1. Communication: The best loyalty marketing efforts take great care in crafting the right type and frequency of marketing communication to best customers. They recognize that one mass message is often insufficient in establishing the "one-to-one" bond that demonstrates to a best customer that they are valued and appreciated. Further, the communication acknowledges unique needs and articulates a solution, rather than simply a sales proposition.
2. Community: Effective fan communities bring people of shared needs together in a meaningful and honest exchange. We applied it for a cruise line by offering forums for future passengers to meet in advance of their sailings, for past guests to share memories together and through special events that fostered literal community building within local markets. Finding the right approach can often be as simple as conducting needs assessment and concept testing research.
3. Recognition: Best-of-breed loyalty efforts go out of their way to make the customer feel special. A great example was when I returned to a favorite hotel after about a three-year lapse. To my surprise and delight, the agent at registration welcomed me back and asked me if I would like the same room that I stayed in during my most recent visit.
The gesture cost the hotel nothing, but it demonstrated commitment to cultivating customer relationships. Recognition can be as simple as remembering birthdays or distributing commemorative pins or apparel that fans can wear as badges of honor, distinguishing themselves from others. It's a soft-sell approach that shows appreciation and doesn't tarnish your brand through discounting.
4. Reward: Many marketers skip immediately to this step, associating good customer retention efforts solely with points and reward programs. While research has demonstrated the efficacy of offering aspirational "carrots at the end of sticks" to acknowledge long-term loyalty, too many sports marketers falsely assume that fans will become as locked in on the prize as they are.
In countless loyalty research that we have conducted, clients are often underwhelmed to observe how unwilling the customer is to engage in a new points program or track their behaviors for far-off rewards. The key is to reward frequently in soft and subtle ways, while making the pursuit of long-term rewards as seamless and self managing as possible. We've heard in too many focus groups, "Please don't give me another points card to carry around!"
It Starts with Research
Like any CRM approach, identifying the right consumers for targeted offerings is both art and science. But even absent sophisticated databases and mining systems, a fundamental research audit of the customer base can enable sports brands to segment their customers by demographics, attitudes, past behaviors and defined need states.
We've often deployed a research approach where we measure these perceptions and behaviors between disparate groups of customers and prospects and look for gaps that can suggest the right tactical marketing approaches to reach each group. Concept testing is another means in which specific rewards, recognition offerings and communications approaches can be evaluated.
Regardless of the specifics of your own marketing efforts towards best customers, or the breadth of loyalty research that you conduct, remembering the principles of 2C2R and incorporating them into your program can be a valuable first step in differentiating your brand from competitors and breaking through the clutter of too many look-alike programs.