Andrew Rae of incentives, rewards and prize management company The Black Tomato Agency argues for the value of rolling out the red carpet to attract and retain key customers.
There are relatively few great mysteries left unsolved in the world today. We know how the pyramids were built, we’re pretty sure that the Loch Ness Monster doesn’t want to be found and we are certain that the retention of clients is paramount to business success.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the FMCG sector, where the sheer volume of available options means that brands have to do their utmost to achieve two crucially important goals: the first is to immediately, at the point of purchase, distinguish themselves from their competitors. The second is to do what you can, at all costs, to foster brand loyalty. Account teams across the land are constantly set the challenge of turning a consumer into a fan.
In the incentive and rewards industry, we are regularly asked the same two questions: “what can we do to retain our customers?” and “how can we stand out from the crowd?”
The second question is relatively simple for us to answer; the former is more of a complex beast. Does brand loyalty still play a part in your customer’s purchasing decision? Are customers too cynical and time-poor to be swayed by incentives?
Reward to Retain
The conventional offers or rewards that are given to new customers are in general fairly similar and, dare we say it, not particularly engaging. The desire to keep on directing the customer back to the product with a voucher or money-off coupon is almost too alluring to move away from. And in the right space, it is the perfect incentive.
But the question remains, if everyone is employing the same tactic, are you offering your customer the right incentive to choose and stay with you?
If you are confident that your product is the best around (which I’m sure you are, and I agree!), then make sure that confidence comes through in the sales funnel and reward the loyal with unique and remarkable experiences instead.
The sheer fact that your product offers the chance to win a tailored and unique experience is enough to automatically give you shelf appeal and set you apart from the crowd.
We recently handled prize creation and prize management for a client who was launching a product with a ‘Fire and Ice’ theme and wanted to create an experience intrinsically linked to the campaign messaging.
The objectives were, firstly, to set them apart from the crowd and, secondly, to reward their existing, loyal customers.
We created an experience where the winner was flown to Iceland to stay in the ION Adventure Hotel, and rode in a private helicopter over a live volcano before transferring by Super Jeep to another (dormant this time) volcano where a bespoke private dinner was laid out – within the magma chamber…
The effect was immediate and the impact tangible. By engaging with their customers in such a unique and remarkable way, their loyalty was rewarded and their custom retained.
However, sometimes the old methods are just as important – which is why we took the step of leaving a hamper of branded goodies in the guests’ room as a welcome gift. With a personal message included, it reaffirmed the brand message and reminded them of why they were there in a unique, personal and engaging way.
This method of rewarding or engaging customers by offering the chance to win experiences can be seen in a variety of different industries, not just FMCG.
Take Harley Davidson for example; they are currently offering potential customers the chance to win ‘The Tour of a Lifetime’ if they take a test drive. Now, more than ever, brands are seeing the benefit of experiences as incentives for customer acquisition and retention.
Creating a VIP Community
Moving on from the world of rewarding the individual, there is an increasing interest in the value of VIP community events and the opportunity for an elite few to share an experience with others in a similarly prestigious position.
In the same way that a private members club creates a sense of intrigue that sparks interest in those on the outside and pride from those within, a private VIP member’s community in the FMCG market can have an incredible impact on loyalty.
Many luxury brands have already taken this approach to rewarding VIP customers including Bentley, Rolls Royce and Johnnie Walker. They are increasingly using group experiences rather than more traditional gifting initiatives.
An event offers a brand an incredible opportunity to amplify its values and core message through creative and well-curated experiences helping the members identify with the lifestyle association of the brand. What’s more, a reward that is shared by a community brings into play a unique dynamic that focuses on the human need to share experiences with others and a sense of pride in being recognised as one of an elite group by their peers.
Through effective pre- and post-event, as well as on-site, communications, the value of any event can have far wider reach and offers an incredible opportunity to create a legacy and drive significant longevity for each experience, thereby maximising Return on Investment.
Collateral such as images, videos and sound bites from these events can be repurposed to give those aspiring to be in the VIP club a glimpse into this exclusive world (and thereby encourage them to work towards this).
The combined budget of a group event can allow for otherwise unachievable experiences to be accessed and created. The buying power of pooled reward budgets can often enable a group to negotiate the very best deals and open doors otherwise closed to the general public.
For a VIP group event, the challenge is always to create a ‘money-can’t-buy’ experience that is quite literally a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity. In recent years, we have organised everything from a complete buyout of Richard Branson’s Necker Island for a VIP group to camping in Alaska in search of bears and a supercar rally through the UAE.
So whether you are looking for a prize promotion to influence the purchasing decision at the point of sale, or thinking of engaging with a community of loyal brand advocates, always think of how you can Reward to Retain.
Andrew Rae is Head of Promotional Marketing at The Black Tomato Agency, which designs and manages award-winning experiences that engage with customers.