B2B Loyalty Programmes: Ideas, Examples & Help
Maintaining strong relationships with your corporate customers is crucial for sustained success. B2B loyalty programmes play a pivotal role in fostering those relationships, building customer advocacy and driving repeat business.
In this guide, we will explore a range of ideas and examples to help you design and implement an effective B2B loyalty programme tailored to your organisation's unique needs. Whether you're just getting started or looking to enhance your existing loyalty efforts, you’ll get to grips with practical strategies and actionable tips to maximise the impact of your initiatives.
What is a B2B loyalty programme?
A B2B (business-to-business) loyalty programme is a marketing strategy designed to strengthen relationships between a business that sells to another business. It is a structured system that rewards corporate customers for their loyalty and continued partnership.
Companies offer rewards and incentives to encourage corporate customers to opt for their products or services over competitors. The rewards can be based on factors like how much they purchase or how long they've been a customer, as a way of saying "thank you".
Businesses may receive discounts on future purchases, access to exclusive deals or services, or even personalised support to help them succeed. It's all about creating a win-win situation for both parties.
Why you should have a B2B loyalty programme
There are several compelling reasons why having a B2B loyalty programme can be highly beneficial for your business, including fostering customer retention, increasing repeat business, strengthening relationships, gaining valuable customer insights, and driving word-of-mouth referrals.
Let’s look at each of these below:
- Foster customer retention: A B2B loyalty programme helps you build stronger relationships with your business customers. By offering rewards and incentives, you encourage them to continue choosing your products or services over the long term, as opposed to competitors.
- Increase repeat business: A loyal customer is more likely to make repeat purchases from your business. You can incentivise frequent purchases, encouraging your customers to come back to you instead of exploring other options.
- Strengthen business relationships: By offering personalised experiences, exclusive perks, or priority support, you demonstrate that you value the business’ partnership, which helps build trust and strengthens the relationship.
- Gather valuable customer insights: A loyalty programme provides a platform for gathering valuable data and insights about your B2B customers. By analysing their purchasing patterns and behaviours, you can gain a deeper understanding of their needs to inform future product development or deliver targeted marketing campaigns.
- Drive word-of-mouth referrals: Satisfied B2B customers are more likely to recommend your service to their peers and colleagues. A well-structured loyalty scheme will incentivise them to share their positive experiences and refer others to your company, which can lead to valuable word-of-mouth referrals.
Types of B2B loyalty programmes
There are various types of B2B loyalty programmes that businesses can implement based on their specific goals and ideal customer base, including points-based rewards, rebates, exclusive access, partnerships and referral programmes; all of which are detailed below:
- Points-based: Customers earn points based on their purchases (or other actions, such as referrals or participation in surveys). Accumulated points can then be redeemed for rewards, such as discounts, free products, or exclusive services.
- Rebates: Providing customers with cash back or rebates based on their total purchases or specific product categories. These rebates can be accumulated over time and used towards future purchases or credited to the customer's account.
- Exclusive access: Which offers exclusive access to special events, product previews, industry insights, or educational resources.
- Partnerships: Partner programmes involve collaboration between businesses to provide joint loyalty initiatives. For example, two complementary B2B companies may create a programme where customers can earn rewards or benefits from both companies when they engage with their products or services.
- Referrals: These encourage customers to refer new business customers in exchange for rewards or incentives. This leverages the power of word-of-mouth marketing and harnesses existing customers' networks to drive new customer acquisition.
How to reward loyal B2B customers
Rewarding loyal B2B customers is crucial for building strong relationships and encouraging repeat business, which can be achieved in several ways, including offering exclusive discounts, personalised offers and support, as well as early access to new products.
Here are just a few great ways to reward B2B customers:
- Exclusive discounts or pricing: Offer loyal customers special discounts or preferential pricing on your products or services. This can be based on their purchasing volume or longevity of the business relationship.
- Personalised offers: Tailor your offers and promotions specific to your loyal customers' needs and preferences.
- Enhanced customer support: Provide dedicated support channels for loyal customers. This could include a dedicated account manager or extended support hours.
- Early access to new products or features: Give loyal customers a sneak peek or early access to your latest products or upgrades. This allows them to stay ahead of the competition by being the first to benefit from your innovations.
- VIP events or networking opportunities: Invite your loyal customers to exclusive events or conferences where they can network with industry experts or key stakeholders.
- Loyalty points: Implement a loyalty points system where customers earn points for their purchases and can later redeem them for rewards, such as gift cards or upgrades.
