Tips & Guides — 31 Mar 2022
A Guide to B2B Loyalty Programs
In business, customer loyalty is a valuable asset. Over half of people will express this loyalty by joining a VIP or rewards program. These incentive programs are an excellent way to give back, as well as encourage customer retention.
As such, it’s a good idea to consider a formal B2B loyalty program for your customers, as well as providing other incentives and rewards.
B2B rewards and incentives help businesses retain customers and build brand loyalty. This is achieved by offering some kind of prize in return. This prize might be a physical reward, or some other sales incentive. Often, these rewards are offered for spending over a certain amount, or making a certain number of purchases. They may be done in conjunction with a channel partner for greater efficiency.
The B2B market is different to the B2C market, and B2B merchants face unique challenges. Business customers are looking for different things compared to a consumer, which should impact your planned B2B rewards strategy.
The most obvious difference is that any deals you make are fewer in number but greater in importance. This means you need to think about what value you’re offering to a business customer, as much more is riding on this deal.
This idea is compounded by the nature of B2B sales. It’s often a longer and more formalized process than other purchases, and the decisions involved are more complicated as well. While unified communications as a service can make things easier, any rewards you offer must be worth the effort to impact your bottom line.
A B2B rewards program should reflect one key idea: that B2B relationships are all about the long term. When a business is dealing with another business, it’s in the interests of both to stick together for a while. A loyalty program is a good way to achieve this.
As part of your B2B customer loyalty scheme, you might want to offer a physical reward. There are two kinds of physical rewards that are especially popular.
One of the most flexible rewards in this context is a merchandise reward. This might take the form of a discount on large orders, or it could be bonus products in addition to their purchase. This type of reward is enormously flexible; it can be applied to anything you sell in bulk, and offers universal appeal.
Another physical reward businesses can offer takes the form of branded cash, a gift card or a promo code. These are essentially cash rewards, although they are often aimed at a B2B customer’s employees rather than the customer themselves.
It’s easy to buy these in large quantities, and they’re a simple but effective way to encourage customer engagement. You can add some of your own business’ branding to these, or offer digital versions.
Closed and open loop gift cards are both available; the former is limited to a specific retailer, while the latter is generally more versatile, revolving around a specific payment system. However, branded cash and gift cards are both appealing to customers of all kinds.
It’s a good idea to bundle these kinds of rewards with a product order; try to include enough for a business to reward a significant group of employees with them. Directly rewarding employees in this manner is an excellent way to bolster business relationships.
In addition to rewards and discounts, B2B companies can offer other incentives – both internally, and in conjunction with partners. When used in conjunction with services such as Affise Reach (which let you find and recruit valuable partners) a good incentive program can make a world of difference.
But what makes a good incentive program?
A good B2B rewards scheme needs to be desirable to your customer base, but you might be unsure what that value looks like. Fortunately, there are several reliable strategies to take.
1. Offer free items
The simplest approach to this idea is free items divorced from a specific purchase. You can give customers free items within a customer loyalty program; something that is useful, such as a pen, notebook or tote bag is a good idea. Your sales team may be able to provide some ideas.
You can also use an onboarding process to convey the benefits of a rewards scheme. This can form part of a B2B marketing scheme, and helps people appreciate the shape and value of a service. You might want to use a short article, an infographic or even a video.
3. Create a mobile app
If you’re worried that a rewards scheme is too complicated, a mobile app may streamline things. Mobile app downloads have been steadily climbing since 2016, clearly indicating their popularity. You may even want to tie a reward to a download of the app itself.
Apps have the benefit of streamlining and simplifying conventional activities. If you’re concerned you’re using too many steps, an app is one way to alleviate these concerns and make it more attractive to your loyal customers.
If you’re struggling to get sign-ups to a loyalty program, consider a sales performance incentive fund. This is an internal tactic, aimed at your own staff and encouraging their promotion of your scheme. Rewards can be bestowed upon employees who get a specific number of sign-ups within a certain timeframe. If there’s a particular target you’re keen to hit, a SPIF can be a great option.
A common trend in today’s business transactions is personalization. Customers appreciate it when they feel some part of the shopping experience is tailored to them.
It’s a good idea to modify your B2B incentive program for each customer—even if only a little. This requires a good understanding of your customer’s business and what is likely to appeal to them. For instance, if you offer phone hosting services, take note of how they use your services. Do they run close to their limits each month? Offer a free upgrade for a limited time period. Are they scaling up? Why not run a deal – for every five new user accounts added, they get one free?
One incentive you may wish to consider is an appeal to a customers’ values. Whether it’s business goals or some kind of higher ethical calling, you will most likely share something in common that inspires an incentive. Agreeing to contribute to a charity or other worthy cause can have a big impact, provided it aligns with your target audience.
7. Honour achievements
Another way of approaching personalization comes from your broader content strategy. You might want to produce a piece of content that recognizes a customer’s achievement.
There are a few different ways you can approach this idea. A case study is a particularly effective strategy, as it’s a good way to show off a business’ experience and expertise. You can also highlight them in blogs, email campaigns, or other media.
While measures like onboarding can better convey the benefits of a rewards program, it might not be enough to encourage business or attract customers. A business needs to be up front with all the facets of a rewards scheme when discussing it with a customer.
It’s easy to overlook one pillar of customer experience: clarity of information. Make sure that you share terms or conditions with your customers. This makes them feel respected, and ensures they understand exactly what to expect from the scheme they sign up to.
If you’re seeing sluggish uptake for your rewards, the problem might be that a competitor is offering something more valuable. Make sure to regularly compare your schemes to theirs – this ensures your program is more valuable to both new customers and returning ones.
