A couple of years ago, I was a marketing manager at a tech company and we realized the importance of retaining our customers, and I created our first customer loyalty program – I name it our Key Customer Program – all members received gold keys. We identified our 100 biggest and most influential customers and developed a program that benefited everyone involved. Most of the members spent $1 million or more with us and were well-known organizations.
The goal was to not only wine and dine them, but to communicate and work with them as much as possible to make them feel like they had a stake in our company. I helped our sales and marketing teams nurture existing relationships with our customers, as well as among themselves, by keeping them in the loop and soliciting their ideas when it came to product and / or service development.
I'd utilize their expertise by inviting them to speak at seminars, web seminars and conferences. I created a website exclusively for this group that included the ability to join chat groups such as this one, so they could communicate with one another to generate ideas and solve issues--it was a great networking tool.
Each person also had a hotline number to reach an on-call tech exclusively available to help in urgent situations...they also knew they could call me for anything, anytime as well. Needless to say, I developed great relationships with most all of them and to this day, still keep in touch with many of them. And once a year, we'd have an event at one of the tradeshows where we'd pull out all of the stops and have a seminar-type program the Sunday before the show and then entertainment in the evening.
I was always very conscious of their time and busy schedules and they truly appreciated it (I would conduct a lot of business with them after hours, on the weekends and via the web). Most of the executives I dealt with were VPs, Sr. VPs, Presidents and CEOs. Needless to say, they were very busy people--people I needed to take time out of their day to help us grow our business.
In turn, they were more than happy to serve as references (some of them would even accompany us on sales pitches), allow us to spotlight them on our website and in our collateral as testimonials, and recommend us to other companies. We became partners...not just vendors and customers.