How to Launch a Loyalty Program at your Small Business

So you’ve made the decision to implement a loyalty program at your small business—now what?

While vetting a solution, you’ve assuredly gone over the benefits of loyalty programs, and after deciding on one, you might think once you get your welcome kit and put out a few table tents, you’re done.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case.

Once you choose a solution, there are a number of questions you should ask yourself for a successful program, and once it’s off the ground, there are a number of factors that make can make a good loyalty program great to consider.

But those steps aren’t the focus of this post.

Today, I’ll outline some of the steps it takes to launch a loyalty program at your small business in an effort to de-mystify the process and show those of you that are on the fence that while it may sound complicated when you get into all that “tech stuff,” it’s really rather simple to get off the ground, provided you’re willing to do a little work.

Assuming you’ve already decided on a loyalty marketing solution, set it up, understand its features, and worked out any kinks with tech support, the following are six steps to consider when launching a loyalty program at your small business:

  1. Advertise—It’s important to understand that the key to creating the increased visit frequency and opportunities for add-on sales that come along with a loyalty program is entirely dependent on people actually participating. Spend a few dollars on the design and printing of some attractive signage, table tents, or handbills/cards (or all three). Make sure the copy succinctly and compellingly conveys why your customers should care, customize the messaging so your customers know why it’s a great idea at your business in particular, and make sure it’s all displayed prominently so it’s easy to remember to talk about.
  2. Train Your Staff on Selling & Administration—While most small business owners will remember to train their staff on any technology they’re implementing at the store, it’s incredibly important that you also train your staff to mention your new loyalty program during EVERY transaction. Again, participation is key, and the one place you have someone’s undivided attention for a few seconds is at the register, so make sure your staff has the elevator pitch down pat. Try incentivizing your staff with a prize to see who can get the most sign-ups—spiffs are a great way to motivate teams.
  3. Throw a Launch Event—Everybody loves a party, so when rolling out your loyalty program, create an event around which you can share the program and incentivize your customers to sign up. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, but use the occasion as fodder for your social media accounts, drumming up excitement for your program around the event. Offer a special to those who join the program, use the occasion to celebrate your regulars, and have fun with it.
  4. Encourage Engagement & Evangelism—One of the ways you should work to get the word out about your program is to encourage engagement and evangelism on social media. When one of your regulars earns a reward, take their photo and post it to your social accounts. Run simple contests to encourage engagement among your fans. Tie a special to your customers taking some action on social media and/or on review sites. Being creative with your outreach and incentivizing customers to do the same will go a long way in getting the word out about your program. It’s also a simple way to get feedback on the program once it’s up and running.
  5. Surprise & Delight—Getting  to know who your best customers are is one of the great things about a loyalty marketing.  Once you do, work surprises for them into your program. Highlight your best customers with a freebie or make them feel special with an inside joke—it’ll help your loyalty program build a great word-of-mouth reputation, create stronger relationships with your customers, and encourage others to join.
  6. Evaluate & Refresh—The other great part about loyalty programs is the incredibly short feedback loop; you’ll know very quickly whether or not a special or some messaging resonates. Use that information to periodically refresh your program, dumping the duds while enhancing and repeating things that did work. Do not set it and forget it. Maximize your program efficacy by evaluating and updating periodically.

Have you tried each of these steps while launching a loyalty program at your small business? Have any of your own? Tweet us at @firstdatasmb to share your tips for a great loyalty program launch.

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Nina Showell is a Senior Support Specialist and QA Lead at Perka, leading Perka’s support team in providing world-class service to business owners large and small, and works as a beta tester for current and in-development features in the Perka app. You can find her online at LinkedIn.