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Friday, July 29, 2011

Financial Baby Steps, STEP 5: Become a Loyal Customer

I'm a loyal customer and I just got a GREAT deal!! 
Companies want to keep you as a client. You are the source of their revenue and without you, they could not stay in business. Don't get too excited and think spending $900 on a louie bag will impact their business. Newsflash: They won't miss your pennies. What they care about is their bottom line. They know it costs less to keep you as a loyal customer than it is to recruit new fair weather clients. The cost is high and the return on their investment is low. Companies know customers are likely to spend more and to share their experience with friends if they feel appreciated and welcomed. 

Being a loyal shopper pays off! Rite Aid has a new program where after you spend a certain amount, you get 20% off of the entire store for the rest of the year. There isn't a store near me so I have CVS' ExtraCare card. It allows you to shop, save and get 2% of your money back in the form of ExtraCare rewards that may be used towards future purchases. My friend and I shopped at a store today that gave her a $25 store credit just for shopping today. How awesome is that?? 
I can't keep the secret any longer, here are 3 ways you can easily become a loyal customer: 

1. Sign up for E-mails. Have you ever wondered why sales associates randomly ask you for your emails? Do you decline the invitation because you are worried the email alerts will clog up your inbox and kill your Crackberry battery? No need to fear. Create another email account and use it specifically for coupons. Victoria's Secret just asked for your email? No problem! Did you know those emails sometimes include exclusive coupons and offers? You won't miss out on those deals if you give them your "coupon e-mail." You get the benefit of receiving their special offers without it affecting your main email account. Whats more, for some stores the more you enter your email the better offers you receive. Creating a "coupon email" account will make it easier for you to receive special offers. If you know its not likely to affect your main account you will be more likely to continue to enter your email and get bumped up the list. The top email clients get special treatment at most stores and are even eligible for discounts other customers don't qualify for. As employees get to know you, they may add you to their client contact list and call you when special saless are about to start so you can plan ahead. 

2. Sign up for Customer Rewards Cards. Go to customer service or the concierge and ask about a rewards program.  If you don't feel comfortable doing that, spark up a conversation with an employee and ask them about their frequent shopper programs. These programs are most often available at grocery stores and some retail stores. The best programs are free or cost little to nothing. Be on the lookout for those programs that allow you to become a "rewards" or loyal member without having to impact your credit. For example, my favorite store, Carol's Daughter offers a rewards program that is $25 per year that allows you to save 10% off of every purchase. I paid the fee and since I shop for hair products so often, the $25 fee paid for itself after only a few visits. I also signed up for a rewards card at my grocery store so I could take advantage of in-store promos and I also rack up points that I can also use towards getting a discount on gas purchases at shell. *double whammy* My keychain also has rewards cards from Hallmark($1 for every 300 points at 10 points earned for every dollar you spend), Finish Line (for my athletic clothes), Godiva (free piece of chocolate every month), AutoZone, Blockbuster (yea its outdated) and I even have a customer card from Auntie Anne's Pretzels. Yes thats right, even Auntie Anne's pretzels has a (somewhat secret) rewards card.  Their pretzels are pretty pricey but I get a free pretzel for every 10 I buy and get a stamp for. The card was free but they don't openly broadcast it so you will have to ask. 

3. Shop Frequently. The best way to become a loyal customer is to be a dedicated customer. If they give you coupons to use on a future visit, go back to use them. Develop a good relationship with the business and its employees. Allow them to see you as someone who appreciates the quality of the products offered. You have the power of the purse. Wield it. Make it known that you could have gone anywhere else but you chose to spend your money in their business. Many stores and kiosks have employees that work off of commission and who are always looking for dependable clients. Even if the stores or bars you frequent do not have a rewards program, it will prove beneficial for you to forge relationships with employees who are great for hookups. Yes I just said that. What harm will it do if you know someone who works at all of your favorite stores? I'm not saying build relationships for the sole purpose of using people for their discounts or free drinks. I am advocating for all of you to start thinking about tapping into your networks for your benefit. If you already frequent certain businesses, make your frequency known. Don't get cocky and demand special treatment by bragging about all the money you spend, people don't like that. Instead, get to know the management team and play that to your advantage.  Give them your email address and give them permission to contact you if they come across products you may like. 

Did I miss any tips on how to become a loyal customer? Do you know of any customer loyalty programs I might have missed? 

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