Why loyalty programs should be a part of your marketing strategy

Professionals in sales, advertising and marketing often talk about the sales funnel.

We are constantly creating marketing collateral that tries to reach potential customers at each stage of their path to purchase as they travel down the funnel. We talk about brand awareness at the top of the funnel, providing value and information at the middle of the funnel, and closing the sale at the bottom. But once a sale is made, and a customer has traveled through the funnel, a marketer’s job really isn’t done. Holding onto customers should be just as important as gaining new ones. Hence why creating a loyalty program should be part of your marketing strategy.

Types of loyalty programs

Many types of loyalty programs exist, but they pretty much all have the same goal – to keep customers happy and create incentives that make them return for future purchases. These are some of the potential loyalty programs available that you could incorporate into your business:

The points program

Some loyalty programs come in the form of point accumulation. This could be a one-to-one type points program, as in every dollar spent earns one point, or some other ratio of goods or dollar amounts to points. when enough points are accumulated, customers may redeem them for free items or discounts on purchases.

Our advice is to keep the formulation as basic and easy to follow as possible. A points system that makes customers confused about how to earn points won’t do you any good.

We talked about Sephora’s unique approach to marketing to customers in store and online, and their points based loyalty program is a big part of that.

The discount program

Some retailers may offer a loyalty program in which there is special pricing for those who frequent storefronts or online outlets. These often come in the form of displaying a discount for those enrolled in the loyalty program, next to the price that non-loyalty shoppers must pay.

Some pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid offer special pricing for their card holding members, as do some specialty foods and grocery stores as well.

The pay-up-front program

Another route some retailers take is the pay-up-front loyalty program. This is often in the form of customers paying an annual fee, then receive benefits all year long.

Amazon Prime offers free shipping and other special discounts for its reward members, and charges a once a year fee. Barnes and Noble does the same, with their loyalty program offering discounts on every purchase made after making the annual up front payment.

The increasing tiers program

This type of program is especially great if you want to reward your customers based on just how loyal they are to you. With each purchase, customers can work their way up to your differing levels of loyalty rewards with increasing benefits, or they can pay to be of a higher status with greater rewards, depending on their wants and needs.

Many airlines and hotels use tier-based loyalty programs, such as Marriott, who offers levels such as Silver, Gold Elite, and Platinum to their customers based on use and amenities. Frequent flyer programs have long been a way for airlines to create loyalty in their customer base and ensure repeat business from certain companies or individuals, whether traveling for business or pleasure.

How does a loyalty program fit into your marketing?

The lines are being blurred between sales, marketing, and customer service, as we all see the need to put the customer first to make an initial or returning sale.

A loyalty program creates automatic fodder for marketing materials. Loyalty programs not only make your current customers happy, but they can draw in new customers who want to shop with a company who shows appreciation for their customers. Learning about incentives and rewards can help the decision making of unsure shoppers when they are in the comparison stage of their buyer’s journey. 

One obvious way to include a loyalty program in your marketing efforts is by creating campaigns based around the new program. Whether you are creating advertisements, remarketing campaigns, social media activations, or content, you can focus on your loyalty program, alone, or in combination with other promotions or features.

If you have an e-commerce website, use e-mail campaigns to alert customers of the loyalty program, and especially target those who have made a purchase in the past, but have yet to return to you. New awareness of a loyalty program may draw them back in, and show them that you are focused on improving, and making their shopping experience with you, superior to other brands.

Why loyalty programs are a good marketing strategy

This CRMTrends article discusses the main benefits of a loyalty program as marketing strategy: “Shift – Acquire new customers, Lift – Increase the spending of existing customers, Retention – Improve the natural churn rate of customers, Profit mix – Shift spending to higher margin products.”

Marketing in general aims to do at least some of these things, and a loyalty program helps by turning new customers into repeat customers, and then keeping those repeat customers close.

A loyalty program is a good marketing strategy because of the data it provides. Data is becoming a strong asset for marketers, as we are able to better understand our customers, potential customers, and purchasing trends, and use those insights for better marketing. Loyalty programs help to acquire more data on the purchases certain individuals are making, while helping us to compare to overall spend and the inventory of goods and services provided by a company.

