Champion loyalty programs

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Loyalty marketers view customer engagement with loyalty programs at three levels of success: participation, multiple participation and advocacy.

Generally the advocacy the marketers seek is word-of-mouth promotion of the corporate product and, ultimately, the corporate brand. But a recent example brought to light the important though often neglected variant of consumer advocacy: word-of-mouth promotion of the loyalty program itself.

In certain ways, a loyalty program is a product in and of itself. Loyalty marketers must urge program members to use the program and tell friends and colleagues.

After all, if no one knows about your loyalty program, or if members aren't fully aware of the benefits that participation brings, you lose most if not all program leverage.

That's why I was delighted to learn about advocacy strategies employed by the Vitality initiative, offered by Destiny Health, a Chicago-based provider of group health insurance. A wellness program that employer groups can offer to employees,

Destiny Vitality uses tried-and-true incentive strategies. Employees who engage in healthful activities, participate in health education or achieve certain goals earn "Vitality Bucks," which can be redeemed for rewards.

The Vitality program employs two advocacy-based self-marketing tactics that I admire. First is a formal Vitality Champion program. Vitality does more than just hope for advocacy; it incentivizes it.

Certain program participants, including early adopters and those who have taken the lead in talking up the initiative to other potential participants, are designated as program Champions.

"We provide the Champions with tools and incentives to promote the program to co-workers," said Stuart Slutzky, vice president of product development of Destiny Health.

By recognizing and rewarding those who pioneer the effort, Destiny Health simply and easily motivates further advocacy. This effort, something of a loyalty program within a loyalty program, has been operating for about a year.

The second tactic Vitality uses is workplace delivery, rather than at-home delivery of rewards.

Hearing about the payoff of participation is one thing; seeing and touching it is quite another.

Interestingly, the source of that second tactic was a suggestion from within the Vitality Champion program.

Of course, to engender such advocacy, you must have a compelling, well-designed program in the first place. Strong rewards and an attractive value proposition, a transparent earn-and-burn structure, multiple Vitality Status tiers that incentivize increasingly healthful engagement.

All these elements make me a champion of Vitality Champion. It's a great tactic to use. Tell all of your friends, they have to get in on it, too.

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