If you call it a loyalty program, it isn’t.
(Plus: How really to create loyalty)
For one thing, competent marketers know better than to focus messaging on what they want to say or sell, but rather to focus on what their customers want to hear or buy. I can assure you that nowhere on the Things Customers Want to Hear or Buy List will you find, “To give you my loyalty.”
For another, I bet that your program gives customers points toward freebies in return for buying from you. The idea is that they’ll spend more dollars more often in order to build up points.1 I admit to pedantry here, but that’s not a loyalty program. It’s a frequency and rewards program.2
Increased frequency and spend are not the same thing as loyalty.
Come on. You’re not building loyalty. You’re bribing customers to return. No need to take exception at my invoking the B word. Bribing customers is a perfectly legitimate marketing tactic when we’re not talking about politicians. American Express Rewards, Marriott Rewards, Delta SkyMiles and others make an art of it. But if you think a bribed customer is a loyal customer, just wait until a competitor comes along and offers a richer bribe.
Truly loyal customers are loath to leave you. It’s more emotional than rational. That makes it hard to measure, but not hard to spot. Look no further than the number of Apple customers who steadfastly resist opportunities to save money on arguably equally capable, non-Apple products.3 Or the number of Harley riders who would rather die than be seen perched atop anything other than a Hog.4 Apple, I might point out, has no loyalty or rewards program. Harley-Davidson offers rewards for online purchases and through a cobranded Visa Rewards credit card. These may increase spend on gifts and accessories, but in no way do they lie at the root of Harley’s fierce biker loyalty.
Apple-esque, Harley-esque, and Garcia-esque loyalty does not flow from any sort of program. It flows from delivering a consistent, uncommonly positive experience.
Want loyal customers? First try being loyal to them.
2 Don’t call it that, either. At least, not just that. “Rewards” has become generic. Come up with a name that will make real customers (not the customers you fantasize that you have) want to take a closer look.
3 I number among them.
4 Someday I hope to number among them, too.