The holiday season is upon us. For small businesses, it’s one of the busiest–and most profitable–times of the year. But after the holiday surge is over, many businesses enter the new year with a big decline in sales.
But don’t fret: you can ride that holiday wave well into 2013. What’s the key? A well-managed customer loyalty program that allows your business to thrive in any season by tapping into a reservoir of dependable shoppers.
The Enormous Value of Existing Customers
Successful businesses know how to make their money make money. What’s the best way to reinvest your profits back into your company? Marketing to existing customers.Repeat customers spend 67% more than first-timers, and retaining a current customer costs 5 to 10 times less than acquiring a new one.
With a customer loyalty program, you can turn those holiday shoppers into repeat customers, keeping your business booming all year round.
Why Punch Cards Don’t Cut It
When you hear “customer loyalty program,” your mind might go to punch cards: “Buy 10, get your 11th free!” While they’re an easy solution for small businesses, punch cards aren’t the best way to get customers coming back.
Punch cards suffer from a fatal flaw: they’re ultimately passive. They sit in your pocket, waiting to be found. Once found, they hardly inspire action; if a customer wasn’t going to return, the appeal of a second punch won’t convince them otherwise.
Instead, you need a program that is active, that reaches out to your customers, that invites and entices them to visit again. A strong outreach system will enable your business to boom in 2013.
The Power of Active Outreach
If punch cards are passive, what kind of marketing is active? Outreach marketing that actively contacts your customers, alerting them of special discounts, events, and opportunities at your business.
There are 3 digital channels by which you can run a low-maintenance high-value customer loyalty program: email, social media, and text message. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each medium to see which channel best suits your business.
A modern classic in small business marketing, if you’re not building an email list of customers, you should probably start. 77% of consumers prefer email as the channel to receive marketing messages. The bad news? Only about 10% of marketing emails are actually opened.
To maintain a high open-rate and successfully drive customer purchases, keep your emails interesting: don’t neglect to add some fun pictures, playful text, and–most importantly–useful information.
Pros: Consumer’s favorite channel.
Cons: Low open-rate.
Good for: Sales alerts, event notices, helpful content.
Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare–oh my! And don’t forget Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Yelp, YouTube… it’s enough to make an over-worked small business throw up their hands and forget it all. But social media can be a great way to get exposure, with over 50% of the US on Facebook alone. Unfortunately, content posted to your company’s page will only reach 15-20% of your fan base.
Customer engagement, and the resulting profits, can be achieved via social media. According to one study, coupon campaigns on Facebook generate the most engagement.
Pros: Huge base of users.
Cons: Lots of competition for attention.
Good for: Coupons, engagement.
You can drive customers to your business on demand with an effect SMS marketing campaign. With 90% of texts read within 3 minutes of receipt, there’s no better way to get your marketing message seen instantly. As a permission-based marketing strategy, you do have to be careful to get consent, not to text too much, and to generally follow best practices.
Texts, with their immediate impact, allow businesses to react to slowdowns with incredibly precision, sending out mobile coupons that bring customers in within minutes. SMS marketing is also one of the easiest ways to run sweepstakes and giveaways (e.g. “Text WIN to 555888 to win a $100 gift certificate!”).
Pros: Most texts read instantly, can respond to slowdowns with precision.
Cons: Can’t text too often without annoying customers.
Good for: Coupons, sweepstakes, event alerts.
About the Author: Gene Sigalov is a SimpleTexting.com co-founder and leader in the SMS marketing industry. SimpleTexting.com is an easy-to-use platform that enables businesses to send customized text message marketing campaigns directly to their customers. Follow SimpleTexting on Twitter at @SimpleTexting, like them on Facebook, and read the latest in mobile marketing news on their blog.