Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group
Long before there was all this talk about building a tribe or "viral buzz," there was the recognition that:
- There is value in existing customers because they're your most likely sale (resale)
- If they love you, they'll tell their friends and family and that endorsement lowers buying resistance
- People want a sense of belonging and exclusivity and you earn increased loyalty when you can create those things for them
So the idea of rewards or loyalty programs have been around forever. But honestly, most companies just call it in. They offer a few measly perks but it really just turns into a frequent buyers discount. There's nothing wrong with that.... but it can be so much more.
One of the best examples of how to make it more is Maker's Mark Straight Bourbon Handmade Whisky (I think it should have an 'e' too, but that's how they spell it.)
I joined their Ambassadors program several years ago and I continue to be impressed with how they court their loyalists. Every holiday season, there's a clever gift (gift bags for your whisky bottle gifts, fun gift tags, etc.) and throughout the year, they connect and share with their ambassadors in a way that feels very exclusive and privileged.
Earlier this week, I got a mailing that announced that the barrel with my name engraved on the name plate (a perk of becoming an ambassador) was finally ready.
Whenever they send something -- it's done with a lot of class. No cutting corners or plain jane communications here. (Think they're trying to remind us of their values -- handmade whisky). The stock is heavy, the photography is gorgeous and the message is very "you're the few and the privileged" kind of copy.
The final photo shows you the purpose of their mailing. My barrel is ready (note how I am already thinking of it as my barrel) and this is my golden ticket. Now I can visit their distillery and purchase/personally hand dip my very own bottles from my very own barrel.
And, they've created a special label for the bottles so everyone will know that the bourbon came from my own personalized barrel batch.
But if I don't visit by March 31, 2015 -- they will have to release whatever bourbon from my barrel that is left (insert gasp here) to the masses.
Brilliant. I have no idea how many people actually make the pilgrammage to get their bottles (which you have to buy -- it's not like they're going to give it to you) but I am so tempted to find a reason to be in Kentucky just so I can make the trip.
If they go to incredible lengths by mail and email -- imagine what they might do if you showed up in person.
There's a lot for us to learn from Maker's Mark. Could they do it even better? Sure... but they do it far better than most.
When I was writing this post, I wanted to find a list of the Ambassador perks. So I tried to log into the Ambassadors only section of their website, but I couldn't remember my log in stuff. (Note to self... for your password tool to work, you have to enter the password). I must have entered something incorrectly (I'm guessing zip code) and I got this message:
Read the message. I love the fact that Jenny, not one of our customer service representatives, is going to contact me. So personal -- and again, makes me feel like I matter.
What are your takeaways from Maker's Mark? How could you either improve your existing customer loyalty program or create something that makes your best customers feel like they are vital to your success and you want them to be a part of a very exclusive club?
~ Drew McLellan, Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group