small business customer loyalty

Guest Post: How to Cultivate Regulars with Loyalty Programs

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This month we’re excited to feature our first guest post, by our friends at Harri. Harri introduces a congenial, easy-to-use online space for both employers and job seekers to connect and we’re pumped for their take on how loyalty programs can fuel a customer base of regulars.

Loyalty programs are the holy grail of creating a flow of regulars to your business. The perks of a great loyalty program can go far with new customers, especially in hospitality services. A loyalty program not only says “Thank you, for doing business with us”, but also suggests “our brand not only gives you great value, but rewards if you come back”. Gratitude should be an automatic response to both old and new customers, but with rewards, customers are incentivized to return again. Successful loyalty programs should never be a band-aid for bad PR or a cover-up for a subpar product. The best programs offer real value to guests, can reinforce brand presence through collaborations, and are easy to access through available technologies.

** Give Real Value to Customers’ Wallets and Lifestyles**

Before building your loyalty program, ask yourself 1) What do my customers need? 2) Is there something we can offer that won’t kill our budget? For a small coffee shop or food truck your marketing budget might be tighter, so a punch card can be a great “cheap and chic” option. Use this as an opportunity to show off what makes your business unique and get creative with what your customers can get after they finish their punch cards – put your brand’s own spin on it! Some suggestions: a guest can choose to give their reward to a friend, pick any mug in the restaurant to bring home or even giveaway an extra team hat or T-Shirt. It’s your business and there’s no hospitality solutions handbook for building the best loyalty program (that we know of), so don’t be afraid of trial and error.

The restaurant Sweetgreen does a fabulous job infusing brand with loyalty marketing. The salad-centric brand went above and beyond for their loyal customers by integrating sweetgreen into their guests’ lifestyles. With a 3-tier system it works for all salary brackets, and appeals to a wide audience. Giving away surprise swag, “invite only” tastings of new salads, and even hosting their annual concert the “sweetlife”; it all coincides with their unique brand. Remember for all promotions, not just loyalty that people don’t just buy “what you do” but “why you do it”. Take it from the Co-CEO of sweetgreen who states that their purpose is “to further connect with our customers and help them connect to their community and values, aka live the sweetlife.”

Want to know what not to do in your loyalty program? Learn from the missteps of Starbucks.

Collaborate With Other Like-minded Businesses

When contemplating perks to give your guests, think outside the box. Anyone can send an email with coupons or send a flyer via snail mail. If you’re not sure what your audience wants, think about brands that you enjoy or align yourself with a cause close to you.

One of the best fashion and food collaborations was between New York City based The Meatball Shop and Vans. One might think, “how is this a loyalty program?” Well, loyalty programs accomplish several things: cultivating regulars, integrating brand into lifestyles, and giving great value. Vans has agreed to partner with Meatball Shop on multiple occasions. Clearly the collaboration has benefited both parties. The Meatball Shop x Vans collab shoes are sold online and displayed in the restaurants. Not only do you get a great meal, you can wear the brand everyday, and share it with your friends = incentive to return. There’s no better motivation than to score some great swag!

Otto’s Tacos is another great example. The tortilla-wrapping-carnitas-slinging team is working with the American Cancer Society serving up pink tacos through the month of October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Since all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society, guests can grab a taco and feel good about donating to a worthwhile cause. While these instances push the perimeters of a traditional loyalty program, they still provide all of the motivation for guests to come back for more.

Get Tech Friendly

Since everything is moving to mobile anyway, it’s high time that promotions do too. Utilize technology to your advantage. Social media is one of the easiest ways to put out promotions and coupons. With Belly, all of the tools are there to motivate, keep track and retain your regulars. Belly is also able to send campaigns dedicated or your brand, a great service to have while you’re busy maintaining and operating your restaurant. The app also analyzes data, making it easier to see what works and what doesn’t, giving you the option to tailor your brand and offers to how your audience reacts. Rewarding your customers does not have to be difficult, as there are systems available for your use.


Established in 2012 and based in New York City, Harri introduces a congenial, easy-to-use online space for both employers and job seekers to connect. Harri is more than just beautifully organized for job seekers; it is highly efficient for employers – providing an innovative system perfected to make sourcing, hiring and managing a whole lot easier. Harri’s Total Talent Solution (TTS) is industry-leading, end to end talent acquisition and engagement offering which allows HR managers to reduce total hire time by up to 75% while saving over 50% on hiring expenses.