Some had the gall to disagree with me last month when I questioned providing discounts to Foursquare users. Some good counter-points were raised but I stick to my questioning the business impact of subsidizing the already loyal. You can erode margin without a demonstrable change in activity outside of them coming to expect the discount every time they show up. Or, as someone once put it discounts are like alcohol; originally a stimulant, then a depressant.
Instead, better to identify an activity that can grow your profits: such as rewarding your brands advocates for recommending you to their social network. Use Social Media Monitoring to identify those fans with the biggest networks and give them something to talk about. So here, specifically, are 8 ways to provide non-monetary rewards for your best fans including specific examples from real-life marketers.
1. Include Them In Your Product Planning Process
Recent research on why people follow a brand showed that beyond getting free stuff, people want to know about new products and give their opinion. Dicks Drive-In let its customers choose between three sites for its sixth Seattle location and got 115,000 votes (and you can bet a lot of loyal fans for the new location not hesitant to tell their friends.)
2. Include Them In Beta Testing
Google and Twitter are masters of this marketing technique. By inviting in a select few lab rats, it makes the product better and is so effective it created the forever beta philosophy. Works offline too. When Starbucks first opened in our city the windows were covered with paper and only occasionally did the door open to let in lucky folks into the inner sanctum to test the results of their barista training.
3. Give Them Direct Access To Senior Staff
The Why They Follow Brands research also indicated how interested people were in potentially being able to directly access brand managers, thought-leaders and the other business celebrities that walk your halls. It gives management a manageable way to directly connect with top customers and gives the customer bragging rights. Exclusive email addresses or hotlines are easy ways to implement this.
4. Invites To Special Events
Its almost upon us. That magical Monday night when my local sports shop open its door after 9 p.m. for a party for everyone who plays in the Mens Town League. Its a great way for them to network and thank key sports equipment decision-makers. It works for special company product launches as well.
5. When They Spend More Than Average Give Them Something They Value Which Costs You Very Little
I nominate Starbucks for Marketing Move of the Year when they offered Free Coffee on Earth Day to anyone who owned a travel mug. Way back when I was helping Blockbuster we offered loyal renters free movies from the kids section. The inventory was already paid for and offered parents a welcome kid-distracter. Perceived Value High; Cost Low.
6. Solve Another Problem For Them
Is there a special service you can provide them that cost you little but helps them a lot?
- Like a Florist who calls to ask you whether you want the same order this Valentines Day?
- The Financial Services company that washes your car while you attend their seminar?
- Or the shop that offers its best customers extra late hours during the Christmas rush?
7. Break Your Own Rules
British Airways, rocked the airline world when it introduced Fast Track which allowed its first-class passengers a way to zip through customs. Do you have a key rule that you can waive for your best customers that gives them bragging rights?
8. Celebrate Their Special Day
Social Media is such a godsend to this tactic its spawned a new expert: the birthday marketer. Theres virtual cakes, flowers and a while host of items that you can send your biggest Facebook fans but better yet, make sure theres a natural fit between the day and your product. While birthdays are great for brands like Dairy Queen if youre Victorias Secret, Valentines Day may make more sense or Tax-Free Day if youre Intuits TurboTax.
Hope this helps.
Theres a 9th way to reward your fans that doesnt cost a ton! You guessed it. Surprise Them! In my post on Foursquare vs.. Groupon I mentioned one authors brilliant Secret Chapter for big fans but heres another that shows how Foursquare can be used for good business. KLM detected when a passenger checked in with Foursquare at the Amsterdam airport. A quick monitor of their Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook revealed their interests and likes (and size of their social footprint). KLM then hunted them down and provided them with a personalized gift. Heres a link to more.