My wife and I have become loyal to a small business owner
who has never offered us a discount, sold us a product that we couldn't get
elsewhere, or opened a location closer to our house.
The fact that his name, too, is Jeff has nothing to do with
our interest in continuing to buy high-end dog food from him. What makes the
loyalty more noteworthy is that we actually bought product from Jeff that made
our pets sick.
What’s this business owner’s lure? Maybe you think he called
one or more of our dogs cute. Nope, he has never met them.
Jeff treats his customers like they are his customers. He has worked in his Kirkland, WA, store every day
for three straight years without complaint, with a smile, and a willingness to
carry purchased product from his store to the car parked outside.
It has been that interest in earning our business and trust
that got us past the fact that product he sold us was contaminated at the
factory. That was neither his fault nor within his control.
Were he disinterested or on his boat while our dogs were pooping
at an alarming rate, we would have had reason to shop elsewhere – perhaps to
one of the likely more than two dozen stores that are closer to where we live.
But beyond taking back the recalled food – who wouldn’t? –
he made it a point of learning even more about our pets so he could recommend a
replacement food that would provide the health benefits that we were seeking.
He checked up on the health of our dogs in the subsequent days, and has been
there at every hour we come by to provide counsel and his interest in being a
solution for us.
As a marketer, I think often about loyalty. As I’ve written
before, in my view, more businesses, including small and medium-sized ones, should
build opt-in databases to reach out to consumers via mobile devices in
personalized ways that build loyalty.
The U.S. Small Business Administration has published seven
tips for starting a successful customer loyalty program.
They include the following:
A loyalty punch card that offers a free gift
after a certain number of purchases have been made
An opt-in club using email addresses obtained at
the point of sale
A premium loyalty program to reward the highest
Branded loyalty membership cards available
through a number of commercially available loyalty card services that let you
design branded cards, track and manage customer behavior such as number of
customer visits to your store, average spend and more
A digital component, either with the
aforementioned mobile or via social media integration – or both
Value adds like a workshop
Regular communication with members, offering
them upcoming loyalty incentives, news on events, and birthday greetings
I have no argument with any of these tips. Employing some or
all give small and medium-sized businesses ways to compete and win.
I certainly don’t advocate following Jeff’s route of working
every day for three years. That’s not healthy and the good news is that Jeff is
on the lookout for a fill-in for a couple of Sundays a month.
But business owners need to give customers reasons to come back.
What’s your reason?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize
Business program http://Goo.gl/t3fgW, which
provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need
to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to
this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't
necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.