Quick Start Guide: Wellness and Fitness Loyalty and Frequent Shopper Programs

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Fitness and wellness loyalty programs are like a warm hug for your most loyal, committed customers, members and clients. Fortunately, they’re easy for even the most resource-thin wellness business to implement.

What’s a loyalty program? It’s a marketing program that offers:

  • tangible or intangible rewards (you’re giving them something)
  • to customers (not potential customers, that’s different)
  • who demonstrate specific desired behaviors (it’s driven by a specific business objective)
  • most frequently (your best customers)

These pointers ensure that your frequent shopper, customer rewards or loyalty program pays off for your best customers and your bottom-line:

1) Pick and choose customer behaviors

Design your frequent shopper program based on the customer behaviors which benefit your business most.

Based on your business objective, what behaviors do you want to see more of from your customers?

Perhaps you know that frequent visits and retention go hand in hand – so you want to reward members who visit your health club most frequently, or the students who take at least two yoga classes weekly.

Or perhaps you’re trying to grow your wellness center’s customer base – so you want to reward folks who provide the most and best referrals and word-of-mouth through online customer reviews.

If you offer corporate wellness services, perhaps you want to reward customers who achieve certain employee wellness participation goals.

Or you may simply be trying to reward clients who keep attending health coaching sessions!

2) Consider tiers of rewards

Design your loyalty program so that everyone to get the lowest level of reward. Offer the really good stuff to those customers who are most valuable to your business.

For example, customers who get at least four massages monthly or take at least four yoga classes monthly might get a coupon for a free energy bar and a bottle of water. Customers who take at least twelve classes monthly might receive a free class card plus the energy bar and water.

3) KISS and tell

Keep It Super Simple. Outline the rules – who’s eligible, what do they get. Many rewards programs and frequent shopper programs are useless because people don’t understand what they have to do to get the reward. KISS.

And avoid the temptation to complicate it with rules that address situations that hardly ever arise.

Tell people about the loyalty program. Treat it like any other marketing initiative. Promote it in your newsletter and marketing emails, and on in-store posters. Mention it to prospective health club members, your yoga students, celebrate customers who receive rewards, and so on.

4) Thrill your customer

Offer rewards in your frequent shopper program that excite and please your clients.

If they’re not excited and pleased and telling everyone about it, you’re not offering the right rewards.

5) Offer rewards that ALL or nearly all recipients will find valuable

For example, a personal training discount is NOT rewarding to someone who prefers solo workouts.

Yes, we know that you’d like to sell more personal training. But if half your clients prefer to work out alone with headphones, you could give them FREE training and they still wouldn’t value it.

In this example, a better choice would be a free or heavily discounted hour with ANY of your professional staff – chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist, personal trainer, massage therapist, health coach.

Low redemption rates on rewards usually mean that people aren’t excited about what you’re giving them.

6) No trivial discounts

If you offer discounts as part of your loyalty program, make them huge and attention-getting. A ten-percent discount will underwhelm just about everyone.

And don’t use your rewards program to dump unwanted merchandise – like sports drinks in a flavor hardly anyone likes.

Again – if you’re offering discounted services rather than something free, the discount must be substantial and the service must be truly appealing and exciting to your customer.

7) Open up the tent

Don’t limit rewards to just your wellness business’s products and services. Frequent shopper programs are about retaining valuable customers by delighting them with stuff they’ll really value – IN ADDITION to their usual purchase of your products and services.

For example, a family fitness center’s loyalty program might offer a coupon for a free prepared entree from a local personal chef who specializes in healthful eating.

A women’s wellness center might partner with a local jewelry boutique to invite top customers to an exclusive wine and cheese preview of new handmade jewelry.

A sports conditioning business might invite its best customers to attend a special discussion with a college recruiting director.

8) Trinkets, trash and swag

“Trinkets and trash” (like logo’d pens) and “swag” (Stuff We All Get, like logo t-shirts or cheap plastic water bottles) are not rewarding to customers. Don’t even go there.

On the other hand, a really neat limited edition logo t-shirt could be a great reward in some wellness businesses- and a top-quality reusable metal water bottle with a built-in filter would be perfect for some customer segments.

9) Get feedback

The whole point of a loyalty program is to reward your best customer. So getting their formal AND informal feedback on your program is essential. Which rewards do they value most and least? What do they think about the thresholds and rules in your program? Are they telling other people about your program? What are they saying?

10) But don’t act on feedback right away

Take their feedback with a grain of salt. Remember that a single strong opinion doesn’t mean everyone feels the same way. DON’T leap into action in response to every negative (or positive) comment. Ponder, reflect, discuss, research. Then decide.

11) High-tech is no excuse

High-tech programs are no excuse for suspending your own business judgement. Your business priorities should drive your program design. Do not let the data automatically tracked in your back-office software drag you around by the nose!

Say your health club software knows how many days each member worked out. That doesn’t mean your loyalty program should reward members who work out the most.

IT DEPENDS ON YOUR GOAL. Maybe you’re trying to shift your membership from younger guys to people who want to make lifestyle changes. If that’s true, then it would be a lot smarter to reward the folks who make the most referrals of people who sign up for your “Healthy Happy Families” lifestyle change program.

12) And neither is low-tech

And lack of cool software is no excuse for not having a loyalty program. In fact, a low-tech but very thoughtful and well-planned program tailored to your wellness business will usually outperform a packaged, canned or cookie-cutter high-tech program that relies on overused or self-serving rewards (personal training discounts, for example) that lack value to your customer.

The easiest way to start a loyalty program is simply to use a punch card made from card stock. Buy a unique hole punch and allow customers to redeem the card after five or ten punches.

For example, once they’ve made ten visits to the acupuncturist, the eleventh is free. Once they’ve been to five lunch and learns, they get a coupon for a free dark chocolate bar.

Easy peasy!