Author Archive

October 2021 Amber Grant Awarded to ARB Logistics

Friday, November 19th, 2021

We’re excited to announce the $10,000 October Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Alice Beverly, founder of ARB Logistics.

They are the eleventh qualifiers for the 2021 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).

Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Alice for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.

WomensNet: Welcome everyone to another chat with our latest Amber grant winner. Today, we’re speaking with Alice Beverley, who’s president of ARB Logistics, and the Amber grant winner for October, 2021. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m a WomensNet advisory board member. Welcome, Alice. Let’s start by just having you tell us about your business. Like, why did you start it, when did you start it and what exactly do you do?

Alice: Well, first, I would like to say thank you to WomensNet and the members of the advisory board for selecting me as this month’s winner for the Amber Grant. I am so elated. I can hardly contain myself in this chair right now, and I am honored to be able to participate in this experience. I have been inspired by the stories I’ve read of past winners of this grant, of the women who have found their, their purpose that led them to a path to entrepreneurship. So for that, I thank you. So, I am Alice with ARB Logistics and I am a freight brokerage that specializes in the transportation of refrigerated and non-refrigerated items. Those items can range from things that you see at your local grocery store that you see along the aisle, a box of cereal or, some fresh fruit or vegetables in the produce section. So those are the types of things that I transport. If you visit your local hardware store and you purchase a gallon of paint, I also work along with carriers to transport those items. And so, for me, my journey began and back in 2008 when I was an elementary school teacher. I was teaching first grade and my husband was a commercial truck driver, working for a company in our local city. He approached me with the idea of buying his own equipment and starting his own trucking business. I was elated. I was ready to get on board despite my lack of knowledge for the trucking industry. I had to learn a lot and get a lot of hands-on experience with that. I wanted to help my husband in any way that I could. One of the ways that I did that was by dispatching, and what that means is getting on the phone, calling a broker and negotiating rates and setting up pickup and delivery appointments. It also built relationships with customers. What I didn’t know at the time was that watching him start the trucking business, allowed me to envision myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t know at the time what I was going to do with it or how I would make that happen. So, fast-forward to today and now I am a freight broker. I am glad that I made that decision to transition from teaching into a career in the freight industry.

WomensNet: That’s awesome. Just so that I’m clear about exactly what a freight broker does; it sounds like you are the middleman. So let’s say, you mentioned paints, let’s say Sherwin Williams needs to ship a whole bunch of paint from Seattle to Atlanta. They could call you and say, “Alice, you know, we need to get this done. Who do you have?” Right? And then you reach out to your network of drivers to see who could pick it up and deliver it?

Alice: Of carriers. Yes, that is correct. The carriers are screened to make sure that they are legally able to transport that. So, yes, I act as a middleman or in my case, a middle-woman between the shipper and the carrier. I make that happen by providing that service.

WomensNet:Wonderful and so needed right now. I’m glad you’re doing that. So how did you first hear about the Amber Grant and what made you decide to apply?.

Alice: I heard about the Amber Grant initially from my sister. She sent me a text message one day and said, “Hey, I think you should check this out.” So, I checked it out, but I was too busy to focus, with getting the business started and off the ground. A couple of months later, after I set up my business, I saw a video of a young lady on YouTube who spoke about the Amber Grant. I had an aha moment. I was like, oh, this is the same thing that my sister sent me. So that is how I learned about the Amber Grant. I visited the website, I read the stories of past winners and I was inspired. I am happy that I made the decision to apply for this. That is how I was able to learn about this grant. Again, I’m filled with so much happiness right now. I just, I I’m overjoyed with how this grant is going to help me and take my business ARB Logistics to the next level. So I thank you very much.

WomensNet: Well, that’s a great segue into my next question. So now that you’ve won $10,000. What are your plans for how you’re going to invest in your business? What’s that going to help you do?