The more individual information we can gather about purchases and purchasing habits, the better we can also improve our direct tailored marketing efforts. Instead of creating just one message that we hope resonates with most of our customer base, we can now create multiple messages that target more specific groups of shoppers.

Loyalty programs also create data for us to use in our general marketing campaigns. Even when not discussing the program, we can add factual information that we’ve gathered from our loyalty rewards customer access, or utilize the information to create timely sales or other promotional activities.

Data we can utilize from loyalty programs include percentage of returning customers, or average customer spend. You may find patterns in when customers are shopping, which days and times, weekly, monthly, or annually. Which locations have the most loyal customers, and are more customers likely to redeem rewards or incentives online or in-store. What types of incentives are drawing in customers and which rewards are being most redeemed. All of this information helps us to improve our marketing campaigns.

Loyalty programs help to improve overall business practices as well. Through loyalty programs you can ask customers about their experiences and fill out surveys regarding anything from product satisfaction to customer service experience, to opinions on store layouts. When you utilize the impressions and opinions of your most valued customers, not only does it strengthen their feeling of importance to you, but it helps you to gain more valuable understanding of your customers and their needs.

It is said that customer advocacy is the strongest marketing currency and we tend to agree. Loyalty programs not only create loyal customers, but those customers may be more likely to share their experiences with friends and family, creating a new generation of customers. Word of mouth is a great side effect of loyalty programs, and is a type of marketing that oftentimes money can’t buy.

Have you created a loyalty program yet?

There are countless reasons why a loyalty program makes good business sense. From a marketing standpoint, current customers can be our strongest allies. When we draw in new customers, and not only provide them with a great product or service, but also make them feel appreciated, we create a whole new aspect of relationship marketing.

Loyalty programs should be a part of your marketing strategy because of the innate level of customer service they provide, and the insight into customer purchasing patterns. When done correctly, these aspects of business make for powerful marketing tools.


Why customer feedback inspires the best new content

Think about your purpose for creating content for your website. Is it to make a better online experience for customers and potential customers?

Is it to showcase your knowledge, authenticity, or products? Or it could be to answer specific questions, or be informative and educational. In the world of endless options and opportunities, you’d think there’d be plenty of subject matter to keep your website content always fresh. We know this isn’t the always the case, so when you’re struggling with new ideas, go right to the source: customers and website visitors can often show you exactly what they want and need to help you create new content for them. When you use customer feedback to direct new content, both your business and your customers benefit.

Direct Feedback

There may be several ways you receive customer feedback. It could be in the form of an actual feedback form on your website, it could be through email, it could be over social media, or it could be on third party sites like Yelp. However you get your feedback, keep it. Save it, compile it, list it, compare it, make notes on it. This is how you continually improve, and it can be great fodder for web content, if you know how.

Negative feedback is especially valuable. While it might be tempting to say ‘to hell with them,’ naysayers and negativity mongers help improve your overall user experience. If your business receives direct negative feedback, embrace it, and then use it to your advantage. Think about these two common complaints you can use for new content:

‘I couldn’t find what I was looking for.’ Great! What is it that they were looking for? If it’s true that no content exists for their specific need, you can easily make it be so. Whether it’s instructions, directions, or an article on a particular topic, if someone tells you you don’t have it and they were expecting it to be there, fix that problem. Good content always provides value by answering a question or fulfilling a need. Additionally, if you do in fact have what your customer was looking for, and they just didn’t find it, there are three opportunities here: 1. Maybe your web design isn’t user friendly enough, and this is a chance to evaluate your site navigation. 2. Show that customer excellent service, by providing them directly what it is they needed, or direct them to the right place to find it. They’ll be happy, and you’ve just possibly saved yourself from losing a customer to a competitor. 3. Create more content on this subject. If there is a clear interest on a particular topic or piece of information, it never hurts to double down and create new content about it. Take this as a sign that you need to revamp and recycle and old article, or approach it from a new and unique angle. Never stop improving.

