We’ve blogged before about the importance of customers, especially in difficult economic times, and provided the five Relationship Marketing Principles. The fourth principle is, “Good customers expect to be rewarded.” Lets take a closer look at this.
Mutual benefit is inherent in relationships. Your best customers are important to you and, frankly, your products are important to them. This isn’t unknown to them. They are heavy users of the category and know they are important, that they aren’t a regular customer, and because they’re important, they expect to be rewarded. When they are, relationship equity is created, value beyond the functional benefits of the product, and they are less likely to take a competitor’s offer.
Now, how to do this in a way that’s meaningful to this very important cohort. Here are four ways. What’s worked for you?
- You don’t need to bribe them. They are heavy users so they have significant need for what the category offers. They are your best customers so they see value in what you offer. Bribing them isn’t rewarding them. Not that they won’t take a discount if given but it isn’t required.
- You do need to talk to them. Use their knowledge of the category to your mutual benefit. Draw them into dialogue and learn what they know. Doing this recognizes their importance, it acknowledges their key role. This is an excellent way to use Social Media.
- Make them brand VIPs. Give them special and exclusive access to information and/or new products before “regular” customers. This both recognizes them and enlists them as advocates for what’s new.
- Empower your employees to reward them. Starbucks is making an effort to develop their customer relationship marketing with their Gold Card and free extras when you register your payment card, but they’re missing a real opportunity. Their staff know who the best customers are. Instead of placing a coupon for a free iTunes download in a POS display, they should empower their staff to give the coupons to the best customers.