In Evergreen, I talked about the main reasons why most loyalty programs are terribly ineffective. They’re usually based on points and rewards with little thought to how to use the program to generate a more valuable customer. You spend X amount of dollars with us, and when you have enough points, we’ll give you a toaster.

I was recently running a small workshop with representatives from 15 diverse companies and industries, and we started talking about this gaping hole in customer loyalty efforts. After a few minutes, an idea emerged that got everyone pretty excited. So much so, that we spent the next hour or so talking about how this could apply to everyone’s business.

I can’t recreate the atmosphere of the room in this email or the various perspectives and points of view that were responsible for shaping it fully, but I want to share the outcome because I think it will be instructive on how to think differently about the way you create value for your clients and customers.

What if instead of thinking about how to give your clients the toaster for collecting X points, you gave your best clients incredible perks and offerings, but only so long as they continued to do business with you? And what if your customers knew they’d lose them if they went somewhere else?

I’ll give you the example that got everyone’s wheels turning:

I’ve used garages that invert the whole oil change process. Instead of driving in, dropping off your car, and waiting around for an hour while you watch the time crawl by, they pick up your car from your home or office and drop if off 3-4 hours later. It’s an incredible service, and it takes the hassle out of this routine task.

What if this was a service that they offered only if their clients met these conditions:

  1. The client had done at least three oil changes with them, and,
  2. The client got every required oil change with them.

And, if the client went elsewhere for an oil change, they would lose the “pick up and drop off” perk.

Now, I know you’re maybe thinking, “Well that’s great for the oil change business but not our ______ industry.”

Well consider this, I shared this as an off-the-wall idea to make my point. But then everybody got really excited, because they could see a way to make it work within their industry, once we asked the question, “What can we offer some clients that, if we were to take it away, they’d kill to get back?” or, “What can we do for our clients that, if they stopped getting it, they’d hate going back to ‘normal’?”

What if those perks could only be accessed based on time and tenure, not necessarily dollars?

For others in the room, the big insight was more abstract. More than one participant told me “I’ve never thought before about what loyalty actually means, or how specifically we’d know when we’d lost it. Doing this exercise forced me to consider that, and that’s going to change the way that I look at all future customer loyalty programs.”

What can you do in your business to make people fight to stay with you?

Today’s Key Challenge:

If you don’t know, write down how your company defines ‘loyalty.’

Next, write down how your company knows when you’ve lost it.

Finally, brainstorm how you create an offer that your clients couldn’t live without.