Sometimes, the story is in the numbers.
The cost of acquiring a new customer is four to 10 times that of retaining an existing client, various studies show. Meanwhile, the median cost of replacing an employee is 21% of the person’s annual salary, according to research from the Center for American Progress, an independent non-partisan institute.
As these figures suggest, it significantly benefits companies to earn the loyalty of customers and employees. Fortunately, campaigns driven by promotional products that incentivize and thank clients and workers aid organizations large and small in earning the devotion they need to thrive. By engineering these ROI-producing initiatives, creative ad specialty reps prove themselves valuable marketing partners. “If you can help build loyalty for your clients and incentivize their target demographic, you can earn your clients’ loyalty in return,” says John Infantino, president/CEO of Brand Vessel (asi/145158).
Here we shine a spotlight on loyalty programs geared toward everyone from employees to clients to volunteers.
Orange Is The New Black
Number of pairs of custom flip-flops Brand Vessel produced for Netflix.
Netflix executives were excited. The June launch of season two of their critically acclaimed original series Orange Is The New Black was nearing. To build buzz and say thank you for a job well done, the execs wanted to provide something special to the show’s cast and crew, Netflix employees and partners connected with the series, including Hollywood movers and shakers.
To conceptualize and create the perfect gift, Netflix’s corporate events director called in Infantino. Through collaborative brainstorming with the Netflix team, Infantino came up with a spot-on solution: custom flip-flops. The footwear was a playful take on the fact that the comedic drama’s characters – inmates in a women’s prison – wear flip-flops when they shower. The flip-flops also coordinated with the timing of the show’s premier, being a great gift to get, as recipients did, at the onset of summer. “We wanted something that would tie in thematically with the show and be good for the beach,” says Infantino.
Of course, not just any flip-flop would do, so Infantino created 100% custom footwear. The mold, color and strap design were unique. Black straps featured a Netflix badge, while the orange soles were imprinted with the show’s name in brand-design lettering, along with “A Netflix Original Series.” Brand Vessel had the flip-flops delivered in mesh cinch bags – orange for women, black for men.
The flip-flops were a hit. Infantino followed up an initial delivery of 3,200 pairs with subsequent orders that brought the total to about 3,700. “They got a great response,” says Infantino. “Tons of people posted pics about them on social media.” That enthusiasm was exactly the reaction Netflix wanted. “They really value their employees and their partners, and they want to give back to show their appreciation,” he says. “It was a way of saying, ‘We know you work your butts off. Thank you.’”
Fueling the Fight Against Cancer
Approximate number of individual prizes HALO Branded Solutions ships annually through a proprietary IT system for its key nonprofit partners.
When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, it doesn’t get much bigger than the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. 5,200 Relays annually. $400 million generated each year to help fight cancer. To produce such impressive results time and again, the society must motivate participants to raise as much money as they can and show them that their efforts are appreciated.
Enter Bob Southard. For about 20 years, the national sales leader at HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) has spearheaded an incentives program for ACS. The solutions Southard and the HALO team deliver help inspire Relayers to fundraise vigorously, thank them for their commitment and encourage future participation in the cancer-battling cause. “The incentive program has been an important component of Relay’s success,” says Southard.
Committed to offering ACS the best service possible, HALO developed a proprietary technology platform that takes the pressure of running an incentives program off the nonprofit. Managed by HALO, the system tracks participants’ fundraising activities, sending emails along the way to motivate Relayers to keep working hard on their charity-generating efforts. After the Relay event for which they’ve raised funds concludes, participants receive an email with a link to a store of prizes. The more a participant has raised, the better the prize for which they are eligible.
Products have included everything from ACS-branded hoodies, T-shirts, travel mugs, bags and warm-up jackets to headphones, Bluetooth speakers and televisions. A winning feature of the system is that it allows ACS to be billed only for the prizes that participants redeem, which prevents the nonprofit from getting stuck with unused inventory. “We send a single bill to the staff contact for the particular event,” says Southard. “It’s very organized, which makes things simple for them.”
As part of the incentives initiative, HALO has issued special prizes during the fundraising period for participants who sign up early and achieve particular dollar tallies by certain times – all information tracked by HALO’s system. Plus, crossing the $1,000 fundraising threshold earns participants entrance into a specially designated club – as well as an exclusive gift and “Thank You” mailing provided by the distributor. “It’s been successful in driving fundraising,” says Southard, noting the special prize is issued in addition to the incentive gift that comes at the end of an event.
For ACS, HALO’s comprehensive management and expert execution has been a significant boon. And, impressively, HALO has extended similar exemplary service to several other nationwide nonprofits. Through the distributorship’s proprietary IT platform, HALO ships approximately 50,000 individual prizes per year for ACS and these other nonprofits. “When you put yourself in the shoes of the organization and see things through their eyes, you can develop solutions that make you a true partner,” says Southard.
Hitting the Loyalty Jackpot
More than 100,000
Number of participants in the Idaho Lottery’s VIP Club loyalty program.
State lotteries are in the business of selling the intangible – a dream of riches. And yet, for most of the lottery’s customers, that dream goes unfulfilled. Sure, the hope of a big day keeps people coming back, but providing customers with a tangible reward certainly helps encourage them to buy more tickets and gives those people a sense that the money they’ve spent has gotten them something worthwhile, even if it’s not a million-dollar pay out.
