Using frequent-customer cards is a give-and-take situation. You give customers rewards for buying, and they give you their personal information, which you can use for marketing purposes. Small companies can use frequent-customer cards with a computer program that keeps track of purchase activity by a customer number. Or, cards can be as basic as a punch card that offers “Buy 12 and get 1 free.” If you opt for the latter method, use a specially shaped punch as a security feature, so people can’t use a standard hole-punch to falsify their cards.
The signup form for your cards gives you the customer information you can use for other promotions and mailings. If you ask for customers’ birthdays (without the year), you can send a card a few days in advance. If you have a retail store, you can include a “Happy Birthday” coupon that entitles them to a free item or 30 to 50 percent off a purchase during the week of their birthday.
The casino industry uses customer-tracking cards to the highest level. They know when their guests are playing, for how long, how much they are betting, and how often they come to the casino.
They get all this information and give you a free buffet dinner. Is it worth it? You bet! (Sorry—couldn’t resist the pun.) Casinos also know what states and cities most of their customers come from, and they use that information to target their advertising, direct mail, and email. Instead of spending millions of dollars going after the wrong market, they concentrate on the areas where they get most of their regular customers. Repeat advertising and mailing in these areas gives them maximum results.
Customers show loyalty and use the cards because they want the free dinners, free shows, and occasional free room. They also feel comfortable gambling where they know all the rules and some of the casino personnel. Everybody is happy, but it’s the business that makes the money. Casinos have this method so fine-tuned that they can predict what their betting volume and win will be by who’s staying in their hotel.
Small businesses can use these concepts on a smaller scale and at less expense. Your customers just want to know that you appreciate their business and that if they are loyal to you, they may get something back eventually. You don’t have the financial resources that a casino has, so how do you get started in this area? Here are a few ideas you can consider:
- Use customer punch cards—with or without signup forms.
- Have a birthday club—send a card and a coupon.
- Issue customer cards and write or buy a computer program to keep records by customer number.
- Have your cash register programmed to accept a customer number and tie it to purchases.
- Offer a frequent-dining card if you’re a food-service establishment.
- Issue cards for advance admission to special sales or new product showings if you’re a furniture or other big-ticket-item store.
- Find another small business and have a cross-promotion card that is good at both stores.
- Let a school sell your discount card as a fundraiser—that way, you get the customers.