I am the owner of Your Pet Chef, a personalized dog food company. What are some creative ways to thank or reward customers who refer new customers to us? Free food, special dog treats, perk rewards programs have all been done. I’d like to try something unique. Any suggestions?

Lisa Hennessy

Your Pet Chef, LLC



I’m glad to hear you’re thinking about rewards. Several studies have shown that it is cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new customer. The key question is how.

First, it is important to identify what behaviors you want to encourage in your customers. Be specific. Think about what changes will do the most to improve your bottom line.

For example, simply referring a potential customer to your website is helpful, but getting them to interact with and try your service for a week provides true value.

Second, identify what customers want or need that you can provide. Free food and discounts are not always the best options. Remember, existing customers already value your product. There is no need to give away what they are willing to buy.

Instead, consider ways to expand the relationship. For example, reward them with something they do not buy regularly. Once customers see the value in those things, they may buy them in the future.

Also consider relatively “cost-less’’ rewards. The airlines have mastered this, offering priority boarding and first-class upgrades to their most frequent fliers. These conveniences and comforts are worth far more to customers than they cost the airlines. They also convey status and signal others that the airline values loyalty.

Finally, make sure you clearly link the behaviors that you want to the rewards that customers want. Customers are very savvy with regard to loyalty programs. But when you start a new program, you need to spell everything out very clearly. And if you try something unique, this becomes even more important.

About the author


Lisa Abendroth, associate professor, marketing, University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business