‘This isn’t what I was expecting.’ This one is a little trickier to decipher. See if you can get as much information as possible about what your customer was expecting. Is there an issue with quality, context, language, complexity, or misplacement? If they allow you insight into this particular issue, direct your content in a way that satisfies their expectations. Maybe your content wasn’t explicit or broken down enough, and appeals to a more technical audience. If the complaint comes from someone who was expecting a less complex narrative, you can create new content that speaks to them, and therefore includes all types of audience members. If a customer navigates to a particular area of your website, and is disappointed by what they find there, evaluate why that might be. Is it possible some content can fit into several different subjects or areas of interest and has not been placed correctly? Or are your titles or content styles not conducive to providing value in the way you originally thought? This doesn’t mean you have to scrap what you have, because what doesn’t work for some, might clearly work for others, and vice versa. Use this information to create content that caters to the different expectations your customers may have.

It’s also important to remember that you won’t please every single person who visits your website – and that’s ok. It is up to you to decide if by taking into consideration particular complaints, you are sacrificing some of your brand values, or are making adjustments for people who aren’t necessarily your ideal customer.

Positive feedback may make you all warm and fuzzy on the inside, but it should also kick your butt in gear to continue on a path of customer satisfaction and happiness.

‘This was extremely useful.’ What was useful and why was it useful?  Did it help them to make an informed purchase, or teach them something they didn’t know before? Will other customers also benefit from what this person thought to be valuable? Turn this customer into a brand advocate. Ask them to share what they thought was useful with others, via social media, comments sections on your website, or in conversation with friends and family. You can also use this knowledge they’ve given you to create new and better content that follows a more accurate recipe of what others actually need.

‘I had a great experience.’ Try to figure out the winning formula for this customer’s great experience, and reproduce it. Even better, is if this customer is willing to share their success story. Using testimonials and real customer experiences to create content for your website is unbelievably smart and important, and usually free. Potential customers like to see that others have been there before them. Content using customer testimonials adds credibility and authority to your company, and makes first time customers more willing to trust you. It also gives people a sense of what you are like. There is the potential to answer initial questions, address possible apprehensions, and provide insight on what an experience in working with you, buying from you, or utilizing your website is like.

Other sneaky ways to get customer feedback:

Search Queries

Use your search bar on your website to find what people are looking for. Track the questions and keywords people are entering, and if specific topics, pieces of content, or pages are not fulfilling their search queries, it’s within your power to do something about it. Gather the terms that are being searched as an indicator for new content. You should also track the terms that are being searched most frequently. Even if you already have content pertaining to that subject, a higher volume of search means a higher need for related content. The search query can also indicate that specific content is not easy enough to find. Remember, if you’re not answering your customer’s questions, or fulfilling their needs, there is always someone else who will.

Ask them

Asking customers and website visitors exactly what they need is not only a great way to come up with valuable content ideas, but it also strengthens customer trust and loyalty. When people feel that they’re being listened to and heard, not only are they more likely to come back to you, but they’re probably willing to tell others about the great experience and value you provide. Create strategic landing pages with easy input feedback asking what a visitor is looking for. Create one click pop ups that appear specifically for returning or new customers, to ask them about their experience. Utilize email marketing for you to gain insight on why a customer chose you, left you, or why they decided to not go with your business. You may not always get responses, but when you do, they’ll be telling.

Social Media

Use social profiles to get feedback from followers. Pose questions to them on Twitter, or create a survey for your Facebook Page. Being straightforward and clear in your intent also gives customers the sense of transparency and feeling like their opinions are valued by you. If you can find through social media what it is your followers are interested in, or what they want and need from you, you can turn those ideas into pieces of highly shareable content for your website.

Whenever you’re feeling stuck in a rut with your website content, remember that you have resources available to you at all times. Leveraging customer feedback to create new content connects you with your customer base, and creates better value for everyone.


Content levels: why it’s important to get it right

When it comes to content marketing, there are a ton of different types of content you can be leveraging to attract and convert potential customers. But it’s important to be strategic about what content you’re using at which stage of the buyer’s journey, and for which audience. Have I lost you? Keep reading as we break down the best content to use and when to use it.

When talking about content, we can talk about top level, mid level, and bottom level content. Each has a pretty specific purpose.

