By Kendra Lusty | Updated on Apr 25, 2019 9:19:34 AM
Some businesses seem to have it made. They have a faithful following that only seems to grow year after year.
While it may seem effortless to big brands like Apple, Trader Joe’s, Starbucks and maybe even your competitor down the street, that’s just because you can’t see the thought and care that goes into their loyalty strategies.
In fact, you can build your own wildly successful loyalty program by hitting the right notes for your organization and members. Hint: “right” could mean something very different for you than it does for other successful businesses.
There are a lot of reasons an association might want to build a new member benefits platform. Some are attempting a formal loyalty strategy for the first time. Some may not be seeing the results they want and are beginning to rethink their solutions.
Without a clear direction from the beginning, some are tempted to blindly try what works for others, hoping it will work for them. However, this is a risky approach, especially if it costs money and time you don't have to spare, or will make it hard to measure success.
If you’re starting from scratch, or even if you’re just trying to improve, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start.
To make your value-added benefits to really shine, you’ll want to base them on the things that are most important to you. Here are a few good places to look for the ideal launching point.
It’s no secret anymore that members are placing increasing importance on sharing values with the companies they do business with. In fact, 52% of Millennials and nearly as many Gen Xers and Baby Boomers feel like it’s important that their values align with the brands they like.
And by choosing benefits that emphasize those values, associations can connect with members on a deeper emotional level. And at the same time, they’ll be fulfilling their own purpose so it’s a win-win.
For example, Clearfield Chamber of Commerce declared its most important purpose as supporting local businesses.
One of its efforts of recent years is to connect high school students with local business owners. By introducing these students to viable career paths that would keep them in their hometown after graduation, they hope to also help local entrepreneurs grow their workforces.
Benefits like these that support the common good get people excited to support the organizations they are a part of.
It’s probably a safe bet to assume every association strives for high membership recruitment and renewal rates. However, setting a stretch goal to reach a certain percentage of renewals without knowing how to get there is unlikely to yield desired results.
An association can begin a successful loyalty campaign by clearly defining the actions that are likely to lead to eventual renewal. The next step is to give members incentives to take those actions more often by rewarding certain behaviors.
As an example, AARP had the goal to inspire members to interact more with their website, specifically with critical topics and quizzes that leaders felt would most benefit members. To accomplish this, leaders at AARP created a customized rewards system called Rewards for Good.
With it, they were able to assign value to specific activities. It was a quick success within the first year. AARP reported a major boost in engagement with website tools and features, plus other benefits like deeper relationships with members.
What kind of relationship do you want to have with your members? Believe it or not, “a good relationship” is not a good enough answer. It’s important for businesses to know exactly how they want to appear to their membership base and what role they want to fill.
If you think about it, brands like Harley Davidson have a vastly different relationship with their customers than McDonald’s.
Brands like Harley Davidson find a strong niche and assimilate their members, acting and talking just like them. This comes at the cost of possibly alienating those outside the core audience, but with the result of a ravenously loyal fan base.
On the other hand, brands like McDonald’s have a strong identity which they rigidly enforce. The goal is to make the customer experience reliably consistent during every visit to every location.
Other businesses take on the role of servant, focusing on a personalized and polite customer experience. Others still may play the part of rebel, bucking the traditions of their industry to offer a unique experience members can’t find elsewhere.
When the connection is strong enough, this brand identity is in itself a loyalty strategy. Customers seeking the same type of relationship flock to these brands. Then, they stay as long as the brand keeps filling the role they want it to.
Associations can and should take note of this strategy. Simply identifying your relationship goals is a great first step toward establishing a strong loyalty strategy. Committing to a single concept (instead of trying to be everything to everyone) will help members who want the same thing find you… and love you for a long time to come.
One thing is clear. Loyalty programs of all kinds, including value-added benefits, corporate incentives, employee perks and more, are best when designed around the unique needs of a business and its constituents.
So when designing a strategy that is right for you, begin in the place that is highly personal to you. If you have strong, clearly defined values, benefits that help you live and share those values will draw like-minded members right to your doorstep.
If you have clear goals, then incentivizing specified actions will help you lead members down the path you want them to take. And if you have a clear definition of the relationship you want with your members, you can form deep and lasting bonds with those who seek the same thing.