Loyalty Programs And Building Loyalty

Mukesh Gupta

One of the biggest challenges that brands face today is to find and cultivate loyal customers. Most brands have some sort of program to reward loyalty from their customers. But most of the loyalty programs that I am a part of totally miss the point of loyalty itself.

In general, the expectations of enterprise customers and consumers have increased significantly. They expect brands to not only deliver great products and services, but also acknowledge them as individuals, and engage, excite, and/or woo them to become loyal customers. Add to this the fact that we are today living in a world in which it’s easier than ever for consumers to switch products and services that don’t match or exceed their expectations.

In this scenario, it is critical that brands have a good loyalty program that works for both the brand and its customers.

How to make your loyalty program more effective

1. Loyalty programs should be for loyal customers

Currently I am part of at least 25 different loyalty programs, each with a different retailer or a business. Does that mean that I am a loyal customer to these businesses. Definitely not. Just like millions of others who enroll in a loyalty program, I was also auto-enrolled by the billing clerk while getting my purchase billed. I understand that businesses need to collect information about consumers and track their purchases and affinity towards their business to make many decisions.

However, getting everyone to participate in the loyalty program indicates to me that the business does not value the loyalty, but just the business. By doing this, the business also sets an expectation that you will get discounts by being part of the program, and that there may be levels in the program that entitle you, as a loyal customer, to even more benefits. What this tells me, as a consumer, is that if I want better discounts from the business, I should enroll in the program—nothing more and nothing less.

In my opinion, instead of enrolling every customer into a loyalty program, businesses should be very selective about who gets invited, and about what benefits are offered to keep these elite consumers coming back. As Eddie Yoon explains, loyalty programs should be defined for superconsumers.

This class of consumers can not only help your brand grow, but it can also play a significant part in your product growth strategy, boosting new innovations and even helping your brand become more relevant. For more information about superconsumers and how businesses can find , engage, and learn from them, read Eddie Yoon’s insightful book “SuperConsumers: A Simple, Speedy, And Sustainable Path To Superior Growth.”

2. Engage people with exceptional experiences

One of marketing’s greatest challenges is to engage people en masse. But engaging experiences have a significant impact, eliciting emotions that make your brand memorable and that make people eager to share.

The most effective emotion to elicit is positive surprise. If you can positively surprise your customers, most other emotions generally take a back seat. For example, remember the KLM surprise in which the company spontaneously gave relevant presents to customers based on their social profiles?

3. Create rituals or traditions beyond just an annual Christmas card

Humans have always been creatures of habit, and we have evolved using rituals or traditions. Think about what kinds of habits you would like to instill – in yourself, in how you engage your customers, and in your customers themselves. Habits create traditions; traditions turn into values.

Be mindful not to appear selfish in this area as it will most certainly backfire. Keep your customers’ lives and ambitions central when you are creating rituals, traditions, or habits. Cultures are built one habit, one ritual, one tradition, and one story at a time.

4. Give your customers a voice, and connect them

Nurturing a great relationship between your brand and your customers is as important as creating opportunities for your customers to discover other customers with similar interests. This is an important pillar that most brands forget when they are building the loyalty programs.

Some common mistakes to avoid

  1. Too often, loyalty programs are designed based on the technology used to manage the program, and not the other way around. It is critical to understand this and avoid this mistake when designing a new loyalty program.
  1. Do not hide behind customer sat numbers (yes, I’m talking about the NPS and other customer satisfaction measurement programs). Averages don’t tell you the full truth and can even be outright dangerous. To create meaningful experiences and traditions, go out and meet your customers. It’s all about people; in the end, they make up the numbers.
  1. Loyalty programs are for loyal customers, not the other way around. You can’t build loyalty among your customers by enrolling them in a loyalty program. Loyalty needs to be earned.

If you are creating a new loyalty program and would like to discuss your ideas, I would be happy to share my thoughts and ideas with you. You can reach out to me on Twitter: @rmukeshgupta.


Mukesh Gupta

About Mukesh Gupta

Mukesh Gupta previously held the role of Executive Liaison for the SAP User group in India. He worked as the bridge between the User group and SAP (Development, Consulting, Sales and product management).

The Difference Between Advocates And Influencers (And Why You Need Both)

Tiffany Rowe

These days, marketing is filled with flashy buzzwords: growth hacking, datafication, value exchange, brand essence, storytelling, thought leadership, and more. Two terms that have enjoyed surprisingly long lives as marketing jargon are advocate and influencer, and their longevity hints at their importance in a business’s marketing strategy. Unfortunately, many small business owners and young marketing teams don’t understand the difference between these vital marketing roles, and either use the terms interchangeably or ignore one and focus on the other.