  • Top level content helps users become acquainted with you and your brand, creating brand awareness. Top level content’s main purpose it to get a brand on people’s radar, so that they may become interested in learning more.
  • Mid level content delves a little bit deeper. It’s intended for audiences who are maybe already acquainted with your brand, or have potentially already interacted with you by following a social page, or looked at your website. Mid level content can help potential customers who are in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, and who may be comparing and contrasting several brands or products.
  • Bottom level content is the full monty. It’s for those who are ready to make purchases or sign on the dotted line. This kind of content provides more of the total picture, and helps in the decision phase of the buyer’s journey.

It’s also important to remember that these forms of content not only differ depending on where a customer is in their buyer’s journey, but also that content is going to be different for B2B versus B2C businesses. We’ll discuss content that works best for each, though depending on your ideal buyer persona, there can be some overlap.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s get into actual forms of content.

Top Level:


Blogs are a content marketing staple. They’re useful because they can show the knowledge and expertise you and your company possess, to add credibility to your brand. They can be helpful for potential customers in educating themselves, or can be used to create trust for your brand through transparency. Blogs can be used for all kinds of audiences, but we’d argue they’re especially useful in B2B situations.


Infographics can be fun and interesting, to downright helpful. Depending on your audience, you can play with a formula for a great compelling infographic that works for you. Similar to blogs, infographics are typically top level content because they don’t yet introduce customers to your products, necessarily. The goal is to provide content that is useful or shareable – or both! – to get your name and your image out there.


Similar to infographics, flowcharts are a one page graphic. Flowcharts up the engagement level by requiring the user to answer simple questions to arrive at a conclusion. Flowcharts can be funny, useful, or enlightening, but either way they offer a great level of interaction.


We talked recently about how the hottest device in content marketing these days is video. With attention spans at an all time low, videos capture and draw consumers in. It’s a lot easier to get a point across or drive a message home within the first few seconds of a video than it is in a blog post. Video is highly shareable as well, and can serve as conversation starters. When needing to boost brand awareness and top level engagement, video is one of the best ways to do so, and that goes for both B2B and B2C audiences.


Memes work great in the B2C space because of their humor and easy ability to be shared. A good meme has people talking about it for a long time, and can leave a lasting impression. Consider using memes in a self-deprecating way, or in a funny way to promote specific products. If a potential customer has never seen or heard of you before, they could be compelled to find out if you have more great content, or what your company is all about.

Mid Level:


Email Marketing is a fantastic way to get in front of any B2B or B2C audience who have already interacted with you. These middle of the funnel consumers have already signed up for promotional materials, or given you their email address for a download or more information. Take advantage of this position. Evaluate what forms they’ve filled out previously, and target them with relevant content to get them to come back and close a deal.


Particularly in the B2B sector, potential customers in the middle of the funnel phase are looking for more information to help them make a buying decision. FAQ pages are a great way to quickly give a customer the information they are looking for. It’s important to consider that if a potential customer has a real question, and can’t find the answer through you, there will be a competitor close by to give them what they are looking for.


For B2B opportunities, ebooks are a great way to grab attention, provide useful content, and generate leads for you to follow up on. Make ebooks helpful, and about relevant information that can benefit a business who is looking to become a client. If you make your ebooks gated content, as in a user must provide contact information before downloading, you have a way of gaining information for your sales team to follow up with.


Customers or potential customers who are in the middle of their buyer’s journey are most likely comparing and contrasting several options for purchase. A great way to sway a potential B2B or B2C customer in your favor is by providing testimonials from other current customers. Word-of-mouth can often be the best form of marketing, and testimonials are a close cousin. Consumers want to shop, or do business with a brand they can trust, and who they know is a good investment. Testimonials, including product reviews, help potential customers know that they will get a great product or service.

Bottom Level


Once a customer has moved past the consideration stage and is ready to make a purchase, a great way to close the deal is by providing offers. These often come in the form of a free trial or consultation. Working best for B2B companies, free trials of a product or service gives potential customers a sense of comfort in knowing they can try before they buy. And the bonus is, if they like what they see, the chances of them making a purchase can be high.


Webinars are a great way to show the expertise that your business has. Have a VP or director within your company conduct a free webinar to show the knowledge and expertise that your company possesses, and that you are willing to share a bit of that with others. Potential B2B customers respond well to content that is most useful, and webinars can be extremely useful. Make the webinar gated, and follow up with those who attend.


