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Let me do unto others

Screen shot 2010-07-28 at 3.57.50 PM Loyalty programs are the rage right now. 

As companies fight to get as much of our disposable income as possible -- they are wise to create incentives that reward and encourage repeat business.  But most of them are missing a key ingredient.

They don't let their customers share the wealth.  Let me show you what I mean.

The McLellans are a big fan of TGIFridays.  (part of that is because the West Des Moines location has the best waitress I've ever known...but that's a different blog post) 

So we're high frequency users of their Give Me More Stripes loyalty card.  It's a simple program.  Spend enough money over time and you get e-mailed a coupon for $8 off your next visit.

All well and good.  But here's the part they are missing.  The card holder has to use the $8 coupon.  I can't give it to a friend or co-worker.  As the card holder, I must redeem the coupon with the card in tow.  I can enjoy the reward...but it doesn't encourage word of mouth.  It doesn't give me a tool that I can use to help Friday's grow their business.

On the flip side, we have United Airlines.  Also a McLellan favorite.  United lets me rack up frequent flier miles and the more I fly, the higher my status.  As a Premiere Executive level member, I get lots of perks.  But United is smart enough to let me share those perks.  Here are some of my options:

  • I automatically get upgraded to first class if there's a seat available.  So does my flying companion (if I have one)
  • I can check 3 bags for free.  So can my flying companion.
  • I can use my miles to buy tickets or upgrades for anyone I choose
  • I can donate my miles to Make-A-Wish or other worthy charities

United lets me share the love.  It gives me ample opportunity to "show them off" or share them with someone else.   It makes my loyalty stretch to also influence other people.

Creating a loyalty program is smart.  Why not thank your best customers while encouraging them to come back yet again?  But...creating a loyalty program that is shareable is brilliant.  Not only do you earn the love of your best customers...but you also earn their word of mouth endorsement.  And that's golden!

~ Drew

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Allowing customers to "share the love" also requires companies to realize that the goodwill generated by sharing rewards is far more valuable than the losses incurred by the tiny percentage of customers who will take advantage of those same rewards.

Creating a system with no weaknesses probably doesn't have much value to its users. Trust that people, in the aggregate, will do the right thing.

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