Very much a two-way street
Now, unless you have had your head buried in the sand for the last few years it’s impossible not to notice the rise of loyalty programmes on our high streets and in our business life. Since Tesco launched its “Clubcard” all those years ago and set the standard, every business has either launched or looked to launch its own version in an effort to match its success. The rise and adoption of smartphones and 2D imaging barcode scanners has helped drive that growth (on the high street at least) in recent years and the ability to use that technology to better engage with customers is now expected by the consumer rather than seen as a nice gimmick. I am not going to spend a huge amount of time talking about this here though (others have done that far better than I can) so if this is something you would like to know more about, head over to our site and discover it.
B2B loyalty programmes however are far more difficult areas in which to excel. The standard template of a “points means prizes” schemes work in a way but do the traditional iPhones, scented candles and all important barbecue tool set really bring a benefit to the business that has earned them? With our Planet DC/POS programme, we tried to find a way to balance the needs of the individual and the needs of the business by adding a little extra to the offering. Registered customers are able to use the points they acquire not just to purchase gadgets and gizmos but also demo kit that they can use to help them drive and develop their business. The theory being, that we reward their loyalty to us by helping them to deliver their next opportunity.
That rather nicely leads me on to my wider point. Loyalty programmes are, by their nature, very much one way. The supplier rewards their customer for their continued business. As they should it must be said, however loyalty can be much more than that. The IT industry as a whole is awash with buzzwords of the day. Today, we talk about “the Internet of Things” in every second breath but when I first came into this industry, it was all about the “Partner Ecosystem”. Every vendor worth its salt put great effort into extoling the virtues of its own particular programme and in many cases they still do, however “Ecosystem” for many of them was not and is not the correct way to describe it. Ecosystem (for all its inaccuracy) at least implies a self-maintaining cycle. In many case, these cycles can be actually just a one-way street – the customer is loyal to the supplier but not much goes the other way.
From my own experience, I have been very lucky to have had an employer and number of excellent managers over the years who have been loyal to me. They have all helped me to develop my career from my first days sat on the sales desk at Paradigm to where I am now. Their loyalty to me drove me to deliver some pretty decent results over the years but also developed within me a loyalty to both Ingram Micro and those individuals who showed that faith in me. In this case, loyalty really has been a two-way street. This two-way loyalty is reflected in the subtle difference in how we have created Planet DC/POS but also in how we operate our business. Every day, we try show our loyalty to our customers, vendors & people by investing in them, supporting them and giving them the tools they need to grow. Those investments can take many forms.
Straight forward support. Professional Account Management. Supplying demo kit to help an opportunity develop. Joining a reseller when they visit an end user for the first time to help them to kick-start a new relationship. Working with a vendor to help them build a plan to address an untapped market opportunity. Making sure that a new team member has the support, structures and systems in place to enable them to thrive.
When we do those things well, we succeed and we grow together. That for me is the power of loyalty.