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Tips for Rewarding Long-Term Customers

Date: August 06, 2008

In the quest to gain new business, it's easy for business owners to forget about the clients who have been with them year in and year out. But long-term clients are largely responsible for a small business' growth, which is why savvy business owners should let them know they're appreciated. Here are some ways to reward customer loyalty, making it more likely to continue.

Create a customer rewards system. Let long-term customers know that they—and their longstanding patronage—are appreciated. A rewards system that gets better the longer a customer stays around will give customers less motivation to give competitors a try. Let customers know that you're tracking each time they do business with you and at set intervals, like every time they spend $200, offer them a free or discounted product or service. Even if your competitors offer sales on products and services, your customers will see a benefit in sticking with your business in the long run.

Membership has its privileges. Take the customer rewards system a step further by creating a membership program. To participate, customers will have to provide contact information, but in return, you can send them special promotions and rewards that aren't being offered to all customers. These don't always need to be in the form of discounts. Give members a sneak preview of new items or allow them to enjoy sales before other clients and customers get their turn. Not only will such a move make it easier for you to keep in touch with regular customers, but it fosters a sense of camaraderie. By following through on offering periodic sales and discounts, customers believe they are getting something extra in return for showing customer loyalty.

Make it personal. One of the biggest benefits of having long-term customers is developing a relationship with them. Take this relationship a step further by finding out key information about them, such as a birthday. Have customers fill out a customer information card, letting them know that you offer discounted products or services as a birthday gift to all customers. Another option is to track the dates of customer purchases and each year on the anniversary of your customers' initial purchases, offer free or discounted services to thank them for their patronage.

Get in the holiday spirit. If you have certain customers that you have done a lot of business with over an extended period of time, use the holidays as an opportunity to thank them. You don't have to wait for the traditional Christmas holiday season. Stand out in customers' minds by choosing a holiday such as St. Patrick's Day or the Fourth of July when your sentiments won't get lost in the crowd. Send long-term clients or customers a small token thanking them for their business and reiterating that you look forward to future ways you can service them.

Market through appreciation. When it comes to offering valued customers a token of your appreciation, you don't have to offer one of your products or services. Partner with a non-competitive business and give each other a boost. Offer your valued clients free services with your partner and have the partner do the same. Not only will you be showing your appreciation, but you'll also be able to introduce the partner's customers to your products and services, ramping up your marketing efforts at the same time.
Any successful business owner will tell you that the customer is king. By taking some time to thank the customers who have supported you in the past, you're increasing the odds that they'll continue to support you in the future.

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