Visa’s Blog – Visa Viewpoints


Jul 16, 2013


Your Best Customers: Know Who They Are and What They Want


Last week, Donna interviewed founder and CEO of an award-winning company, Marketing Zen Group, Shama Kabani, on how small business owners should communicate with customers via social media. This week, Donna chatted with successful entrepreneurs on how they find and reward their best customers.


Janet – @jzablock

All customers are not created equal. A handful of them are exponentially more valuable to your business than the rest. So it’s to your advantage to know who those customers are and to reward them accordingly. But it’s not as simple as just tallying up who spends how much and then writing a nice note, although that’s not a bad idea. You need to do some deep thinking about the definition of “best,” and the most effective reward for the customers on that love list. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to loyalty programs, but here are a few thoughts from successful entrepreneurs to get you started:

Reward frequency. Brian Adams, CEO of Rumber Materials in Muenster, TX, sells lumber products made from recycled rubber and plastic to some of the largest companies in the world. But he values frequency far more than volume. “We’re constantly in touch with our top ten customers,” he says. He sends them pecan pies from Goode Company in boxes with Rumber’s logo. But even more important than a sweet surprise, he visits them annually. “We go to their offices, sit down and listen to them, take them out to lunch or dinner and a ball game,” he says. Last year, he made twenty visits, many of them to small manufacturers. “For every dollar I spend, I get back ten in additional business,” he says.

Measure Satisfaction. For Brian Scudamore, the CEO of three Vancouver-based companies, 1-800-GOT-JUNK, WOW 1 DAY! Painting, and You Move Me, the best customer is one who will recommend his business to others. “With all of our brands, the most important question we can ask is ‘would you refer us to friends?’” he says. So every customer is contacted within three days asking, on a scale of one to 10, how willing he or she is to recommend the company. People who answer 9 or 10 are “promoters” and frequently receive discount cards. 

Offer a Loyalty Card.  Armadillo Willy’s, a chain of eight barbeque restaurants in Northern California, offers customers a loyalty card with a non-traditional spin. The company partners with FiveStars, a platform that ties a restaurant’s loyalty card into its POS system and enables it to track spending and reward customers accordingly. “Customers get rewarded according to how much they spend,” says Armadillo Willy’s CEO Bob Deagen.  “They can then redeem points for free food.” The platform also offers social media tools and allows the restaurant to segment customer data in order to target VIP customers via email campaigns. Armadillo Willy’s loyalty program members have spent more than $850K since the program began a year ago. That’s the kind of data you won’t get with a punch card.

Do you have a successful loyalty program at your company? Tell us about it.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice.  When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.


Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on July 16, 2013 at 9:47 am