If you make any changes, tell people with a simple email or similar update. If you’re familiar with email marketing campaigns this should be very simple.
Now you understand what strategies to implement, let’s take a look at some specific incentive examples.
B2B businesses can restrict certain rewards to specific tiers in your rewards program. If desirable enough, tiers can encourage further business from a customer. They can inspire loyalty and spur them to increase their value to you. Of course, you need to be able to track customer value.
Consider what metrics you can track in order to place customers into each tier. It should be clear to participants how to move up a tier. If you’re looking for help to manage data from different marketing channels, Affise BI may be what you’re after.
This concept of value can manifest in a transaction-based immediate discount. This rebate is offered just before an initial purchase, as an incentive to join your scheme. This discount can apply to a single item, or it can also be applied to future purchases made within a specific timeframe.
Sometimes an experience is better than physical loyalty rewards. Exclusive events can be helpful because they create a sense of mystique and desirability around your rewards scheme. They can also be a way to foster positive feelings from your customers or their employees.
The key appeal of this kind of reward isn’t expense; it’s novelty. Something inexpensive can be very well-received if it offers genuine value to a business or its workers. In the latter case, happy workers can have a broader positive impact on a business’ operations—and that’s something that will be noticed.
A third-party partnership can help you offer something of greater relevance to a specific customer. This is distinct from the promotional items we explored earlier, and is more business-focussed. Working with a third party can allow you to each offer a discount on what you sell, and make more money in the long run.
While the features mentioned above are great for loyalty programs, there are several others you might want to consider in your rewards scheme. Taking a broad look at your B2B customer loyalty scheme is an excellent way to increase customer retention.
Tiers allow for some discernment around how you reward customers. You may want to give specific customers exclusive features such as free service trials or exclusive event access. The value of these will obviously be tied to specific tier levels; start with something simple and work up to something more valuable.
If you’re feeling especially bold, you might want to think about adding a leaderboard to your usual tier dashboards.
If your B2B customers don’t want physical items, consider sharing your knowledge with them instead. Whether it’s a partner, a supplier or someone else altogether, it’s likely you have some kind of information or experience they can benefit from.
This strategy is particularly effective if you’re dealing with a new business that’s less experienced. It’s likely they’ll have something to learn or some significant gaps in their knowledge. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them with an offer of assistance, within or without a rewards scheme.
A co-operative reward offers two key benefits to the business offering them. A business customer that performs well can deepen their business connection to you, which results in additional purchases from your product line. It’s also likely that they will credit you (at least in part) for your success, and either increase business or connect you with a new business.
There are a few different ways you can approach this concept of partner rewards. If you were selling a specific machine part to a manufacturer, for example, you might want to reach out to a distributor (or distributors) responsible for complementary parts. You might then offer a bundle of these products with some kind of price reduction.
If your business regularly hosts events you might want to offer exclusive access for participants in your rewards scheme. You can run practical events – for instance, a webinar about platforms such as CPAPI – or more leisure-focused ones.
Of course, these experiences don’t have to be connected to your business if you don’t want them to be. If you don’t think you offer any experiences that connect to your rewards scheme, don’t be afraid to offer something more frivolous (like movie tickets for employees, for example).
Another way you can formalize this positive reception is with a referral program. By now, word-of-mouth has become an established part of doing business. Both B2B and B2C customers benefit from its presence.
In practice, a referral program would reward people who share your name with potential customers. Alternatively, they can be rewarded for encouraging other customers to sign up to your rewards scheme. Either of these offers a clear path towards increased business for you.
You can use a referral scheme as a way of delivering existing rewards, or offer unique ones within it. As with many facets of B2B rewards schemes, there’s a great deal of flexibility in this area.
Gamification is one way you can make a rewards scheme more rewarding, and therefore more desirable to potential users of it.
A gamified survey involves hiding certain rewards behind a survey that customers fill out. This is an opportunity to get information on a customer’s likes and dislikes. You can use it to gauge their reaction to what you’ve already done, and see if there’s anything new you can offer or improvements you can make.
If you have significant holes in your understanding of your customers or your rewards scheme, gamified surveys are an excellent way to fill them.
This is another way to gather information on your customers (with their explicit consent, of course). They take the form of a partnership between several unrelated businesses, with one overseeing the broader operation of it. Program participants can work with one business and redeem rewards they’ve earned with another one.
These programs allow participating businesses to collect various customer data on the people participating in them. This allows them all to refine their personalization efforts, and improve their business operations more broadly.
While these programs are distinct from the ideas we’ve been exploring, they may also be worth considering in addition to a more conventional rewards scheme. Affise Reach is another way you can create effective business partnerships and expand your marketing channels.8.
If you like, you can step outside the structure of tiers, points and other incentives in favour of perks instead. This idea involves a flatter structure; customers who sign up to a ‘perks program’ all receive the same rewards simultaneously. You can continue to run surveys and prize draws in addition to this program, but these aren’t required to operate one.
A perks program is dependent upon continued involvement with a business to maintain access to it. For instance, you might want to connect program membership to customer purchases. Failure to make a purchase within a specific timeframe will revoke membership. While this motivates customers to work with you, it naturally relies on genuine value to incentivise them.
A rewards scheme in a B2B context might seem redundant. However, in practice, people in a business setting appreciate rewards and incentives as much as anyone else. Offering these to your B2B customers is therefore a solid strategy.
While every scheme will look different, we can identify some common elements to all of them. Having a clear understanding of its value is essential, and some kind of personalization will aid your efforts as well. Thinking carefully about what benefits are offered (either to a customer or their employees) will help you to increase sales, and provide crucial differentiation from your competitors.
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