Rewards and loyalty programs are great ways to ensure final purchases for both B2B and B2C companies. Often, customers like the idea of getting something in return when giving your company money. Offering rewards for dollar spend or for combining services, makes potential customers feel like you aren’t trying to take advantage of them, and you do care about those who invest in you. Create banners on your website, or pop up forms and landing pages that discuss your rewards and loyalty programs in detail. It can truly make the difference between a customer doing business with you or going elsewhere.

Social Media

We’ll talk about social media in a separate section, because social media works for all levels of the purchasing funnel, and for all audiences. Forecasts for the 2016 content marketing landscape show both B2B and B2C companies heavily using social media. Why? Because that’s where people are. Marketing is becoming increasingly about H2H (human to human) rather than B2B or B2C, and social media is proving this.

Social media works great for top of the funnel brand awareness needs because of the ability to utilize tactics to make you and your brand discoverable through search or browsing. Post original content using strategic hashtags, jump on trending hashtags to add your own voice or take on a popular topic, retweet or repost funny memes or videos, or make announcements or post about news.

Invite potential customers to like your pages, or follow you for new product information, or an inside look into your company. You can then leverage your social pages to offer discounts, announce promotions, or create events for potential customers to get to know you better without having to make a purchase just yet.

Use social media to retarget customers who may have already checked out your website. Use display advertising to show them products they abandoned in their shopping carts, or service pages they viewed. You can use sponsored posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to target customers who fit within your ideal buyer persona. B2B companies can leverage LinkedIn for groups, or post articles and news updates that target professionals who will be interested in your products or services.

It’s important to remember that content marketing takes strategy and planning. Not only does content differ from B2B and B2C audiences, but it also makes a huge difference where the potential customer is in their buyer’s journey. By using optimal content that is tailored for those specific audiences and needs, you are better able to guide consumers along their journey to become your customers.


Take advantage of these social media trends

Social Media is a unique tool for marketers and advertisers, community managers and sales professionals alike, as a way to connect to customers.

But as far as marketing goes, there are still a few trends that we see some brands not taking full advantage of. We’re not talking about the kind of flash in the pan trends that invoke shiny object syndrome that can make customers confused about your overall message and consistency. We’re talking about the kind of trends that will really help you to harness the power of social.

It’s important to remember that not every strategy works for every company, nor should brands try everything all at once. But with social, there’s something for everyone. Here’s some of our top picks for 2016 social media trends that you should be taking advantage of right now.

Live Video Streaming

2015 was the year that introduced us to live streaming. Periscope, Meerkat, and Blab were all introduced last year, and Facebook introduced ‘Live’. Does that sound like gibberish to you? Let me get you up to speed.

Periscope and Meerkat (which really all but lost the battle against Periscope) are video streaming apps that connect with Twitter users to create real-time engaging video for followers.

Blab upped the ante with creating ‘chat’-like environments which allowed for multiple participants to jump into a video-streaming discussion, while followers could watch. Unfortunately, after a huge breakout performance, Blab has since become defunct.

Facebook has been the latest to jump on-board with video streaming with its new Facebook ‘Live’ feature which allows users to stream video on their timelines in real-time (which I imagine had something to do with other live-streaming services being wiped off the map).

How does this affect brands? Firstly, it provides several new platforms to increase engagement with customers and potential customers. Increasingly, consumers are looking for humanized brands who have a real face, and live video streaming follows this growing trend. Live video streaming allows the opportunity for companies to provide ‘inside looks’ into their businesses and practices, provide video story-telling, or question-and-answer opportunities for executives and their followers, and puts a ‘face’ to the name of a big (or small) corporation.

Utilize video streaming in your marketing strategy to promote content like e-books and webinars, or conduct information sessions or free trainings through video streaming. ‘Ask Me Anything’ style interviews are becoming wildly popular, and help businesses to beef up their transparency.

Social as e-commerce

If you’re a retail brand – rejoice. It’s becoming easier than ever for customers to make purchases right inside social media platforms. One of the especially great new features on social to be revealed this past year are ‘buy’ buttons, on a number of sites.

