Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

It is impossible to attend a franchise conference or read a trade magazine without being inundated with discussions about “engaging your customers”.  Everyone wants to tell franchise systems the best way to build brand loyalty.  It is hard to know who to listen to and what advice to take.  A recent article by Jitendra Gupta in Franchising World, however, contained both pretty interesting and easy best practices for moving away from stale paper punch and swipe cards to build “brand advocate” customers.

  1. Surprise Your Customers.  Everyone knows that just giving away free “stuff” alone does not build loyalty but people like fun surprises.  Gupta discussed how Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop randomly selects customers in its loyalty program and provides them with a free sandwich.  The random shot at a freebie may help increase occasional customers’ visits.
  2. Status.  This is a no-brainer.  If customers can earn a certain “status” by sampling or purchasing certain products then they are more inclined to come back often and they are spending money in the process.  I remember my husband spending what probably amounted to thousands of dollars on specialty craft beers over the course of years at a local bar and grill in order to get a T-Shirt (which he still wears proudly a decade later) and his name on the restaurant’s “100 Beer List Club” plaque which contained the names of customers who tasted (and purchased) at least 100 different beers.
  3. Use New Technology to Create Norm Petersons.  Gupta explains how new technologies like iBeacon allow businesses to identify and greet customers by name when they enter a franchise location just like Norm on Cheers.  Coupling this technology with information you know about the customer’s habits and tastes can tailor the interactions.
  4. Referrals.  Building your customer base by rewarding current loyal customers for referrals is a tried but true method and an increasingly effective method given the power of social networks and the potential of a (positive) viral post or tweet.

Find a full list of tips here.