For the Idaho Lottery, Kris Robinson conceived just such a crackerjack loyalty solution. “We presented the concept to them and they loved it so much that they even changed their POS system so it could be implemented,” says the Boise-based executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for PromoShop (asi/300446).
The PromoShop idea that so enticed the lottery was the VIP Club, a program that has been running for eight years now. After joining the club, participants receive special discounts, advance notice of upcoming promotions and new games, and entry into prize drawings. What’s more, club members earn points on tickets they purchase. These points are then used to buy rewards. Gifts have included everything from drinkware, golf products and apparel to items such as televisions and trip packages for whitewater rafting and scenic plane rides. “The more points you get, the better the gifts,” says Robinson. “It’s a way of encouraging people to keep participating and to participate more often.”
Proof that the VIP Club is working isn’t hard to find. “Since we started, we’ve had more than 100,000 participants sign up,” says Robinson. “It shows these kind of programs work.”
Indeed, so much does the PromoShop team believe in the power of rewards initiatives that the distributorship runs its own loyalty program for employees. Workers who reach longevity milestones are invited to select premium gifts from catalogs PromoShop assembles. There’s one catalog for five-year employees, another for the 10-year veterans. When employees get the catalog on their work anniversary, they also receive a letter thanking them for their commitment. Rewards have included everything from skateboards, surfboards and bicycles to iPads, Swiss army luggage, televisions, Beats headphones and more. “We have to practice what we preach,” says Robinson. “You need to acknowledge and reward performance.”
Going Custom for the Cable Company
Approximate number of custom keytags sold to thank, reward and incentivize a national cable provider’s technicians.
For incentive and loyalty programs to be successful, says Lynne DuVivier, you have to provide products that carry a real wow-factor – items that intended recipients wouldn’t be able to get on their own. “It has to be something that makes them sit up, take notice and say, ‘I want that,’” says the partner at Jack Nadel International (asi/279600).
Pulling off such campaigns requires creativity. Fortunately, DuVivier has that in ample supply – something evidenced by an initiative she recently completed for one of her largest clients, a nationwide cable provider. The corporation wanted to improve the scores its field technicians receive from clients on customer satisfaction surveys. To achieve that aim, the company desired to fire-up the technicians to deliver the best service possible. But what could provide the necessary incentive, given the budget?
The experienced ad specialty pro developed a program in which techs who achieved certain scores on the test would receive a special keytag. Custom-built, the tag was cut and imprinted to be an exact replica of the service trucks the techs use. The back of it contained a car charger. Practical and one-of-a-kind, the reward captured the attention of the techs. “Their technicians were very eager to earn one,” says DuVivier.
Eagerness translated into action. So successful was the program that DuVivier sold upwards of 1,000 tags to various regions within the corporation’s national network. Not only did the keytags help improve customer satisfaction, they showed employees that the company appreciates and rewards their hard work, which helps build in them a sense of loyalty to the cable provider. “They told me that for an item in the $10 to $15 price range, they had never seen this group of guys ever get so excited to get the reward,” says DuVivier. “Now we’re talking about doing a custom keytag for their customer service people.”
The Circle Of Loyalty
Approximate amount of total revenue ASB Marketing generates through loyalty programs and initiatives.
Anita Brooks generates about 10% of her revenue through loyalty programs with clients that range from health-care institutions to manufacturers. Still, the programs earn her more than just the dollars that come from the sales tied directly to them. By crafting loyalty initiatives that help retain and incentivize, she also influences her customers to remain loyal to her. “It makes the relationship tighter,” says the president of ASB Marketing, a Geiger affiliate (asi/202900). “The more solutions you can provide, the better partner you are and the more reason they have to stay loyal to you.”
One of the most successful programs Brooks orchestrates is for a financial organization. As a show of appreciation, the client rewards employees with gifts based on years of service. The first gift eligibility comes at five years, then 10, then 15 and so on at every five-year interval. Each level of the rewards program allows employees to select a clothing item, a timepiece or a hard-good product. The gifts get more exclusive the longer a person is with the company.
Branded with the client’s logo and often personalized, rewards have included everything from embroidered fleeces, polar tech outerwear and debossed leather jackets to engraved Seiko watches, leather padfolios, travel bags and crystal bowls. Brooks has even sourced products at employees’ request, including a hand-woven bowl made of grass and beads. “We’re always looking to update the program with new products to keep it fresh,” she says.
Running nearly a decade now, the program has been a resounding success. “It definitely helps morale,” says Brooks. “You see people wearing the clothing and using the items they receive.” One employee even became so attached to a clock he was given that, when it broke, he refused to part with it or accept a new one. Brooks explained the clock had been discontinued. No matter; the employee wanted that clock. Determined to come through, she found a local clocksmith who fixed the timepiece, thrilling the employee. “I think that says a lot about what these gifts mean and the success of the program,” she says.
That success helps assure the client that, with Brooks, they’re in capable hands – a fact that has made her the go-to source for everything from uniforms to company pads, pens and drinkware, to giveaway items at community fundraisers. “I do just about everything for them,” she says.