Loyalty Program Membership vs. Mass Loyalty-Building Initiatives


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Are you limiting the number of brand relationships you could be having by requiring program membership?

If you require that people “join” your Loyalty or Relationship Marketing program, you just might be limiting your ability to build a bigger base of brand loyal buyers. This is a decision you may want to rethink.

Joining a program is often too big of a commitment for people to make, especially too early in a relationship. Would you ask someone to meet your parents after just one date? If you answered yes, then you probably don’t need to read any further, because I’m probably not going to be successful in convincing you to woo that special person a little longer. This article is based in the premise that you have “Brand-Interesteds” that you don’t know, and that you should find a way to market to them, even if they haven’t joined your program yet.

Requiring “membership” can significantly limit the number of customers who will ultimately engage with the brand. This is therefore, a brand-imposed hurdle that may prevent more people from learning more about the brand and eventually becoming more committed to it. Brand-interested customers may be motivated to learning more about a brand, but may not be ready to “sign-up” for a formal marketing program yet.

While visiting a health website, I wanted to read a particular article that I thought was relevant to the topic I was investigating for a family member’s kidney condition. To gain access to the article, the sponsoring brand wanted me to register for their program. But the amount of information they wanted was extensive and invasive. I was on a quest for information, not yet convinced about the appropriate course of action. Requiring me to enroll as a “member” in their marketing program just to read an article slowed me down from my investigation. Therefore, I passed on reading what may have been convincing evidence that their brand solution was the best choice to consider.

Another risk in requiring membership is that it can drive a marketing team to over-focus on generating program enrollments and capturing nice-but-not-necessary customer data. This is what I call the “Marketing your Marketing” vs. “Marketing your Brand” syndrome.

Fielding relationship-building initiatives that are openly accessible to more customers broadens your reach and helps build up the level of brand commitment necessary to help more people become more convinced that the brand is a perfect solution for them for the long-run. Isn’t that the ultimate goal of marketing?

How can Relationship Marketers do a better job of this?

? Focus on the goal of helping more people become more commitment to the brand for the long-term
? Deliver “about-the-brand” content that provides brand proof to support the base advertising claims that may have caused the initial interest in the brand to begin with
? Use mass channels to deliver your brand proof. Huh? Loyalty or Relationship Marketing via broad-reaching channels? You betcha!
? Focus on providing deep brand information early – immediately after a Loyalty Moment has been created. If you wait for people to enroll in your program you may have missed a critical opportunity.

Adopting a “broad communication” mentality vs. a “join the program” mentality has many benefits. It can lead you to develop communication initiatives that bridge the gap for people who are not quite ready to sign up for your program but have the potential to become long-term loyal users of your brand. And getting a few more of those buyers could make all the difference in the world to the bottom-line for your brand.

Deb Rapacz
Deb Rapacz helps brands and non profit organizations build a solid core of highly-committed buyers or donors. She is a highly-rated marketing instructor at St. Xavier University and conducts research on the psychology of brand commitment and consumer engagement.


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