As my fellow strategist David Taitelbaum explained in Lookalike Audiences: 3 Simple Steps to Grow Your VIPs, the small VIP segment of your customer base can actually have the greatest impact on your overall business, so it’s important to develop a strong following and keep them invested in your brand. That’s where a successful loyalty program comes in. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Identify Realistic Goals

What you are trying to accomplish with this program? When developing your loyalty program, it’s important to set clear objectives that align with your business goals. Consider the following: Do you want to build stronger relationships with high-value customers? Expand your marketing channels? Collect data to use later? Generate higher engagement rates? Whatever your end goal, the key to a successful loyalty program is working toward meaningful, realistic objectives that support your overall business plan.

Know Your Customers

A loyalty program only works if you offer benefits that appeal to your customers. Take a good look at your customer base, analyze their demographics and current preferences, and try to determine what best motivates them. Is it free shipping? Early access to special sales? Points toward future purchases? Whatever appeals most to them should be the basis for your program incentives. When it comes to incentives, my recommendation is to start simple. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. Offer these customers a special deal or a private sale. Or reuse one of the offers that’s already on your calendar this month, and give them early “VIP access” or extend the offer for them a day or two. If you’re not able to offer discounts, there’s no need to fret. Consider offering these customers early access to new or limited products, or invite them to special events. Some brands reward customers that reach certain spending levels. Check out this example from Boot Barn: Boot Barn

Get the Word Out

Even the best loyalty program means nothing if your customers don’t know about it. Feature it on your website and email sign-up form. You should also tout it at checkout and on any inserts in order fulfillments. You might also consider targeting customers who aren’t quite at that VIP level. For those just shy of qualifying for VIP status, it’s important to share details about your loyalty program, explaining the benefits they have to look forward to once they reach that threshold. You can even target these customers with monthly updates on their current reward status, using dynamic fields in your email template. Check out the example below from Victoria’s Secret: victorias-secret-email I like this email for two reasons. It gets me to check my rewards balance, and it entices me to purchase again in order to reach the next reward level.

Create an Appealing Referral Program

Word of mouth publicity is a powerful thing, but not all customers are going to be motivated to spread the good word. In addition to offering rewards for purchases or other activity with your brand, consider including incentives for customer referrals to help attract new business. As a marketer, a loyalty program is your opportunity to create a fun and interactive experience that encourages more customer engagement. So what are your waiting for? If you already have a valuable program in place, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you.