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Community Based Marketing and Loyalty Programs for Small Business


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Yes, we still like our Loyalty Programs

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Loyalty Report – Canadian Edition| Maritz Loyalty Marketing.

Consumers still love their Loyalty Programs. Many see them as a way to get more value from the businesses they frequent and the brands they buy. The most popular Loyalty Programs are easy to understand and offer rewards that fit their lifestyle.

Effectively marketing the Program is the key to success. Company websites, social media, blog posts and Pinterest pages often showcase the Programs. Many use in-store signage to promote their benefits, and employees to tell customers about the Program and to enroll them. Talking directly to customers is often the best way to spread the word.

Members of the best Programs are engaged. Company communications, reward structures and the redemption process appeal to the markets they serve. The Programs can be modified in response to customer feedback and the changing business environment. Members get the most flexibility with Multi-Merchant Programs. They encourage cross promotion with other businesses. Points collected at the dry cleaners can be redeemed for flowers or a birthday gift. Members get choice and the merchants can leverage each others’ customer base.

All manage rewards and points to get the most effective Return on Investment (ROI). A positive ROI means the program is sustainable. The key is to balance making it profitable for the business and attractive for the members.

Marketing for Small Business is really Relationship Marketing. The unique experience you create for customers makes your business different from the one next door. Loyalty Programs for Small Business encourage customers to build those links, frequent the small businesses in their area and to “Shop Local”.

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What do you want to know about Loyalty?

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Here is a “snap shot” of what consumers said about Loyalty Programs in 2013.

  • 36% of Americans participate in loyalty programs (Hotels.com)
  • There are 2.65 billion loyalty program memberships in the US, 21.9 per household, but people are only active in 9.5 (Colloquy)
  • The average consumer is a member in 7.4 programs but only active in 63% of them (Maritz)
  • Overall loyalty program membership is growing at 26.7%, while active memberships are growing at just 21.2% (Colloquy)
  • 39% of adults 35-44 are enrolled in up to five different programs (Hotels.com)
  • 35% of points program members redeem awards (Forrester)
  • Female consumers (68%) are more loyal to brands than males (55%) (Analytic Partners)
  • Just 25% of US consumers consider brand loyalty as something that impacts their buying behavior (Ernst & Young)
  • 57% modify when and where they buy in order to maximize the loyalty benefits (Maritz)
  • 46% modify brands they buy to maximize the loyalty benefits (Maritz)
  • 69% say choice of retailer is influenced by where they can earn customer loyalty/rewards program points (Maritz)
  • 31% of American consumers cite perks as the most important factor for joining loyalty programs (Hotels.com)
  • 51% of U.S. consumers switched service providers in the past year due to poor customer service (Accenture)
  • 85% of consumers say companies could have recognized & rewarded them for doing business with them (Accenture)

Loyalty Programs are now simple to implement and provide benefits to both businesses and their customers. Businesses learn more about the buying habits and create close ties with their target market. Customers get rewards for everyday spending. Many select products and services based on them.

The challenge is to select a Program that meets your needs.


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The Challenges of Marketing in Rural Areas

Close up of a small Christmas tree inside a spherical glass

My clients in rural communities use many ways to reach out to their customers. Traditional things like billboards and signage are not very effective when you can count on your fingers the number of cars that pass by. Another client just realized that being ranked Number 1 on a Google Search in her category does not help in her remote area.

So how do you get your message to this target market? Simple, deliver it directly using focused Marketing Programs. Community based marketing programs such as Loyalty Programs that focus on local businesses and customers in the surrounding geographic areas. Use a geo-targeted approach that encourages residents to frequent local businesses. For example, add location information to your posts so they are listed in searches for businesses in your area.

A great way to leverage exposure is to connect and team up with other local businesses. Do this using joint promotions, geographically targeted advertising, Multi-Merchant Loyalty Programs and sponsored events. “Like” other local businesses on Facebook and use Pinterest to promote your business, and local activities and attractions.

The Holiday Season is perfect for getting organized. Increased traffic into the area benefits everyone. Make the shopping experience special to entice shoppers to frequent local businesses. Time limited promotions, hot chocolate stations and gift wrapping tables make the process more enjoyable.

Small businesses need a different approach to successfully market their products and services in rural areas. They need focused programs that appeal to their target market and encourage them to “Shop Local”.


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“Shop Local” Loyalty Strategies

Women Window Shopping

How can smaller centers compete with the big cities? By developing strategies that encourage residents to shop in their local community. The key to making these types of programs successful is making them flexible enough to work for different types of businesses.

Loyalty Programs are a great way to focus the attention on local businesses. A Coalition Loyalty Program made up of local businesses is a good way to start. Residents collect points and redeem them at other local businesses.

Make it Simple. Signing up for the Program should be quick and easy. Consider getting away from the standard Loyalty Card. There are other ways to do it.

Make it Fun. Use a mobile app to delivers deals and rewards directly to your customers’ smartphone.

Make it easy to Save. A Coalition Program makes it easy to collect and redeem points at different businesses for items customers want.

This type of Community Based Marketing targets customers in your area. It leverages marketing dollars and increases exposure of the businesses that join the Program. Large corporations use these types of programs to increase market share, collect information on customer buying trends to develop marketing campaigns and discounting strategies. Now this type of information is available to small businesses.


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The Loyalty “Easy Button”

Ever wonder how to compete with businesses that have deep pockets and large marketing budgets? Here is an approach that builds on your strengths and your relationship with your target market.
Implement programs that give instant rewards and savings on future purchases. Use them to create special campaigns for VIP customers and to promote Holiday Specials. In other words, good reasons to come back to your business.


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A Smart Phone that is a Reward Card!

WomanWhile doing research for a client, I found a whole new way to communicate directly with customers. A software approach that lets businesses send information about the “hot deal” of the day to their customers’ smart phones.

Merchants sign up and set up the system, then input their deals, rewards and coupons. Customers down-load the app and sign up. When they are near the business, the system does the rest. It transmits the deals to their phones.

This new approach does away with Coupon Cutting and Sorting. Change promotions daily, even hourly. There is no points liability to manage and no risk for the merchant.

I immediately signed up and soon my client joined. It is an easy, effective way to communicate directly with current customers and to attract new ones. Just about everyone is interested in trying out a new app, are you?

LoyalBlocks from LocalBizconnex


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Integrating Social Media into your Online Marketing Strategy

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Every online strategy should include a social media component. Social Media is an effective and inexpensive way to expand your marketing reach. Use it to build credibility, promote products and services, and reward customers.

Your website is great for describing your business, your blog can provide background information on industry trends, products and services. Upload pictures of products and special events onto Pinterest, and distribute information, coupons and promotions on Facebook. There is also Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram, and there will probably be more in the future.

Developing an online strategy and managing the flow of information can be time consuming. There can be a down side to setting up too many accounts on social media platforms. If you have no idea what you are doing, you can actually damage your reputation and your brand. To be effective you need a clear communications strategy and a way to generate and distribute content to the various social media sites. Be sure that you have the time and resources to maintain them. Do not sign up for more than you can support, or get help.

One approach is to start with an editorial calendar. Use it to outline the topics, events and promotions you want to cover and the platforms that you want to distribute them on. Assign the writing duties to various members of your team and manage the distribution. Do not forget to integrate and monitor the data analytics for each platform. This is a great way to measure your audience’s level of interest in your posts.

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