The biggest to start really utilizing these buy buttons is Pinterest, with Twitter and Facebook also following suit. For Pinterest, buy buttons just make sense. Pinterest as a platform lends itself so easily to e-commerce, that if you aren’t using it in your marketing strategy yet, you’re really missing out.

‘Pins’ and ‘Boards’ are fantastic ways to show products and collections, and with buy buttons allowing customers to make purchases without ever having to leave the social network, there is plenty of opportunity to create brand awareness and new customers at the very same time.

Twitter and Facebook ‘buy’ buttons are still catching on. These buttons appear in more sponsored post-like fashion, or ads. If you’re an online retailer already investing in Facebook ads or Twitter sponsored posts, buy buttons may be a good option for you to test.

Some say these buy buttons aren’t really working yet, but we say just not enough brands have jumped onto using them yet. Add them to your campaigns early this year, and you might just be ahead of the curve.

Influencer Partnerships and The ‘Takeover’

Social media influencers have been around almost as long as social media has – there’s nothing new there. But brands are finally beginning to realize the potential audiences they can tap into by partnering with influencers. This doesn’t have to mean a ‘celebrity endorsement’ of your products, but it could mean utilizing strategic relationships in your content marketing on social media.

What might these relationships look like? Consider those who follow your social media profiles, who may have strong followings themselves. Utilizing those people to connect with their audiences members just makes sense, and they could have something to gain from tapping into your followers.

One of the great ways we’ve seen this done in the past year, and is a trend we think will continue to grow in 2016, is the social media ‘takeover.’ Typically done on Instagram or Twitter, a ‘takeover’ is a great way to add new human interest elements to your social media while drawing in a new audience.

Brands from clothing lines to video games, to marketing companies like Hubspot are getting in on the ‘takeover,’ and it’s easy enough to implement in your own marketing strategy. It’s social media’s version of a guest blog, and also act to increase engagement amongst your followers. A ‘takeover’ breaks up the norm and adds a special element to your social media campaigns.

Who to choose? Whether you allow your platforms to be taken over by an internal employee or an external influencer, be sure that person is interesting, professional, and adds a new perspective to your social media. They should post announcements on their own accounts for followers to be on the lookout for their ‘takeover’ and to follow along on your handle. Posts can be created in ‘real-time,’ following a day-in-the-life narrative, or you can pre-strategize and create the content for sharing ahead of time for maximum promotional benefits.

Social Customer Service

Haven’t considered using social media as a customer service platform? You’re not the only one. This trend, also not necessarily new, is still catching on as consumers are becoming increasingly needy for real-time solutions to their problems. This might be the year you want to take advantage of it too.

Social customer service is becoming increasingly important, because more and more customers are going right to social profiles rather than websites or calling customer service help lines. We’ve long heard the stories of brands who have responded to customer’s (or competitors’ customer’s) needs at lightning speeds through social media, earning praise and viral sensation status. And we have also heard the stories on social media of the ones who don’t.

Increasing demand in quicker-than-ever-before customer service response times are facilitating the need for brands to jump on the social customer service trend. As such, customer service and marketing are beginning to go hand in hand. Taking care of your customers has the potential for good marketing material, and customer loyalty and brand advocacy we all know is worth the most in marketing currency.

Some companies create separate Twitter handles or Facebook pages specifically for customer service, or you can utilize your already existing accounts as a way to show followers two things: that you are available to them through real-time social, and that you are great at customer service. Use social media to conduct customer service surveys, or ask your followers questions about their experiences with your company. Both show customer appreciation, and transparency.

These four social media trends are really just getting started. Utilize them this year to make the most of your social media marketing strategy, and you’ll be able to fully tap into what social can do for your brand. Long gone are the days where social media acted as just a way to increase brand awareness. Using video streaming can add transparency and humanize your brand, social e-commerce helps shorten your path to purchase, influencer partnerships open up a world of new potential customers, and social media customer service helps you better connect with those in your network.

With an increasing number of people using social media, and new features being developed all the time, can your brand afford not to take advantage of emerging trends on social media?

This post was originally written for Inbound Marketing Agents, and can be viewed here.