- Thought leadership and education: Share valuable industry insights, whitepapers, research reports, or educational resources with your loyal customers. Position your brand as a trusted advisor by providing them with valuable knowledge and helping them stay informed about industry trends and best practices.
- Partnership opportunities: Explore collaborative opportunities with your loyal customers, such as joint marketing campaigns or cross-promotions. This not only rewards their loyalty, but also strengthens the relationship by demonstrating a commitment to their success.
Starting a B2B loyalty programme
Getting started with a B2B loyalty programme involves several key steps that must work harmoniously together.
Here are our top tips:
Tip 1: Build Trust
Building trust with your customers doesn’t happen overnight. It’s your duty to treat them as individuals, not just a number. Be clear and upfront about what you can do for them.
Avoid over-promising and under-delivering. Share powerful messages that explain why they should trust you.
Tip 2: Communicate regularly and consistently
Making customers feel valued goes a long way toward building loyalty. Keep them informed about the latest news in your business that is likely to spark their interest. Gather data to create unique customer profiles and use this information to personalise your communication with each of your clients.
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Tip 3: Offer meaningful rewards
While offering cash rewards may seem like a great incentive, it’s not always the best way to make customers feel truly appreciated. Instead, choose more interesting rewards that tap into their emotions and desires.
For example, offering a membership to the National Trust might be much more appalling for individuals who appreciate the great outdoors and exploring over a cash gift. Why? Because it provides them with enjoyable opportunities that cater to their individual interests, rather than simply topping up their bank balance. This shows you know your clients inside out, which goes a long way in building business relationships.
Tip 4: Provide knowledge
By supporting your partners' learning and growth, you empower them to handle service issues independently. Provide them with self-service tools like knowledge bases and community forums, so they can find answers on their own. But don't stop there - offer support beyond just your products and services. By sharing broader industry knowledge and business strategies, you become a trusted advisor and ultimately, contribute to your partners' professional growth.
How to encourage customer participation
Launching a B2B loyalty programme is fantastic way to reward and engage your customers. But let's face it - maintaining their participation in the long run can be a real challenge.
After the initial enthusiasm wears off, participation rates can take a nosedive, and your customers might start looking for opportunities elsewhere.
However, by really understanding your audience and putting the following strategies into action, you can keep your customers engaged and loyal to your programme for the long haul.
Harness the power of data
Data is like the lifeblood that keeps a loyalty programme pumping. It holds a treasure trove of insights into how customers behave and what they prefer. By analysing the data you collect, you can uncover essential trends and make informed choices that bring a personalised touch to the customer experience. In turn, your programme will always pack a punch!
For example, you discover through data collection that certain products or services are a hit among a particular group of customers. Armed with this valuable knowledge, you can tailor offers and rewards specifically to cater to those unique preferences. This level of customisation deepens the connection between your brand and your customers.
Data analysis also lets you measure how effective your loyalty programme is. By keeping an eye on important metrics like repeat purchases, and engagement levels, you gain insights into how impactful your programme is and always stay in tune with shifting customer needs and trends in the market.
To keep your loyalty programme exciting and attractive, always be on the lookout for new opportunities and showcase your innovative side. Even the most impressive programme needs a little update now and then to reignite customers' interest.
Make good use of your data to identify areas where you can improve and keep a close eye on how customers respond to the changes you implement.
Tools like Hotjar can provide amazing insights into customer behaviour, giving you the knowledge you need to make well-informed decisions.
Feedback and surveys
It's always a good idea to regularly ask your B2B customers for feedback about your loyalty programme. This proactive approach helps you gain a deeper understanding of their needs and shows that you value their input. By involving them in the process, you also make them feel more invested.
Surveys are a great way to gather feedback efficiently and on a larger scale. You can distribute them through email or web-based platforms, and ask questions about various aspects of your programme, such as ease of use, reward selection, and the level of customer support provided.
Another effective approach is to organise focus groups, where participants can share their experiences and exchange ideas. These groups can be conducted either in person or through virtual platforms. By bringing customers together, you create an opportunity for collaboration, which can lead to engaging discussions that uncover diverse perspectives, as well as strengths and areas for improvement.
The future of B2B loyalty marketing
Over the years, the way businesses communicate their loyalty efforts have come a long way. From old-fashioned copper tokens to today's personalised notifications, smart cards, and mobile apps, there have been some serious developments.
Looking ahead, there are several emerging trends and technologies that are expected to shape the future of B2B loyalty marketing.
