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Customer loyalty – by Rob James

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“10% of my marketing budget works, I would be a rich man if I knew which 10%.”

Marketing is a tricky subject; a business can spend a great deal of money and not always achieve an obvious result. There are many disciplines within marketing and with the explosion of social media, marketing has become more of a dark art, or has it? During the coming months, I shall be taking a look at them all and offering what I hope to be a valuable insight designed to help you plan and execute marketing activity that has a positive impact on your business.

For this first piece, I would like to concentrate on loyalty. Many businesses employ considerable resource on conquest business, i.e gaining new customers, and whilst this is important, so is looking after the ones you already have. It seems to me that there is little incentive to remain loyal to any one business these days; insurance, mobile phone, utility and a plethora of other companies all offer massive incentives to switch but not a great deal is on offer to stay.

Most of us have loyalty cards from the supermarkets and happily collect points each time we check-out but these are our points, we have earned them and are becoming to be perceived as a given rather than a reward. Where is the loyalty when you can find a card for each major retailer in your wallet or purse? There is no surprise or joy when claiming your points back because they are yours.

It is impractical for most service repair garages to implement a scheme with a loyalty card due to the set-up cost and continuing administration, but you don’t need to invest heavily in a system such as this when you almost certainly have the tools at your disposal to run your own scheme and here’s how.

LITTLE THINGS CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE

Assuming you have a customer database management system with MOT reminders and the like, it is fairly easy to monitor the spend per customer. Simply work out a loyalty reward programme based upon giving something back, make sure it is high perceived value but low actual cost and once your customer hits their ‘target’, discount their next bill with a freebie of some sort. It could be that you give a free air filter or don’t charge for the oil but whatever you feel is the correct reward based upon a level of spend, make sure you tell the customer that you are giving them this gift but only once they have earned it. If you like, this is a secret loyalty scheme.

The jackpot for this is surprising your customer – you will have exceeded their level of expectation. They will feel good because it is a genuine reward for loyalty for which you are rightly giving them recognition. Very few people tell their friends how much cash they have been discounted with a supermarket loyalty card because, as I said, this is something they believe they own and have earned. If you just give random little gifts to your customers, they will be surprised, happy and most importantly, they will tell their friends.

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