Creating loyalty programs

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Most marketers think about the customer life cycle when planning and executing their e-mail marketing programs. They send out messages designed to create branding opportunities, customer acquisition and retention. But some still  leave out an important facet, said Jamie Schissler, director of e-mail marketing at interactive marketing firm customer loyalty programs.

“Some companies have different customer segments that they know are more valuable, but they don’t do anything to cater to those segments,” he said. “This would be in addition to other e-mail marketing, and it really is crucial to get your best customers on a loyalty list.” Schissler provided these tips to help you create your own loyalty program.

■ Make it available right from the start. When customers opt in to your e-mail program, you can get them thinking about being your best customer by treating them like your best customer. “Make loyalty programs available to everyone,” Schissler said.

■ Consider your content carefully. Loyalty program e-mails are going to be very, very different than traditional e-mail marketing because they are going to be heavily driven by nonmarketing content, he said. “You’re going to be providing customers with information that helps them do their jobs faster, helps them keep up with industry news and really keeps them plugged in,” Schissler said. “There’s one office supply brand that uses a loyalty program that gives its most valuable customers—office managers—information about taking time off, managing their personal and professional time. It becomes more of a professional newsletter than a cross-sell or promotional campaign.”

■ Use your loyalty program as a way to learn more about your customers. “It’s largely about data. You want to know more about the customer’s needs, what pain points they have,” he said. “You can use your loyalty program to ask a question here and there, so you’re continually building a profile of that customer.

■ Keep offers and specials out of your loyalty program. “Don’t bother with codes. For b-to-b it’s different. It’s about value. They already probably have a discounted rate—it all becomes the value for the recipient. What are you doing to help them do their jobs better?” Schissler said.

■ Get your best customers to sign up by referencing your loyalty program in your traditional e-mail marketing program. “Don’t just opt them in, even if they gave you permission to send them multiple types of e-mails,” he said. “You want customers to sign up on their own.”

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