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The Seven Problems—and Solutions—of Client Loyalty

Personal relationships and understanding clients' needs will keep them coming back.

By Richard Ensman

Perhaps you want to increase sales of a particular product line, build more repeat business or cement your relationships with top clients. The key to achieving these goals may be a client loyalty program. In its simplest form, a loyalty program provides incentives and rewards to clients who do business with you. But more specifically, the program targets those incentives toward clients who help you overcome critical business problems and meet business goals. Here’s a summary of common customer marketing problems and a bird’s eye view of the loyalty programs that can help overcome them.

Problem 1: Your clients want additional products and services, but you’re unsure of their needs and interests.
The solution: Conduct an information-gathering campaign asking clients to complete a simple product-preference survey. These can be distributed with your monthly newsletter, new product announcements or other client mailings. You could also post the survey on your website.

Problem 2: Your client retention rate is declining because of increased competition.
The solution: An automatic incentive program. Each time a client returns for a meeting or invests in a new product, you provide escalating incentives. Start with gift cards to a local coffee shop or deli, move to gift certificates to local businesses or fine restaurants and then, perhaps, a copy of your favorite personal finance book.

Problem 3: Your best clients contribute a large share of your profits, and you fear they could be lured away.
The solution: These clients will stay with you as long as they feel truly appreciated. Therefore, a preferred-client “club” offering tangible and intangible benefits, like special seminars, social outings to golf clubs or sporting events, or priority telephone assistance might be the answer.

Problem 4: You’re trying to meet sales or profitability goals for a particular time period.
The solution: Let your clients know about the goal and how they can help you. Motivate them with an end-of-the-year, or end-of-the-quarter referral program. Clients who help you achieve your goal by providing referrals who then become clients get the rewards. This type of program requires planning, so don’t wait until you start falling short of your goal to mail out promotional materials.

The Five C’s of Client Loyalty:
  • Clarity: Be sure you understand your objectives before setting out.
  • Contact: Loyalty programs require some point of customer contact, such as monthly mailers or newsletters.
  • Communication: Get some customer feedback if you’re uncertain about your direction, and listen to customer feedback once your promotions begin.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Of course you’ll spend money on loyalty programs. Just be sure that they bring you sufficient business to justify the expenditure.
  • Consistency: Although you can change loyalty programs from time to time, don’t change so quickly and so often that you risk upsetting clients.

Problem 5: You’re worried that you might lose clients who look elsewhere for a better deal.
The solution: A “name-your-terms” program. You begin the sales transaction by asking your client to describe the products or services he’d like or how much he’d like to pay. Then you can build your package accordingly.

Problem 6: Your clients want to work with someone who is active in their community.
The solution: Institute, and publicize, a charitable product promotion providing support to your favorite causes whenever you sell key products or services.

Problem 7: You are more likely to close a sale if you can quickly schedule your second meeting.
The solution: Consider a “bounce-back coupon.” Insert an attractive coupon for a free follow-up consultation in your initial marketing package. The coupon is redeemable only if used within a relatively short period of time.

A Word of Caution on Loyalty Programs

Through some loyalty programs, you’ll collect biographical or purchasing preference information from your clients and prospects. Of course, many clients value privacy and are fearful of sharing information. So if you’re going to collect personal or sensitive data, be sure you let them know the following:

  • What you’re doing
  • Why you’re doing it
  • Exactly what information you’re collecting
  • Whether you will—or won’t—share personal data with other organizations
  • They can always opt in or out of your program


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