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A More Meaningful Customer Rewards Program

March 10, 2015 | By Bob Peterson

  • Customer advocacy plays an increasingly critical role in b-to-b
  • B-to-b companies should consider what drives customers to participate in advocacy activities
  • A customer rewards program should be structured around recognition and influence

Why has the simple act of saying “Thank you” become so complicated? That’s often one of the first questions we hear from our clients looking to design an effective customer rewards program. While the concept has certainly evolved over time, it doesn’t have to be so complex, so long as you focus it on the right kinds of rewards.

Historically, many b-to-b customer rewards programs were structured to provide incentives for customers to support customer advocacy or reference activities. These rewards were commonly financial or based on company merchandise. Financial rewards have become increasingly problematic, as customers in many industries face restrictions on their ability to accept monetary rewards. In addition, financial rewards are often perceived as the equivalent of bribery for advocacy participation. Similarly, company logo wear, while not generally as troublesome as financial rewards, lacks the staying power to provide effective long-term advocacy support.

When crafting a more meaningful customer rewards program, b-to-b companies should consider what really drives customers to participate in advocacy activities. Two types of rewards can provide more durable and effective rewards:

  • Recognition. For people of all ranks, few things are more foundational than being acknowledged for your efforts. Customer rewards programs that put recipients on a pedestal in front of their peers often outperform other programs. These programs seek out venues for customer recognition such as annual customer events, regional user groups, customer newsletters or industry events. Not only are these rewards impactful, but they are also durable – and marketing budget-friendly.
  • Influence. Another useful reward type is offering the customer influence – such as access to key personnel like product development, product management or product strategy leads. Even more powerful is access to the company executive ranks. Marketers should identify executives who are particularly savvy with customers for this type of rewards participation. If executed properly, lunch with a company executive can leave a lasting impression on the customer.

Structuring a customer rewards program around recognition and influence puts the program on a solid foundation that is sustainable for the long run. It also establishes truly meaningful ways to thank customer for their participation. With advocacy playing an increasingly critical role in b-to-b, customer rewards are too important to leave to chance. Take a fresh look at your customer rewards program and consider whether or not it is meaningful for your customers. If you’re looking for help, reach out to your customer advisory board or user group leaders for advice. These are great sources of insight into what motivates fellow customers to support advocacy activities. 

 

Bob Peterson

Bob Peterson is a sales and marketing thought leader with more than 20 years of experience working in mid- to large-sized global organizations, with emphasis on the financial services and software sectors. Bob has particularly focused on developing account-based marketing strategies to help sales and marketing organizations forge tighter alignment.
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