relevant to your line of business).

The question then is how do you motivate behavior? Below are five ideas that will get you thinking.

  1. Offer soft benefits that provide value such as special access limited only to members.
  2. Offer relevant promotions through various lines of communication, for example: e-mail, SMS text, receipt messages, statement inserts, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  3. Up-sell complimentary products or services at the associate level.
  4. Offer sweepstakes, random rewards or special offers for a limited time frame, keep your strategy fresh and exciting:
  5. Strategically place messages (via signage, web banners, etc.) that will trigger motivating actions.

Motivate, But Don't Mislead
Once you decide how you'll motivate, always do so in an honorable way. Your customers won't want to be misled into thinking they are receiving something greater in value that what they'll actually receive as the reward.

Abraham Lincoln put it best when he said, "You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."

Of course, the statement was made some 150 years ago and the President was referring to politicians attempting to fool their constituents; however, the quote resonates with me every time I see a program that offers empty loyalty. Such programs offer an elaborate program on the outside when, indeed, it's only a facade to increase business. In time, savvy customers will see through the facade. Your promotional strategy to motivate behavior must be phony proof. Once your customers lift the hood and kick the tires, the promotions must stand on their own and offer real value, not empty promises.

Remember, whatever you do, don't try to fool the customer! Loyal customers will catch on if the loyalty program does not have true value. This can also backfire and cause disloyalty amongst your customers and defeat the entire purpose of implementing your strategy in the first place.

There are two reasons why your rewards offerings should be upstanding:

  1. Loyal customers have earned the right to receive a valid reward. If they weren't enrolled in your program, they may have taken their business elsewhere.
  2. Customers can see through transparent rewards.

If you want to be in the loyalty game, you have to offer attractive redemption items that are achievable for your customers to earn. If customers are willing to change their purchasing behavior and provide you with their loyalty, they will expect the same in return from you in the form of a relevant reward.

It's the Little Things That Matter Most
If you put on your consumer hat, you'll understand that it's the little things that matter most. One component you should incorporate is providing feel-good loyalty. Feel-good loyalty is just what it sounds like, providing something that the customer will feel good about. Offering feel-good-loyalty incentives should be part of your overall strategy and will require some clever and creative thinking. Some companies offer free Wi-Fi, others offer free shipping. Whatever you decide, brainstorm hard, even hold an employee contest. but find your niche and add feel-good loyalty to the mix. is an internet company that offers a service to turn your photographs into art. Simply upload a photo and you can instantly transform that image into pop art, impasto, a black and white sketch and even more. Once you create your personal masterpiece you then have many options for the type of surface the image is printed on (glossy photo paper, canvas, etc.). Finally, you can choose from a number of print sizes and framing choices.

Although Photofiddle doesn't have a recognizable rewards program they do provide various levels of feel-good loyalty. Upon opening your order, customers see each piece is carefully packaged and accompanied with a pair of white cotton gloves. The label attached to the gloves reads, "All fine artwork should be handled with care. Please use white cotton gloves. Oils from your hands and fingers can leave finger prints. Jewelry on your fingers and wrist can leave markings."

That's a personal touch and that's feel-good-loyalty. It's doing the little things that matter most with customers. It's thinking outside the box so that your brand motivates your customers and resonates in their mind. Providing the white cotton gloves with each order sends both a literal message and subliminal message. It reinforces the need to treat your artwork with care and that they treat all of their customers with care.

Roger L. Brooks is a respected loyalty strategist with more than 15 years of experience in developing, supporting, and implementing customer loyalty and rewards programs. He has worked with esteemed companies such as Verizon, Sam's Club, and Chase Universal MasterCard, and he currently serves as the vice president of loyalty marketing for ValueCentric Marketing Group, Inc., managing growth for new and existing clients including GE Capital, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bank of Montreal.

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