Cast a Wider Net

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Unexpected sources of program creativity

I always have to suppress a big gulp of apprehension when I hear The Question.

It comes all too often, from marketers and loyalty practitioners eager to spark up their programs: “What’s the best example of creativity in loyalty in my industry?” They’re looking for innovative strategies that that they can adapt to differentiate their own programs.

After a hesitant pause, I have to be honest with my response. The answer is usually, “There’s just not that much creativity out there in your vertical.”

It pains me to give such a disappointing answer, but that speaks to the larger issue of why I’m getting that question in the first place. Clearly, practitioners want to keep their programs fresh and evolving. They’re looking for creativity and imagination. But unfortunately, I see too many searching inside the box for out-of-the-box solutions. Why are practitioners so obsessed with only comparing themselves to others in their industry sector and country?

Instead, consider casting a wider net. To catch creativity, go fishing for examples outside your home pond. Look at programs in different sectors, different categories and even different countries for ways to freshen up your program. For example:

Other categories: Face it: You probably already know all you need about what other companies in your own lane are doing, so try exploring other industries. For example, what could retailers learn about adding recognition benefits and perks from the gaming industry, which showers different comps on best players and empowers front-line staff to deliver surprise-and-delight perks when needed?

Other countries: Programs in other countries experiment at a different pace, and address varied cultural issues. For example, while most telecom loyalty strategies in North America are still searching for the right mix, European or Asian Pacific telecom programs offer a variety of rewards and recognition benefits. In studying business practices, and best practices, your organization may find something that can be adopted, tweaked or taken to the next level at home.

Other models: Your company may not be interested in changing its structure, but there are still learning opportunities in looking at features of different programs. For example, retail proprietary programs are quite often “closed earn” and “closed burn” ecosystems. What can retailers learn from the vast part- nership networks that the travel and hospitality category has created? How would that be a game-changer for your value proposition?

Casting a wider net means identifying and gathering those other sources of inspiration. I’ll give you a hint about where this exploration will likely lead: incorporating meaningful soft benefits.

Our findings from the 2011 COLLOQUY Cross-Cultural Loyalty Study point to this often-overlooked program element. In the study, 74% of U.S. and Canadian consumers said they joined programs for the rewards and benefits – and this sizeable number would explain why practitioners often focus on offers and discounts. But 43% of U.S. consumers and 42% of Canadians joined for “special perks and bene- fits,” and a nearly equal number for “special or preferential treatments.”

Has your program identified member attitudes regarding soft benefits like perks and privileges, and members-only access to content and events? Does your program offer a relevant mix that connects with your high-value customers? If your industry isn’t delivering such recognition benefits, then it’s high time to explore successful models and examples by looking outside the normal fishing spots.

To find sources of inspiration, you don’t need to cast your net very wide to pull in a few helpful resources. For example, when I search for inspirational answers to The Question, I begin with COLLOQUY’s Breaking News (listed on our website), which gives daily blurbs on industry developments and programs from around the world. Scan marketing news feeds, and reports from your own industry—but don’t skip over the profiles of programs that aren’t similar to yours.

The truly inspirational examples are out there. In fact, maybe I should start responding to The Question with a question of my own—”Where are you looking for answers?”

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