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Loyalty programs and client gifts: Your key to recurring web design work

Ashley Gainer's Layout avatar

We’ve talked before about how customer loyalty is pretty much the dream state for your web design business. Loyal customers keep coming back, and they bring their friends along with them. (Meaning more recurring revenue in your bank account!)

These are customers who have already been vetted (because you’ve worked with them) or who are somewhat vetted (because your good clients most likely aren’t going to bring you complete tomatoes).

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Customer loyalty is something you develop over time by proving your value. That should be your main goal.

That said, everyone likes a little kickback now and then. And it’s not too hard to encourage the kind of return-as-often-as-possible loyalty that will keep your pipeline full and your clients super-duper happy.

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I’m talking about loyalty programs

The punch card at the sub shop down the street. The point system for your favorite clothing brand. The “buy more, save more” sales structures you see and hear in commercials all the time.

These are all loyalty programs.

And they’re your key to a happy business with happy clients.

“Loyalty programs are your key to a happy business with happy clients. ”

So how does a loyalty program for a web design business work?

The short answer is, “however you want it to.”

What you’re doing is offering an incentive of some sort for clients to come back, and for them to send their friends to you. It’s a rewards program.

It could be as simple as offering a discount on a new project for every referral the client sends, or as complex as collecting “points” to be “traded” for design services.

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Let’s go over some ways your loyalty program could work.

1. Offer a discount or other “thank you” gift

One of the easiest, and most commonly used, loyalty programs is the discount. The basic idea is this: An existing client recommends you to a friend, and that friend books with you. You let the first client know that their referral was a success, and as a “thank you” you’re offering a 10% discount on your next project together.

There are all kinds of ways you can offer this “thank you.” Discounting future projects is pretty easy and it makes a lot of sense: You can keep track of the reward easily, it paves the way for a new gig for you, and it’s a pretty nice kickback.

That said, not everyone likes discounts. You aren’t losing anything up front by sending it (as opposed to, for example, mailing a box of chocolates or having flowers delivered). But, you are discounting your work, which theoretically eats away at your bottom line.

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Plus, some people are opposed to discounting your work for any reason (and I ain’t mad at ‘em).

An alternative to the discount is to throw in a “bonus” for free – maybe a strategy session, an extra week/month of maintenance, a free domain, a new header or logo…even a business card design. You get the picture.

2. Set up a point system

Point systems are pretty popular. You keep track of how much the person spends with you, and then after they cross a particular threshold they get a freebie, credit, or percentage off.

You can get pretty creative with your point system, and this might be a great way to transition into (or bolster an existing) retainer program.

For example, if each web design package comes with the option to pay a monthly fee for ongoing maintenance, you can offer a “loyalty incentive’ for clients to join the maintenance program. Maybe they get a free “refresh” every 6 months, or you knock some money off the price for the sixth month.

Another way to do a point system is to offer a “buy three, get one free” special. After a client books three projects with you, the fourth is on the house. You get the idea.

3. Mix, match, and combine

There’s no “wrong” way to set up your loyalty program, as long as it’s something your customers actually like.

Feel free to get creative and see what kinds of things get great responses. Maybe first-time clients get a bottle of champagne delivered upon completion of the project, and major clients receive some sort of goodie basket after a major milestone like the 1-year mark of a monthly retainer.

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You can also tier your rewards, which might look something like this: the sixth month of maintenance is 10% off, and the twelfth month is 50% off. Or offer some other fabulous reward after a nice length of time, like 20% off a redesign project.

Ultimately, the only criterion you can use to figure out if your reward program is working is your customer retention rate. If your clients are coming back for more, and doing it more often than before, what you’re doing is working!

Have you ever thought about offering a loyalty program for your clients? Why or why not?

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