Create a Truly Competitive Customer Loyalty Program

by: Mark Herbert March 9, 2021

Do you offer your B2B customers a loyalty program? It’s likely your competitors do, too. It’s possible they even run sales promotions and bonus reward-earning opportunities at the same time you do, to siphon off some of your loyalty program activity. So how do you win this race? How do you deliver a competitive customer loyalty program that your channel partners prefer over the others? Focus on these four strategies:

A customer experience that consistently offers value.

An effective, competitive customer loyalty program is rooted in the understanding that loyalty strategies are more difficult than customer acquisition strategies. Customer loyalty requires consistent, repeated successes. This is unlike a customer acquisition campaign, where the goal is a one-time customer action such as a conversion or a sale.

Often, customers will respond to email or phone communications with you and decide in that one interaction whether it’s worth their time to engage with you. To achieve repeated customer engagement, you have to consistently offer them value. A good loyalty marketing strategy is essential. Your loyalty program communications should have these qualities:

    1. Multi-channel – Deliver loyalty program messaging through multiple channels, including email, texts, and phone calls, so you can communicate with them the way they prefer.
    2. Compelling CTAs – Hone into to calls-to-action that appeal to your customers’ needs and interests. Alert them of reward-earning opportunities and ideas on how to spend their reward balance.
    3. Branded experience – Your program should be a consistent and cohesive experience that aligns with your brand promises, imagery, and values.

Your loyalty program should be a perk that makes customers feel there are genuine and continuous benefits to doing business with you. Focus on what’s in it for them and communicate the program’s value to them in a consistent way.

Get executive buy-in.


A successful, competitive customer loyalty program requires executive buy-in. Ideally, the program should have company-wide buy-in from every department, along these lines:

    1. In-house sales reps and/or third-party resellers should be excited about the program’s value to them.
    2. Sales leaders should be aware of the program’s ability to help them increase sales, upsell, cross-sell, and break into new verticals.
    3. Marketing should support the program, ensuring that its messaging is on-brand, as well as aligned with and supportive of other channel marketing strategies.
    4. Finance should back the program’s impact on the bottom line, its verifiable ROI, and its ability to increase sales and marketing efficiency.
    5. IT should sign off on the loyalty program’s data security and its ability to integration with the company’s existing tech stack.
    6. The CEO or C-suite should endorse the program and its long-term benefit to the company.

A successful, competitive customer loyalty program should be a top-down initiative. If it doesn’t garner the support of major decision-makers in your company, there’s bound to be friction and de-prioritization that stunt the program’s growth. Familiarize yourself with all the qualities your program should have in order to appeal to the leaders in every department of your organization.

Offer the right loyalty rewards.

Like almost every other aspect of your loyalty program, rewards can be planned strategically.

First, your rewards must be appealing to your unique audience. Otherwise, the loyalty program won’t succeed no matter how well you plan everything else. Are there age, gender, or marital status commonalities in the audience? Do they closely resemble your buyer persona or do they have some outlier quirks? Understand the demographic qualities that may inform what kind of rewards motivate them.

Second, make sure you factor in the advantages and best-use cases for each reward type. Here’s a run-down:

    1. Merchandise rewards

      Merchandise rewards are typically offered through a rewards catalog through which online reward points can be redeemed for merchandise. Loyalty program participants can accrue reward points over time to redeem them for merchandise like TVs and computers, travel rewards, or event tickets. For this reason, points-based rewards are ideal for long-term customer engagement and retention.The other advantage of merchandise rewards is in their ability to please a large and diverse audience. Online reward catalogs like Incentive Solutions’ have millions of items, offering something for everyone.

    2. Debit and gift cards

      Debit and gift cards have the versatility of cash, and program participants tend to spend them quickly after receiving them. This makes them great for short-term sales performance funds (SPIFFs).With the ability to be distributed in virtual, e-code form, you don’t have to send participants physical debit cards through mail. This is a great advantage if you have a widespread or international loyalty program participant base. They can then spend their debit card funds wherever they’re accepted, eliminating international shipping risks and wait times.

    3. Group travel rewards

      Group travel rewards require a larger investment of time and money than other reward types, but the ROI is the biggest and most validated. A S. Travel Associated study estimated that incentive travel yields “$2.90 in profits for every dollar spent.”Group travel rewards have a “halo effect.” Along with the incentive trip itself, you have the excitement leading up to the trip. After the trip, attendees share pictures, mementos, and memories. This builds strong bonds between you and your top customers like nothing else can.

The right loyalty reward offering is a balance between the rewards that motivate your audience most, and the reward delivery system that works best for your business.

Provide convenience and immediacy.

Speed and convenience are two of the most important things to customers. The more time it takes your participants to access and use your loyalty program, the less likely they are to stay engaged with it.

One option for making your program faster and more convenient is by delivering it through a mobile loyalty app. Wherever your customers go, their phones are with them, along with apps they open every single day. Your program is more likely to be a recurring part of customers’ everyday lives if it’s mobile-friendly.

Mobile features can allow your program to deliver rewards instantaneously. Participants can submit invoices, receipts, warranty registrations, and other sales claims documentation wherever they are, so they can receive their rewards immediately. That’s the kind of speed and convenience that will draw customers back to your loyalty program again and again.

A truly competitive customer loyalty program is one that is genuinely valuable to customers as well as easy and convenient for them to use. The more you can incorporate your customers’ interests into your loyalty program, the more likely is it to become your customers’ first choice for sales promotion and reward opportunities. You don’t have to give away the farm to accomplish this. The flexibility of online loyalty software means you can deliver a mutually beneficial program that adapts and grows with your business objectives.


About Mark Herbert

Mark Herbert is President and CEO of Incentive Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience overseeing business operations within the incentives industry, helping companies increase channel sales, build customer loyalty, motivate employees, and grow their business.