February is the month of love, and there is no better time to discuss the best ways to incentivize customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty programs get a bad rap because they can be costly for small business owners. Unlike larger corporations, margins are usually narrower and can make it difficult to incentivize within your current price point.

Additionally, they may require more man power or book keeping on your part.  But, if done correctly, they will add to your bottom line as well.

Customers want to know they are important to you and it is our job to let them know that we very much appreciate their participation in our businesses.  And there are many different ways to connect with your clients.

I challenge you this month, to start a new trend with your business and help your customers see how much you truly appreciate them.

Enjoy our  list of 10 ways to show our customers how much we love them:

Members Only Parties

One of the quickest and easiest ways to show your love and appreciation is to have a regular member only parties. Structured activities and light food and refreshments are outstanding ways to cannot connect clients together, therefore strengthening the bond with your company. It’s a terrific networking opportunity for clients. You can also use this time to showcase the talents of those you are involved with. People like to know they are included. A simple invitation to a party can show them they are not just a number to you.

Referral Programs

Word-of-mouth marketing is the new “hot” way to advertise. Incentivize your clients to spread the word about your business so they feel the love when they recommend you. I will go more in depth on referral programs in another article, but in a nutshell, it’s important to make sure that the incentive matches the effort. Referral programs give your clients a moment to think on how they feel about the business you do together.  Even if they never refer anyone, they will have decided on whether they would refer you.  And if they are still doing business with you, they would likely give you a good review to potential clients. On a side note, I always like to over give to those that support me in my efforts so if you have a client that is really going above and beyond to give you a great testimony reward them in some way additionally to the referral program.

Awards and Recognition

Depending on the type of business that you have you might be able to award customer loyalty with just a straight up award. For example if you teach trumpet lessons, you could have an award for attendance. No notice I didn’t say that award for the best player because that requires some natural ability.  But everyone can control their commitment to a schedule. Or if you sell coffee, you can have a frequent cup program for those that drink our purchase so many cups of coffee in a month. By recognizing those using your products to their fullest potential, it will help your other clients see how to best use your services as well.  Having a newsletter or even just an email campaign that showcases your clients is a great way to honor those who have done business with you.

Innovation

Staying on top of the innovations in your industry and knowing what the next “big thing” will be, helps your clients to see they are in the right place by doing business with you.  Customers like to see they can trust you with their current and future needs.  I think this is an area where many small businesses get caught up, it’s important to take a certain amount of your time every week to stay current in your industry. When clients trust you with their needs it’s a wonderful thing and a good sign you have earned their respect as an industry leader.

Partner with Other Organizations

If it’s not in your margin to offer incentives, partner with someone who can mutually benefit your clients. For example, if you are in a service industry for children, partner with another business in the children’s service industry. Cross marketing is innovative and clients like to see networking opportunities. For direct marketers, you can schedule a show with other direct marketing companies: i.e. candles and housewares, jewelry and clothes.  All of these are examples with little cost to you, and something extra to offer your clients. Consider partnering with charities as well. Your clients may love to know some of the money they are spending with you is going to support a good cause.

Discounts

I think every clients favorite type of customer appreciation is just a straight up discount coupon.  You should strive to offer a discount to your clients at every opportunity.   Even if they do not take advantage of the discount it is an incredible way to build rapport and show them your appreciation. It is important though that discounts are categorized as customer appreciation and not clearance items. Have a regular-season customer appreciation discounts by sending coupons, coupon codes, and certificates. Clients love the inclusive feeling of knowing they have earned a discount. Direct marketers do not always have to opportunity to lower item prices but can give new product samples or helpful information at regular intervals.

Reduced Price Days or Hours

Happy hours and terrific Tuesdays have been a part of our society for a long time. But you don’t have to be a in the restaurant industry to take advantage of this. If you have a slow business day, offer reduced rates on that day for clients.

Contests

Holding frequent, participation required, contests will connect your clients to your business this can be as simple as a photo caption contest, answering a riddle, or even an extensive around town scavenger hunt. No matter what industry you are in,  there are ways to get your clients involved with a contest.

Random Winners

You can also incentivize every milestone. Clients served, services rendered, and Facebook likes are all excellent ways to show your appreciation to clients who are with you in business.  The spontaneity of a random winner is always nice and combined with other types of incentives it can make people feel like they’ve entered the lottery just by spending their money or time with you.

Early Bird Discounts

Show your current clients you want to keep them by offering them discounted services over the next quarter or year by allowing them to lock in a price lower price for a limited time.  Let them know your previous business relationship was appreciated and you look forward to spending the next season of business together.

I firmly believe all small businesses should be involved in some type of customer loyalty incentive programs. Showing your clients that they are important to you is essential to staying in business.

So I challenge you, what are you doing are going to do to show your customers how much they mean to you?