Alice: So I thought about this question really hard and I think the three areas that this grant is going to help me the most is definitely a software upgrade. Currently the software that I use is the heartbeat of the trucking industry. Tt is where I can utilize tools to have access to information such as lane capacity, supply and demand and I can get information about a load-to-truck ratio in different areas in the market. It’s also where I can get information about the market and what’s happening in the trucking industry. So this software upgrade is going to allow me to have access to tools and features that the current software package doesn’t allow me to have access to. That’s going to be a game changer for me. The other area that this grant is going to help me with is the SBA certification as a woman owned business. This was going to allow my business ARB Logistics to have visibility. I’ve learned recently that there are over 13 million women own businesses across the United States. And this is definitely going to increase my visibility. It’s going to give me exposure and it’s going to build and strengthen my business reputation as well. The grant will also allow me to have access to additional education and networking opportunities as it pertains to the SBA certification. Again, I thank you for that because I wouldn’t be able to do that, not at this moment in time at this stage in my business. The last area that this grant is going to help me in is through marketing. Currently I do have a website, but I would like to invest in more marketing materials and tools that will allow me to be able to share with potential customers and potential clients. So that’s going to help me out tremendously.

WomensNet: Those investments sound so smart. The hope for this grant or from any of us on the committee is that the winners are able to take that money and then generate hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in revenue. What you’ve just said, as far as where you are going to put that money, makes total sense to me as far as growing the business. This is exciting for you. I’m excited too.

WomensNet: So looking ahead, you know, beyond a year, five years, what are some future plans that you have for ARB Logistics?

Alice: I thought about this question and as I’ve mentioned earlier, the trucking software that I use is the heartbeat of the trucking industry, and developing relationships with shippers is the blood supply that enables me to grow as a business. I need to be able to build and develop relationships with shippers and I need to be able to do that on a daily basis because as you’re aware with the economy, nothing is guaranteed, a business that is here today may not be here tomorrow or next week. I’m increasing my customer base for my shippers to allow me to grow and allow me to hire other women that can help me grow this business and get it to the level that I foresee it to be in the future. What that means is, I will be able to hire dispatchers who will be able to work with carriers. I will also be able to hire agents who will help me find additional shippers so that we can start building those relationships with our customers so that we can get that repeat business over and over. That is the gist of that.

WomensNet: Awesome. Makes, makes total sense. Yes. So, for the women business owners who are just getting started, maybe they’re thinking about starting a business or they’re underway, but they’re not really sure what they should do next; Do you have any advice for these aspiring, newer women assistant/ business owners? Anything you’ve learned along the way that you think might be helpful for them?

Alice: Yes. The main thing that I would tell an aspiring business owner would be that you are your greatest asset and you are your greatest investment. I would tell her to do it. I would tell her to make a plan and create goals, both for the longterm and the short term. I would tell her to hold herself accountable to those goals and make sure that she gets them done. I would also tell her to find people who were doing what she is trying to do, or people who have done what she’s done to guide her. I would tell her to look for resources and literature that will help her get her on the right track and help her learn as much as it as she can about what it is that she wants to do. I would just tell her to go for it and just keep in mind what her purpose behind why she’s doing it, keep that in the forefront and I think she will be successful in that.

WomensNet: Well, Alice, thank you so much for giving us your time today to share your story with the WomensNet community and congratulations again on being the October Business Specific Grant recipient.

Alice: Thank you so much. And again, I greatly appreciate this opportunity. It’s going to allow me to grow my business. You guys just don’t know how important this is to me and how this will help. So thank you. Thank you, WomensNet. Thank you to the advisory board. I appreciate it a lot.

WomensNet: We’re excited to see what you do next.

How to Pitch Local Media Outlets

Thursday, November 11th, 2021

While your business may serve a national or even global customer base, your local news and broadcast outlets are likely to be the most interested in learning about your company. Since their purpose is reporting on local people, organizations, and events, news about you and your business fits right into what many area media outlets want to report on.

And the publicity that can result is one of the best and cheapest ways to promote your business. 

That’s because not only is the media coverage free (versus advertising or some other kind of promotion), but with each quote or mention comes the implied third-party endorsement of the media outlet. Assuming the article topic is positive, your company’s reputation can only be enhanced when readers see you’ve been interviewed in the local business magazine or in the daily newspaper. The natural assumption is that you’re successful, and that’s why the reporter interviewed you.

