Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Giving your customers a head start.

I have a young daughter and being the competitive type she will sometimes challenge me to a race. There’s just one condition—I have to give her a head start. This is important, at least to her, because it increases her chances of winning—and seems to motivate her to run even faster than if we’re at the starting line together.

It’s something I thought about as I read a passage in Switch, the new book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. They tell a story about a local car wash that ran a promotion featuring loyalty cards. Each time a customer bought a car wash, they got a stamp on their card. When the card was filled up with 8 stamps, the customer got a free wash – a concept known as punch card loyalty.

But at one point, the car wash tried something different. They gave customers a card that needed 10 stamps to qualify for a free car wash, instead of 8—except the card already had two stamps on it, effectively giving customers a “head start”.

According to the book: “The goal was the same for both sets of customers. Buy eight additional car washes, get a reward. But the psychology was different. In one case, you’re 20 percent of the way toward a goal, and in the other case, you’re starting from scratch.”

The result: those who got a head start were about twice as likely to stay in the program and redeem for a free car wash. As the book points out, it seems this group of customers was more motivated when they were partially finished with a longer journey than at the starting gate of a shorter one.

It’s something to consider in all loyalty endeavors: What if you gave new members a head-start? Would they be more motivated to stick with your loyalty program? It works with my daughter, it worked for the car wash in Switch, and it just might work for you.

This blog entry originally appeared on Loyalty Truth on April 15, 2010 and is by Tom Rapsas. Tom can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas

Monday, April 5, 2010

IHG Hotel Group Grabs My Attention & My Business

Up until a few weeks ago, I had little awareness of the InterContinental Hotels Group. Known by the acronym IHG, they operate brands like Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza which are part of the Priority Club Rewards loyalty program.

The main reason IHG hasn’t been on my radar is simple: for most of the past decade, the majority of my stays were business-related and on the company dime. So to build up maximum loyalty points for personal use, I had narrowed my hotel universe to the Fairmont Hotel group (President’s Club), as well as hotels aligned with the Hilton Hhonors program.

Over the past few weeks though, IHG has come to my attention not once, but twice.

Reason #1. IHG made a brilliant marketing move. When Hilton Hotels decided to raise the number of loyalty points required for a free hotel stay earlier this year, IHG pounced. They launched a campaign for their Priority Club rewards program that called out the changes to the Hhonors frequent guest program via a contest called the “Luckiest Loser”.

The consumer who was the “luckiest loser”—the one with the most points invested in the HHonors program—won 2 million Priority Club points. Additionally, 20,000 “lucky losers” got up to 20% of their current HHonors balance in Priority Club points. Everyone else got 1,000 points just for entering.

It was a smart move —and a great use of the IHG database. It seems they had a 50 to 60% overlap between Priority Club members and those enrolled in HHonors, making it easy to target disgruntled Hhonors members. After all, these folks had seen their stake in the Hilton program shrink by 20-25% overnight.

Reason #2. IHG saved me a few bucks. Funny how when I went solo and hotel charges began appearing on my personal card, as opposed to a corporate credit card, I began looking at hotels that were, how can I phrase this, cheap. So when I was searching for an inexpensive place to stay in New York City a few weeks back, I checked the IHG corporate site—and came up with a mid-town Manhattan Holiday Inn with an eye-popping rate of under $100 bucks a night.

So what was a $100 room in New York City like? Okay, it won’t be confused with The Plaza. But while this particular Holiday Inn was a little worn around the edges, the room was clean, the bed was more than comfy and the staff was friendly. I even got a pretty good cup of coffee in the morning.

So now I’m a member of a new hotel loyalty program, IHG’s Priority Club Rewards. I’ve already received a “thank you for my stay” e-mail which was nice. And while I dearly miss the Fairmont, until the economy picks up, I’ll be pulling out my Priority Club Rewards card a little more often.

This article was originally published on March 17, 2010, on the Loyalty Truth blog and is by Tom Rapsas, a 20 year direct and loyalty marketing veteran. He can be reached on Twitter @tomrapsas