However, both advocates and influencers—along with a handful of other marketing heroes—are integral to a wildly successful marketing campaign. This guide will help small businesses understand the subtle details of each role and why they absolutely need to attract both.

What influencers do

The definition of an influencer is relatively simple: someone with the ability to influence large numbers of people. In the past, celebrities were the primary influencers, but these days, anyone with a sizeable social media following may work as influencers. For example, prominent YouTubers like Tyler Oakley and JennaMarbles, popular Instagrammers like Hayden Williams and Ella Mills, and productive bloggers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Jessica Stein all have found fortune, fame, and brands eager to partner with them.

Influencers are useful because they come replete with extensive audiences and established power. Fans are more likely to become interested in products their favorite influencers support, which gives brands greater opportunities to make sales. Though consumers may be motivated by different reasons—enhanced trust in influencer messages, increased desire to emulate influencer lifestyles, etc.—it is generally easier to move consumers through the sales funnel when they find their way into it thanks to influencers. In fact, 60 percent of YouTube followers have made purchases based on endorsements from YouTube stars.

Influencers are paid, but that doesn’t mean attracting the right ones is easy. Influencers have brands just like companies do, and it is important that these brands complement one another. After all, an automotive business would see little effect from a partnership with a fashion influencer. What’s more, business leaders should try to attract influencers with the largest audiences to increase their messages’ scope. Useful tools for locating and connecting with influencers include BuzzSumo and Follerwonk. It is also beneficial to have an influencer marketing platform to better manage existing partnerships.

What advocates do

Though advocates lack the fame of influencers, they have been shown to have exponentially more influence on consumer behavior. Advocates are highly satisfied customers who are willing and eager to spread the word of your business to friends, family, and strangers. In fact, advocates can appear in the wild, already promoting products with no prompting from businesses whatsoever.

Still, businesses are finding ways to encourage customers to become advocates. Loyalty and referral programs are among the most effective because they reward customers for returning to the brand and suggesting the brand to their friends and family. Nielsen found that 92 percent of consumers trust advice from fellow consumers, confirming the long-held belief that word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing strategy. Generating and maintaining consumer advocates is the best way to encourage natural advocacy of a brand.

The most important goal of a company looking to increase its number of advocates is to create a superior product; the second most important goal is creating superb customer service. Customers are more likely to engage in advocacy programs if they are perpetually satisfied with a business. Additionally, companies should have plenty of outlets for customers to share their positive experiences; social media accounts are crucial, especially those most common with the company’s audiences. Finally, businesses should have ample service channels, including feedback portals and live chats, perhaps through a service like Tagove.

What other important marketing movers and shakers do

Influencers and advocates may be the most important marketing movers and shakers, but they aren’t the only ones. For example, businesses might also want to make use of affiliates, who are similar to influencers but who receive bonuses for each visitor or customer brought in. Affiliates tend to have specific codes, like “Insta230,” that provide consumers small discounts and companies more data on affiliate impact.

Additionally, businesses might develop personas to help them craft more targeted marketing messages. Though personas are rarely real customers, they represent different audiences—including those businesses want to avoid. Being aware of different groups’ backgrounds, needs, and interests is vital in developing a strong marketing strategy.

For more strategies that boost your brand, see Your Best Brand Advocates: Employees With Passion.





Tiffany Rowe

About Tiffany Rowe

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content. Tiffany prides herself in her ability to provide high-quality content that readers will find valuable.

Likability Matters: 4 Ways To Make People Like Your Brand

Michael Brenner

You know “that guy?” The one that everyone likes?

He’s always fun to be around, but never pushy. He’s calm, cool, and collected when everyone else is stressed—sort of like he knows a secret about life that the rest of us will never figure out.

And he always seems to have the answer—to everything. Expert advice, out-of-the-box ideas that work, inspiring stories. You name it, this guy provides it.

Best of all, when he talks, you feel like he’s talking directly to you, answering your questions, responding to your needs.

Mr. Likability. You couldn’t turn away if you tried. He’s so darn relevant and persuasive. Even if you ignore his presence, everyone else is always bringing up what he just said or is sharing his latest news.

What if you could make your brand this likable?

How much more influential and attractive would your business be to consumers?

As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in all the digital trends and data, constantly chasing our target audience, analyzing their every move, and trying to stay two steps ahead.