Local publicity can also be leveraged to pursue national or industry attention.

Believe it or not, catching the attention of local news and broadcast reporters isn’t as difficult as you might expect.

The key is coming up with article ideas that are related to your company, but that go beyond simply profiling you. Profiles are fantastic, but it’s typically harder to convince a reporter to write a piece only about your business. Better to come up with topics that also quote you, rather than being the sole focus.

Proposing Potential Articles

What you need to do is suggest article topics, also known as “pitching.” 

Pitching article ideas is a 4-step process that begins with studying the newspaper, magazine, or website you want to be featured in.

  1. Do your research. That means looking at the different sections of, say, the paper, to identify the type of news each section covers. Make a list of what you see as the different departments.

That might include business, sports, personal finance, home and real estate, national news, and/or other subjects. 

Then, read each section to identify the types of articles that are written. Are they profiles of a single person or organization? Are they how-to pieces? Do they tie local happenings to national trends? Do they quote experts or local residents?

  1. Brainstorm article ideas. Now that you’re more familiar with each section of your local paper (or magazine or website), it’s time to think up different topics that could fit within those sections.

Daily newspapers want topics that are timely, meaning happening now or in the next week. The same is generally true of websites, since they can update their content quickly. 

Magazines want pitches for topics relevant two to three months in advance; printing and distribution takes that long, so don’t bother pitching a magazine an idea for next month. You’re too late at that point.

Using what you observed from your read of your newspaper, magazine, or website, think about what articles might be of interest to your local community that have to do with your business—not just a write-up describing your company, but having to do with what you sell, how you sell, and who you sell to.

For example, let’s say you run a gift shop and you’re having a special artist demonstration next month. Given the timeframe, you know this is only appropriate for newspapers and websites. Some of the possible articles you could pitch around this one event include:

  • A piece about the event itself, offering to connect the arts reporter with the artist who will be in town, for an interview.
  • A calendar listing inviting members of the public to attend the demonstration.
  • A trends piece about the type of art being demonstrated and why it has caught on recently; why it has become increasingly popular in the last few months.
  • A round-up article about women artists, including the one coming in to provide the demonstration.
  • A business article about how effective in-store demonstrations are in generating sales.
  • A piece offering tips to other gift shops for scheduling effective demonstrations or events

These are just ideas to get you started, but think about your business and all the different angles that might be of interest to a reporter.

  1. Find your contact. Once you have a specific idea for an article you want to pitch, you need to track down the name and contact information for the editor who is responsible for that particular department. If you’re reading a print newspaper or magazine, there is usually a masthead—often a page or section of a page near the front—that lists all of the reporters and editors. 

If you can’t find that list in print, use Google to identify who the appropriate person is to connect with.

  1. Send a summary of your pitch. When you have an idea and you know who is most likely to be responsible for writing it, send an email summarizing your idea. In the subject line of your email, you could write “Article idea,” to make it clear why you’re getting in touch.

This should be a 3- to 4-paragraph summary of who you are, what your suggestion is for an article, with details regarding why that reporter would be interested (because it’s a local event, represents a local trend, or ties into a national news piece, for example), and an offer to share more information if they’re interested.

Keep in mind that you’re not offering to write the article, nor are you sending a draft of what you’d like to see in print. You’re sending an idea that would include quoting you as a resource.

Another Approach: Write a Press Release

Now, if you want to have a little more control over what is written, you could instead draft a press release and send it out to multiple media outlets at once in the hopes that they use will that information in an upcoming story. 

Press releases are designed to make announcements, primarily, so you could prepare one if you want to share information about:

  • An upcoming event
  • An honor or award your business received
  • A new location
  • A new product or service
  • A new partnership or joint venture
  • A new employee
  • An employee who was promoted

Press releases are not appropriate to pitch individual articles, however.

Hubspot has a useful article on how to format a press release, along with some free templates, if you decide you’d rather send something out en masse.

