We’ve explained why you need to deliver the best B2B loyalty program to your channel partners. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read that piece, it’s right here. Go ahead, we’ll wait! Now, let’s see how you can implement a better B2B loyalty program than your competitor’s, one that both engages B2B customers and gives them a better reason to buy from you.
Research the competition’s loyalty programs and your channel partners’ needs.
We all (hopefully) know our competitors’ products and services. The same should hold true of their loyalty program. Do any of your competitors have B2B loyalty programs? If so, who? Study their strategies, learn how you can offer your distributors and channel partners not just a better loyalty program, but the best B2B loyalty programs possible.
Knowing your competition is important, but even more so, is knowing your channel partners. Actively listen when they tell you their business needs and B2B sales challenges. Don’t just look at their purchasing habits, but get with the times and take advantage of all the information out there available to you! These days, if you are not connected to your partners through some form of social media, building a personal relationship on top of a professional, you’re doing it wrong.
People post a lot of personal information on social media, from business articles and business situations, to where they’re dining on Friday nights, and where their kids are off to college. Learn their behaviors. They are posting and sharing the information you need to build a successful loyalty program—not to mention, spoon-feeding you their interest. Use this knowledge to your advantage and market to channel partners in a way that captures their attention and engages them with your brand. Make it personal. As the great Kathleen Kelly so cleverly said “whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”
Choose the best incentive company.
There are many incentive companies out there. All have various features, benefits and all specialize in specific incentives, be it program (HR, consumer or B2B), and reward types. If you are looking for a channel incentive program or loyalty program, be sure to find a company that specializes in B2B incentives. Companies like Incentive Solutions or Loyaltyworks provide tools such as performance tracking (think sales tracking and goal tracking), integration services (connection to CRM platforms), and learning management systems.
You shouldn’t select an incentive company based on price. You know the old adage - you get what you pay for. That said, do NOT choose an incentive company that charges you for program reports and analytics. This is your loyalty program and you should be able to track how you are doing, whenever you need. Imagine this: the boss calls and wants to know how the loyalty program is doing. You haven’t looked lately, so your response is “I’ll have to get back to you next week. It will take three days and $500 to get the reports necessary to provide the information you are requesting. In addition, it will take me another day or two to dissect the information and put together in an easy to digest format.” Yeah, right.
Ask questions and choose an incentive company that will go the extra mile and provide the tools necessary to succeed.
Various reward options are available for your B2B loyalty programs. The “Big 3” reward types are incentive travel, merchandise rewards (online points programs), and card rewards. Your partners are always going to want cash. Who doesn’t? But, more than just providing a reward, you want to motivate them to do more, to create true brand loyalty. The best way to influence behaviors is with non-cash incentives. Studies show non-cash incentives have greater impact on behaviors even when participants express a cash preference:
Firms often use hedonic goods or services as non-cash rewards; items that are associated with pleasurable experience rather than more instrumental or functional items (Dhar & Wertenbroch, 2000).
The hedonic nature of incentives triggers an effective reaction to the incentive that becomes a more salient attribute than the cash value of the incentive. This fact leads people to use their feelings as information when determining the value of the incentive. Because these feelings are difficult to monetize, cognitive and motivational forces allow for the perceived value of the awards to be inflated (Hsee, 1996a; Loewenstein, Weber, Hsee, & Welch 2001; Schwarz & Clore, 1988).
In English? It’s harder for people to judge how valuable a reward is to them if it doesn’t have a specific function. So, people default to their emotions as a way of measuring the reward, and emotions can increase the reward’s value.
B2B customers are business savvy, so don’t offer them a loyalty program with a “meh” value proposition. The benefits of your loyalty program should be immediately apparent and easy to communicate. With a fair payout system, the reward should match the effort. Use a flexible incentive platform so you can offer different tiers of B2B incentive rewards to different groups.
Align program goals with sales and marketing goals.
Loyalty programs are too often launched and forgotten. But the best custom B2B loyalty programs strategy is integral parts of overall sales and marketing plans. As with any campaign, you should set goals and work hard to accomplish them. Access to loyalty program activity, engagement and reward redemption reports will help you determine whether the program is effective, which loyalty marketing strategies your participants are most responsive to and which sales promotions are most effective. With a reliable method of tracking ROI in place, you can keep up with your loyalty program success and gauge how well it helps you reach B2B marketing and sales goals.
Integrate with CRM to predict channel partner needs.
Loyalty programs are typically set up to increase sales and boost customer loyalty to your brand. The best B2B loyalty program software will integrate with customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, HubSpot or Microsoft Dynamics. This allows you to acquire and manage greater, more specific customer data in your customer’s “master” record. Not only can you see the sales data, but you can also collect reward information – when they earn rewards, what they redeem for, etc.
When you have a more complete view of your channel partners, their purchase history and even their personal values, you can incorporate that information into your marketing and your loyalty program to improve the channel partner experience. An experience they can’t get with the other guys will keep them coming back to your brand again and again.
Your loyalty program will not matter if your customers or channel partners don’t know about it! Mark Herbert, President of Incentive Solutions, says “you should plan 10-20% of your incentive program budget for communications, annually.”
People lead busy lives; everyone has a lot on their plates, these days. We all need reminders now and then, so keep channel partners up to date about new reward opportunities available through your loyalty program, reminders of their unspent reward points, program updates and more. Even better, make your program available through a mobile loyalty app, so your loyalty program is conveniently located alongside everything else participants use their smartphones for!
So, now that you know the why and the how of delivering the a better loyalty program to your B2B channel partners!
- Research the competition’s loyalty programs and your channel partners’ needs.
- Choose the best incentive company.
- Reward right.
- Align program goals with sales and marketing goals.
- Integrate with CRM to predict channel partner needs.
These seven strategies will help your program become the best B2B loyalty program around, securing channel partner loyalty and giving you a competitive advantage in your market.