Loyalty programme is a force multiplier

Rewarding customers does not have to involve costly loyalty programmes. Smaller enterprises can adopt budget-friendly tactics to keep their valued clientele coming back for more, advises Manar Al Hinai.

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Do you think multinational corporations would be where they are today if it had not been for their customers?

A great product or service is key, but without customers’ loyalty, without having them come back for more, no business would succeed.

In today’s competitive world, big businesses such as airlines and international department stores offer reward programmes that acknowledge their loyal customers. They may offer free airline tickets, gadgets or discounts on their next purchases.

SMEs and start-ups are realising the importance of customer loyalty, and some of my clients have started incorporating reward programmes early in their business life cycle.

A newly opened restaurant in Abu Dhabi, for example, offered me a birthday cake and invited my friends to celebrate my birthday at its venue. In another instance, an European hotel chain sent me memorabilia from every branch they owned after my three-day stay at one of their properties. It can be easy to implement customer loyalty programmes when you operate a multimillion business. But this can be harder for a small business owner who may struggle to afford such a luxury.

Here are a few ways to reward your loyal customers:

Make them part of your company’s story

Perhaps you are creating a community initiative and want to give it a specific name. Ask your customers through social media, email and even in-store to take part. When you like a name suggested, let your clients know. Do so by announcing that the name is a result of a suggestion made by person X and how grateful you are they took part.

Give loyal customers extra perks

Complimentary service goes a long way. Reward frequent and loyal customers with free shipping, extra products or samples of yet-to-be launched products. Customers are likely to come back for more when they feel appreciated.

Get to know your customers

If you run a bakery or factory, invite your most faithful clientele for a tour to see how things are done. Alternatively, entrepreneurs running a fashion or beauty business can ask favoured customers to style a window display, at the same time giving them a sneak peek of any new products.

Notice your customers on social media

If a customer praises your product or service online, repost their comments on your company website or social media page to acknowledge and thank them for liking your product. Such behaviour is likely to trigger more from your clients. In-store and through your marketing efforts, ask your customers to share their experience with your company. Make them aware your company is on social media and on the lookout for positive mentions.

Small gestures go a long way towards loyalty

Note any special events your clients may celebrate. Send them a greeting card to celebrate a festival or offer them something special to mark a birthday.

Team up with an associate

If you sell cosmetics, for example, partner with a spa to deliver discounts to your clients, and vice versa. If you sell healthy supplements, buddying up with a gym could lead to a membership discount. This not only supports other businesses but also raises awareness about your company through your partner’s network.

Launch a premium customer programme

Offer your loyal customers premium services all year round.

You do not have to wait until you are a multimillion-dirham company to start rewarding your customers. Start using creative, budget-friendly tactics and you could turn your enterprise into such a company sooner than you imagine.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter at @manar_alhinai.

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