Pursuing media coverage in local newspapers, magazines, bulletins, and community gazettes is a great first step to landing national publicity, and a smart way to raise awareness of your company’s existence within your local community.

October 2021 Amber Grant Finalists

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

We’re delighted to share with you 5 finalists for the $10,000 October Amber Grant. The recipient will become the eleventh qualifier for our 2021 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).

We’ll announce the business selected to receive the $10,000 grant by the 23rd of this month. As always, each of the runners-up will earn $1,000 in grant funds.

Note: The $10,000 Amber Grant continues to run monthly in 2021. If you’d like to apply in support of your women-owned business, you can fill out an application. In November, an additional grant of $5,000 will be awarded to a women-owned business in the Skin Care industry.

Shortly, we’ll announce the October, business-specific grant award recipient (Creative Arts, $5,000).

Finally, a big congratulations to the following 5 Amber Grant finalists for October:

ARB LOGISTICS

Website

Balm Box

Website

Bookmarks & Breadsticks

Website

Penelope Prints

Website

Puttin’ On The Mitts

Website

And the Award Goes To…

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Researchers Hendricks and Singhal report that being able to claim your business is “award-winning” can result in up to a 37 percent increase in sales, not to mention the boost to your company’s reputation for having earned an industry honor or prize. Even if the awards program isn’t well-known, laying claim to being among the best in your business can only elevate your status.

Many professional organizations, associations, trade groups, research firms, and media outlets have annual awards programs that recognize good work. There are awards for business communication, marketing, operations, quality, human resources, websites, innovation, and likely many other aspects, such as diversity, leadership, and quality control, to name a few.

Many awards (but not all) charge an application fee, so check your marketing budget before you apply to multiple programs. And also think about what you want to be known for. That is, what do you want customers and prospects to think of first when they think of your company?

If you run an ad agency, you probably want to be known for creative campaigns, graphic design, copywriting, and/or public relations. If you run a manufacturing firm, you might want your ability to partner and collaborate with vendors to be recognized, or the low incidence of product defects. And if you run a bookstore, retail and customer service awards might be most useful for your company.

You could also think about any challenges you might be facing. If attracting top talent has gotten harder, pursuing awards that recognize yours as a “best place to work” might catch the eye of top performers. If yours is a local or historic business, there are awards for architecture that could raise awareness of your venture. Or if your company is 100 percent online, then maybe website and online sales awards would be most useful, to earn customer trust.

Finding Awards

Once you’ve brainstormed the aspects of your business you want to showcase, or highlight, finding awards is as easy as Googling a keyword and “award.” A search for “marketing award” yields programs like The Drum Awards, The Webby Awards, or the Effie Awards, to name a handful.

Or, you can start with the professional or trade associations you belong to and search on their websites to see if they have any awards programs. Next, check when the entry deadline is.

There are plenty of awards available, so start with those that will have the biggest impact on your company if you win.

Completing the Application

When you find a competition you’d like to enter, gather all the information you need to complete the application. Depending on the type of award you’re entering, you may need to pull together samples of your work, proof of your incorporation, or provide details regarding revenue and employees. Compiling all the facts or materials you’ll need in advance will make the process faster and easier.

Make note of deadlines, to allow yourself enough time to craft a stellar response.

The key with any award application is to be sure you’re answering the question(s) asked, and to provide proof. Quantifying results is smart, whenever you can. And be sure you stay below the maximum word count; if you’re instructed to provide no more than 250 words, don’t go beyond that or you risk being disqualified. Follow instructions.

Making the Most of Your Win

Winning an award creates new opportunities to promote your business, both in the short- and long-term. When you receive official notification that you’ve won, consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Draft and send a press release out over the wire, meaning through a paid publicity service like eReleases or PR Web, to announce your win across the internet. Even if your honor is local, if a national news outlet happens to pick it up, it can boost the visibility of your website.
  • Write a blog post about it.
  • Add the award logo to your website’s home page to announce your win.
  • Include a short write-up about your win in any customer newsletters you send out.
  • Email your customers and prospects to share your exciting news.
  • Add signage to doors or windows that announce your award, so that customers entering your business see it.
  • Frame the notification and put it on your wall.
  • Make sure to update all boilerplate descriptions of your business to include your most recent win.
  • Share an Instagram post showing your plaque, trophy, certificate, or letter.
  • Share a Facebook video or photo of you receiving the award.
  • Add mention of the award in your LinkedIn profile.
  • Add the award logo on all your marketing materials, from your stationery to envelopes, labels, and business cards, for example.
  • Put the logo on promotional items, such as notepads or pens or bags.