Here are a few potential developments to keep an eye on:
1. Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
ABM is a strategy that focuses on targeting specific high-value accounts with customised marketing campaigns. It involves close collaboration between sales and marketing teams to identify key decision-makers, develop personalised content, and deliver highly targeted messaging.
2. Influencer marketing
While influencer marketing has primarily been associated with B2C, it is increasingly becoming relevant in the B2B space. Niche B2B influencers, such as industry experts, thought leaders, and executives, can play a crucial role in shaping the opinions and decisions of other businesses.
3. Artificial Intelligence
AI and automation technologies will continue to revolutionise B2B marketing campaigns. Marketers can leverage AI to automate repetitive tasks, gain actionable insights from data, and optimise campaign performance. Chatbots and virtual assistants will become more sophisticated, enabling businesses to deliver personalised customer experiences at scale.
4. Data-driven decision making
B2B marketers will increasingly rely on data-driven insights to make informed decisions. Advanced analytics tools will allow marketers to measure and attribute campaign performance accurately and identify areas for optimisation. This data-driven approach will result in more effective and efficient marketing campaigns.
5. Omnichannel approach
B2B marketing campaigns will adopt an omnichannel approach, where businesses engage with their customers across multiple touchpoints and channels seamlessly. This includes combining traditional channels like email and direct mail with digital channels such as social media, search advertising, and mobile marketing. The goal is to create a cohesive and consistent experience for the target audience.
5 of the best B2B loyalty programmes
Looking for inspiration on creating your own B2B loyalty scheme? Here are 5 successful examples from renowned brands that will give you some inspiration for your own campaign:
1. Deb Skincare and Hygiene
Deb Skincare and Hygiene has been a world leader in occupational skin care and hand hygiene for more than 80 years.
Incentivesmart designed a channel partner loyalty programme whereby distributors could earn points for submitting new deals and providing information in the form of case studies. These aided other distributors in their sales process thereby sharing best practice ideas.
One of the biggest successes of the programme was the crucial data and insights into end-user behaviour. Prior to the loyalty programme, this information did not exist. The data set unveiled new industries in which the product was popular thereby opening up new market opportunities and ideas for future product innovation.
Experience is all the rage when it comes to learning about how, when, where and why your customers and prospects want to engage with you. It’s essential you get it right!
"Rewarding Champions" was an Incentivesmart creation for Subway, a programme with the aim of improving their mystery shopper score through promoting exceptional overall service, standards and sales.
The programme started with a small selection of 47 stores across the UK growing to beyond 2,000. It increased mystery shop scores from 86% to 96%, thus demonstrating that you can increase your customer base by listening, caring and providing a great level of service.
As one of the world’s largest and most favourable electronics manufacturers, Lenovo was dead set on hanging onto IBM’s business partners when it took over the giant’s X86 server division back in 2014.
Its “Learn and Earn” strategy gave partners the chance to receive points every time they completed two educational modules on servers, while “Earn and Sell” gave them the ability to track their sales performance and turn the sales they made into points which they could then redeem as rewards.
As a result, Lenovo smashed its targets by more than 40% - and their business partners were kept happy and engaged.
US-based telecommunications sales agency, Telarus, has a B2B loyalty programme for partner retailers, giving them an extra push to sell Telarus services. Avoiding automation, the programme issues loyalty points directly on an individual basis, with rewards tailored to the partner and deal.
There are also partner-centric benefits including sales training, marketing consultancy, experiences, and gifts.
Mailchimp devised an insider programme to help agencies and freelance marketing experts learn all about how to use the platform.
The concept was simple enough; the marketing professionals would manage their clients’ business via Mailchimp and be eligible for exclusive perks and tips such as, access to tools that helped them work with their multiple clients, as well as in-depth training and hot tickets to members-only events.
Once they had been with the company for a defined period of time, members were then invited to buddy up with Mailchimp, where they could receive more personalised 24/7 support as priority customers and even a first look at upcoming features.
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B2B loyalty programmes have emerged as an essential tool for businesses seeking to strengthen relationships with their corporate customers. By offering personalised rewards, exclusive benefits and tailored experiences, companies have a clearer vision on how to foster long-term customer loyalty.
Thanks to advancements in technology and data analytics, B2B loyalty programmes have the opportunity to evolve even further and forge deeper connections with their valued partners. As organisations increasingly acknowledge the strategic significance of customer retention, investing in robust B2B loyalty programmes will undoubtedly remain a top priority for companies aiming for sustainable growth.