While a customer-inspired approach can be very effective, how often do you step back and just look at your brand’s persona? How much more persuasive would you be if you could boost your brand’s likability, focusing more on attracting rather than pursuing?

How likable is your brand? If you want to be “that brand,” try these tips to increase likability.

Be human

It may sound trite, but we all like that likable person because they make us feel comfortable – we trust that they have our best interests in mind. Can you guess the top three professions are that people trust the least? You can probably figure out the first two:

  1. Car salespeople
  2. Politicians

The third? Advertising professionals. Yeah. Sorry!

While content marketing is the evolution of advertising and we like to think of ourselves as being much more appealing to the human race, the truth is, many people don’t trust anyone who is trying to sell them something.

If you want to overcome this bias and get people to feel at ease with your branding efforts and like your business more, you’ve got to make your content human. What’s human? Alive. That means not a robot and not a mannequin.

Your site visitors will feel much more comfortable with your website if you exhibit human behavior.

  • Voice your opinion and be both firm and consistent with the stances that you take. Opinions are a must in order to inspire shares and likes.
  • Inject your brand’s personality into your marketing content. Is your brand humorous, caring, sensual, quirky? The core personality traits of the business you are marketing for should be felt through all your content, like a thread that connects every piece you publish.
  • Express emotion through your content. This is especially powerful through visual content. Take for example, Coca Cola’s Taste the Feeling campaign. You can feel that brand magic oozing from the vibrant reds and classic, sepia-toned photos.
Image from Coca-Cola Taste the Feeling Campaign (Photo: Business Wire)
  • Make your brand’s story relatable. You can do this by infusing real-life stories in your content or posting images of employees on your site with short, creative one or two line personal bios – not your employee’s master degree in business administration, but their love of black raspberry ice cream and obsession with glass art. Hey, we’re all human. Let your site visitors feel that so they can connect with your brand.

Talk to your customers

You know how Mr. Likability makes each and every person he talks to feel like the center of the universe? You can have this type of effect with the tools available to digital marketers today. You can talk to your customers in real-time, one-on-one. With live chat tools, you can be there to answer questions and offer help and advice in real-time when someone visits your website.

This is a powerful way to convert leads, capturing those already-interested site visitors before they leave your site. It’s also an incredible opportunity to boost your likability ratings through the roof. You are essentially establishing your brand as an entity that is supportive, happy to help, and that cares about your consumers’ concerns – and their business.

You can also keep the conversation going on social media. Answering Facebook comments, retweeting positive feedback and reviews, and responding to posted concerns about your brand. Of course, you can’t spend your days conversing on social media, but well-timed, well-spaced engagement can show your customers that someone exists behind the curtain.

Get your customers to talk about your brand

Humans are social creatures. We’re influenced not just by celebrities, but also by each other, from our close friends and family members to our coworkers and even social media followers and followees. The more you can get people talking about how they like your brand, the more likable you will be.

Think of it this way: Consumers talk about the brands they like (or don’t like) 90 times per week on average. The more your business’s name pops up, the more popularity points – and the greater lead generation. After all, 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends.

How to encourage reviews, referrals, and positive talk?

  • Reward referrals with discounts and other “thank-yous.”
  • Nothing says, “I love this brand so you should too” like well-designed wearables, coffee mugs, pens, and other items. This works especially well for trend-driven industries like food and beverage, fashion, and the arts.
  • Ask your loyal customers for reviews after purchasing.

Be helpful

The final key to marketing likability is substance. You’ve heard this before in content marketing. Value, expertise, and relevancy matter.

For every piece of content you publish, make sure it answers the question ‘This will help my consumers because…”. It has to educate, inspire, or in some way improve their lives.

One of the great things about Mr. Likability is that he seems to effortlessly know everything. Make your brand appear the same way by sticking to a high standard of well-researched, in-depth expert content, especially for your written content and infographics.

Aside from staying on top of what is going on in your industry through trade journals and other news sources, you can track what is being discussed the most on social media right now. BuzzSumo will show you which subjects that your competitors are posting are getting the most likes and shares. This will help you stay relevant – and well-liked.

When you are in marketing or are trying to market your own business, life does become a popularity contest. By taking steps to become more likable, you’ll develop that certain special quality that makes persuading people to buy your product or service so much easier.

For  more insight on effective branding practices, see Like Children, The Best Brands Maintain Strong Ties To Their Parents.


Michael Brenner

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of  The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider GroupHe has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and   a top  CMO influencer by Forbes.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch

Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.

Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.

Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)

Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.

Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.

Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.

Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.

Get a head start

Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.

Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.

Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.



download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


Christopher Koch

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.


In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.