Today’s economy is rife with competing markets. Industries hobbled by the recession are picking up steam again, turning our business world into one in which companies need to rise to the top faster than everyone else. How do you gain customer loyalty under those kind of conditions? One of the best ways you can distinguish yourself from your competition is by sweeping customers off their feet. How can you do this? By understanding what your customers want and how to best communicate with them. Think of customer services the same way you think about any serious, long-term commitment: sometimes you have to sit down and have “the talk” about where your relationship is going.
Every customer base is different and must be handled according to their unique needs. As a manufacturer, your customers may include dealers and distributors along with contractors and end-consumers. In channel sales, each member has their own individual or organizational goals. Although specific needs and desires vary from customer to customer, they share many “commitment issues” common in today’s society. Incentive programs act as the “relationship therapy” tool you need to overcome these common customer issues:
1. “I just don’t have time for you right now.”
Most households these days are crunched for time. In 2014, CNN reported that Americans took less vacation time than they have in decades. Time has become a valuable commodity in our culture, causing people to gravitate toward time-saving options like mobile apps, online communication, and automated self-service. People want to take care of their own needs, on their own schedule, whenever they can (Kumar, V., Reinartz, W., 2012).
Lack of time also means that customers—be they dealers, distributors, contractors or end-consumers—aren’t educating themselves on your products. For industries like industrial distribution, aftermarket services like upgrade and replacement parts demand continuing product knowledge after the initial sale.
Incentive programs can help consolidate yours and your customers’ time. Companies like Incentive Solutions offer their incentives programs through online software that can be integrated with your company website, so that it fits in seamlessly with your website’s design and wireframes. Programs can be accessed online or through a Mobile App module. This saves time, allowing participants to log into whenever they want. You can use a Channel Sales program to reward distributors, dealers, and contractors for pushing your product, then your participants can enter sales claims instantaneously with a Performance Tracking module.
Participants can also earn rewards by taking quizzes and surveys through a Learn and Earn module, making it worth their time to spend a few moments educating themselves on your products. These features automate the sales claims reward process into an easy, 24/7 medium.
2. “I found someone more interesting through social media.”
Social media has become more than just a way to waste time looking at friends’ cat pictures on Facebook. People stay in contact with long-distance relations, read feeds from news sites, and track the activity of their favorite brands. With global access to opinions, word of mouth is an even more widely-used method of product and service recommendation. People often investigate business and make their decisions based on Google Plus, Yelp, and Glassdoor reviews. If your brand has no social media presence, or isn’t interactive enough with potential clients online, it could cost you new business.
The social media aspects of an online reward program opens up communication routes between you and those in your sales channel. You can allow sales teams to access a ranking system via the Leader Board module, or allow Open Enrollment so that anyone involved in the movement of your product can register for awards. This gives your customers the information, control, and choice that make social media so popular in our culture.
4. ”I’m just not that into you.”
According to a 2011 AMP Agency study, only 4% of people between the ages of 25 and 49 said they were brand-loyal (Kumar, V., Reinartz, W., 2012). Since then, information availability and brand choice have only continued to increase. Dealers, distributors, and contractors are constantly asking themselves, “Why should I go into business with this particular manufacturer?” The brands that stand out to them are those that are transparent and trustworthy.
With a Business-to-Business (B2B) Customer Loyalty program, you can inspire B2B partners to continue doing business with you by rewarding them for ongoing purchases. When they receive recognition and rewards for promoting your brand, they know you are interested in a mutually lucrative partnership, not just silent exchanges and endless product pushing. Passing along the rewards of increased sales shows off a spirit of openness and collaboration.
With these things in mind, you have an idea of what a potential customer or business partner expects from you and in which direction your relationship needs to be headed. It’s up to you to push the relationship to that ideal, cozy place where you’re both benefitting. After consulting with an incentive program provider like Incentive Solutions, you can address time poverty, social media, and loyalty challenges with a single platform. As Steve Damerow, CEO of Incentive Solutions, advises, “Thank your best customers to keep competitors away. Customer loyalty rewards are like insurance for your efforts as an organization. If you don’t buy the insurance, you pay the price.”
Today’s customers can be challenging for manufacturers to romance. They are busy, swamped in information, and they have many suitors to choose from. The best way to win their attention is to listen to their concerns, understand their needs, and find ways to facilitate an exchange of communication and appreciation. Incentive programs can help you woo customers and B2B partners with easy-to-use, online interfaces and engaging, informative features.
Check out our latest SlideShare on customer loyalty incentives
Kumar, V., Reinartz, W. 2012. Customer relationship management: concept, strategy, and tools. Springer Science & Business Media.
Thompson, Chuck. 2014. Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades.