Call it customer retention, customer loyalty, or brand affinity: what we’re really after as marketers boils down to one word, and that word is love. There’s nothing so powerful in marketing as the love of a customer, but fostering that kind of love takes patience, time, and maybe a little automation.

How to Build and Promote a Customer Loyalty Program Using a Marketing Automation Platform

Your marketing automation platform isn’t just a lead nurture platform. If you want to improve customer loyalty, you can apply the same principles and tactics to nurturing customers that you might apply to nurturing leads. Add in a little structure in the form of a customer loyalty program, and you’ve got a recipe for a long-term relationship with your existing customer base.

Customer loyalty programs (yes, like the ones credit card companies and retail shops use) are a great way to keep happy customers engaged with you. And these loyalty programs aren’t limited to big brands or major retailers. In fact, members of customer loyalty programs generate between 12 to 18% more revenue than customers who are not members—whether you’re B2B or B2C, you’re looking for repeat business, and a loyalty program could be just the ticket.

But First, the Basics

You don’t have to run a big budget to launch a customer loyalty program of your own—you just have to understand what makes your product or service special to your customers in the first place. You’ll frame your messaging around what your customers believe about you (not what you want them to believe about you), and the best way to do this is to run an evaluation of your messaging (learn more about that here).

Before you build the program, you need to know some math:

  • What’s your average cost of customer acquisition? This is sales + marketing cost / number of new customers.
  • What’s the lifetime value of a customer? This is a number to watch for improvement as you launch your program. The formula is customer revenue – gross margin / estimated churn percentage.
  • Now divide lifetime value by customer acquisition cost and keep tracking that number—you’re measuring your ROI. The higher the ratio, the higher your ROI.

And set your goals using a CRM: if your customers currently purchase twice a year, set an incremental goal to improve that to 2.5 times a year. Don’t forget to calculate how much money you’ll need to return in order to pay for your new customer loyalty program as well.

Next, determine what actions you want to encourage. These could be:

  • Referrals
  • Sharing messages on social media
  • Reading whitepapers or watching videos (here’s looking at you, B2B)
  • Leaving reviews

Then decide how you want to reward those actions. You might consider:

  • Points systems that let them redeem points for services, swag, cashback, or bonus items (like appetizers, if you’re in hospitality)
  • Create exclusive offers that really are only available to people in the program
  • Reward sharing as much as you reward money (free marketing)
  • Gamify with badges, special swag, power user designation or self-promotion opportunities

Finally, here’s how you can promote (and automate!) a customer loyalty program using your marketing automation platform:

  • Build a group of recent, frequent buyers for your first round of invitees.
  • Create a place for them to land—like, say, a landing page. Brand that page to their values and what makes them, as your buyers, different. Take note that you’re doing this for their values and their differences—not yours.
  • Let that landing place spark community. Ultimately you want to create a common experience for your loyalty program members. Consider links to social media where they can interact with each other.

Now design an email campaign invitation series to make your life easier. Automate your emails based on who has and hasn’t responded yet. Within each email, demonstrate the value of the program to them—will they be making an impact (like TOMS shoes)? Are they demonstrating their expertise (like TripAdvisor)? Are they getting exclusive offers (like Starbucks)?

Need inspiration for your first customer loyalty email? Download our Anatomy of a Loyalty Email template.

Once They’re in the Program

You can use your marketing automation platform to continuously engage with them on new offers, opportunities to become a super influencer, or tell them how much value they’ve gotten from you. The key is to keep your communications custom. Think about:

  • Use variable data to show exactly how many points they’ve accumulated
  • Ask for their stories and personal experiences, and either through social media or through a landing page submission
  • Use triggered emails to tell them when they have earned new badges or achievements (like Fitbit’s awesome fitness update emails)
  • Ask for reviews, shares or referrals for the opportunity to earn extra points

Need a little help with that help design? Download our Anatomy of a Loyalty Email template for some ideas on what to include (and where to include it). Link here, or in the image:

Promote a Customer Loyalty Program Using a Marketing Automation Platform

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