Keep ’Em Coming Back

Customer incentive programs should focus on brand, customer value, simplicity

From slowed part production and raw material shortages to job market woes, pool and spa customers are experiencing an increase in the time between purchase and delivery.

Jennifer Gannon, proprietor at BonaVista Pools in Ontario, Canada, says customers “are finding out that the supply chain is sort of deeply altered for all retailers.”

With this waiting game, retailers are relying on a variety of marketing techniques to keep both new and existing customers patient and engaged, including revamping or creating new customer incentive programs that reward customers for leaving reviews, purchasing after-market items like chemicals and more.

Marketing firms agree: Offering discounts to new and returning customers can increase loyalty. But David Isaacs, owner of Isaacs Pools & Spas in Johnson City, Tennessee, is skeptical. He says incentive programs “can potentially create a discount structure that can negatively impact the bottom line” and urges companies to be thoughtful when calculating discounts.

While Isaacs notes customer loyalty and incentive programs can be complicated to implement, he says good programs should be simple for customers and keep your company top of mind.

Danielle Lavallee Wasson, formerly international sales director for Bullfrog Spas and now an executive and leadership coach, says that if a rewards program is hard to understand or overly complex, companies risk discouraging customers rather than encouraging increased sales. According to Get Rewarded for Thinking Beyond Points, a November 2019 article from Kobie Marketing (a loyalty marketing company with offices in Florida and Texas), the value of the program should be about more than just prices but also about membership, status, exclusive content, and/or a personalized experience. The company suggests that a loyalty program should convey value and your brand in its name.

Once a clever program name is chosen, the perks should keep the customer experience easy, meaningful and relevant, according to the same Kobie Marketing article. Personalized rewards and customer-driven discounts is one way to do this.

Catalina Pools AZ in Gilbert, Arizona, has a service referral program that gives existing customers one month of free maintenance service if they refer someone who signs up for pool service, says third-generation owner Michael Polak.

“We don’t have a limit to that, so if they refer five of their neighbors [who sign up], then they would get five months free,” he says. 

BonaVista Pools offers an in-store product discount for customer reviews.

“We’ll invite [customers] to review us, and then we set up a credit on account for them,” Gannon says. “It’s an opportunity for them to share their feedback, and by the same token, we give them [a discount] in store in exchange for their feedback.”

To streamline the reward programs, give customers an account on the retailer’s website where they can track reward progress — rather than something antiquated like a punch card, says Lavallee Wasson.

“If the customer has to carry a card of some sort, that is way old school and probably won’t work,” she says. “[A company’s] data management [for the program] is critical and must be easy.”

Isaacs used to have a punch-card system and says most customers forgot they had it or forgot to bring it in. Now, Isaacs Pool & Spa has partnered with SCP’s Splash Cash program to provide customer incentives. Isaacs says it was easy and fast to get the program started.

While incentive programs can be beneficial for retaining customers, Pollack has found the tried-and-true methods of good, ethical work and word-of-mouth about services and programs to be even better.

Gannon mirrors this sentiment: “I think that our reputation, which is quite strong in the local market, is enough of an incentive for them to wait [for orders],” she says. “There’s a quality commitment in terms of the way we sell and the way we service our clients.”

Lavalee Wasson’s Steps to Successful Incentives

  1. Decide and define the desired outcomes, whether that be new customers, higher sales or increased customer retention.
  2. Structure the program so it is simple and easy for your company to maintain and valuable to customers.
  3. Create a marketing campaign to increase knowledge of the program.
  4. Train staff on how and when the program will be implemented.
  5. Give it time to work, and evaluate the effects.

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