At my neighborhood carwash, they hand out cards to first time customers, with boxes they mark with a stamp after every wash. After seven washes, clients get one free. Same with the nearby Thai massage place I go to once a week, when I need to de-stress from hours and hours of work in front of a computer screen. After ten one-hour sessions, you get a one-hour session free. Coca Cola also has a promo in my place–exchange seven bottle caps for a Christmas-themed Luninarc drinking glass.
Near the end of each year, Starbucks also has cards which you can fill up with stickers at every purchase. A few dozen coffees will get you a much-coveted leather-bound planner, which some Twitter contacts of mine collect as prized possessions.
Mobile phone providers usually give free phones to users at the end of their lock-in period, to encourage the user to renew the lock-in for another year or two.
These promotions encourage consumption, while giving the consumer a sense of excitement and anticipation for their next visit, which would eventually lead to freebies. But in effect, the actual value of the freebie would be about 10% to 20% of the total value or amount spent on the products or services.
Still, these kinds of promotions are one way by which you could encourage customer loyalty. This keeps ’em coming back for more.
How about blogs? What are your ways of encouraging loyalty among your readers?
Considering a blog would usually get 70% to 80% of its traffic from search engines and other referrals, this would mean that the remaining 20 or so percent comprise the loyal readership who return to your blog just to check out your latest posts. Or perhaps RSS subscriber counts provide a better gauge of how many loyal subscribers you have, assuming your feed statistics count those who actually read your feed, rather than raw subscriber counts (because honestly, while I have a ton of subscriptions on my feed reader, I don’t get to read every single blog or post).
Here are a few ways one can encourage loyalty among blog readers:
Write regularly. It doesn’t have to be too frequent., but at least give yourself a schedule you can adhere to. If you can’t write every day, publish a post at a regular interval. Having scheduled programming would result in your reader eagerly anticipating the next scheduled post. If you’d rather have a flexible posting schedule, then at least set a certain feature or topic for posting on a regular basis. For instance, Devlounge contributors post as frequently as needed, but the blog has a regular Friday Focus, where the design issues of the week are dissected and discussed.
Run promos or contests. One good thing I like about some gadget blogs is that many of these give away the gadgets they’ve been sent to review. Some of these are raffled off to commenters or to blogs that link to them. Not only does this encourage linking and commenting. It also helps spread good will. You don’t have to give away gadgets or even tangible things. You can perhaps give e-books, ad space, or some other virtual items of value.
Engage the audience. For me the best bloggers are those whose work doesn’t end with the publish button. Rather, the great ones are those who engage the audience by responding actively in the discussion or comment threads. If I comment on interesting posts, I often monitor that particular discussion thread by email or by returning to the post page every so often just to check for new responses. Sometimes, popular posts turn into “forums” on their own, and the blog owner (or post author) plays a big part in making sure discussions here are productive.
Write well. And then of course, there’s the matter of quality. While poor writing may be excusable (as long as the author can somehow get his point across), for me what I cannot stand are blogs that spew out nonsense in terms of bad choice of topics and poor arguments. Choose your topics well, and while you’re at it, do write about it well, too!
Keeping loyal readers is just as important as marketing your blog to get new ones. So be sure to have the right quality content published regularly, and do engage the audience with meaningful discussion. And every once in a while, do something different that would give your readers with a little extra something to look forward to.