The best thing about awards is that as soon as you win, you are forevermore “award-winning.” Make sure everyone you come in contact with knows it and use it every chance you get.

September 2021 Amber Grant Awarded to BāKIT Box

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

We’re excited to announce the $10,000 September Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Shelley Gupta and Carla Medina Jacobson, co-founders of BāKIT Box.

They are the tenth qualifiers for the 2021 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).

Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Shelley and Carla for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.

WomensNet: Welcome everyone to a chat with our latest Amber Grant winner. Today, we’re speaking with Shelley Gupta and Carla Medina Jacobson, who are Co-Founders of BāKIT Box. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, a WomensNet Advisory Board member. So Carla and Shelley — tell us about your business. Tell us about BāKIT Box, and what services you provide.

Carla: BāKIT Box is an all-inclusive baking kit. What that means is that you order a box and you get everything you need for one recipe. So for example, if you ordered our brownies, you would get everything already included in that mix and you would just bake it yourself at home.

WomensNet: Can you show us a sample?

Shelley: Absolutely. I actually have our classic pretzel recipe in front of me. So what you get in your box is a recipe card that looks like this, with all of the steps included and pictures of what the steps are to make it really easy. And then in your box, you’d get all the ingredients pre-measured. So it’ll look something like this. You have your yeast, your salt, your sugar, or your flour in this case for the pretzel recipe. And it’s all pre-measured. So there’s no mess and no waste, and you can bake from scratch at home.

WomensNet: Tell us about where we can find BāKIT Box.

Carla: Yeah. So we have a website, and right now we are delivering into the Chicagoland and the greater Midwest area. So even some cities like Milwaukee, or some cities in Michigan as well. Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana… but primarily Chicago, today. And you can also soon find us in grocery stores in the Chicagoland area as well.

WomensNet: So you mentioned pretzels. I know I saw chocolate chip cookies and brownies. What other kinds of recipes are there?

Shelley: Yeah. We also focus a lot on cultural and diverse bakes. And so right now we actually have our first gluten-free cranberry oatmeal cookie on the menu right now. We also have an enamel bar, which is like a chocolate custard bar, that is known as a snack in Canada. And we’ve done a lot of different cuisines and ethnic items on our menu that we rotate on a monthly basis.

WomensNet: How did you come up with this idea?

Carla: We did a lot of baking over the pandemic, as a lot of people have. One thing that I found as I was baking was that I had so much flour and sugar leftover. I’m pretty sure I still have chocolate leftover from a cake I baked for my husband at one point. Then I was like, ‘there’s gotta be an easier way to get the ingredients that you want’. And, another thing was just the recipes. So when you look up a recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, there’s like a hundred different opinions as to what’s the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I’m like, it’d be a lot easier if someone gave you everything plus the recipe in one place and you don’t have to go through the depths of the internet to find a good recipe.

WomensNet: Who is your target market for the boxes?

Carla: It’s people like us. So we found that a lot of people, young professionals, really love this because again, you don’t have to store all that flour. You don’t have to take up room in your pantry, in an apartment, in a big city. And then there’s other folks like, young families. So I actually have a three week old now, and I can’t wait to start baking with him eventually. But yeah, so young families really love to do this and grandparents/grandkids. That’s kind of where we found our little niche right now. And it’s really because we are an alternative for an activity that you would otherwise do with your family.

WomensNet: Awesome. Well, it certainly reminds me of the subscription meal boxes that I get on a regular basis, but you don’t have to subscribe to get a monthly shipment, right. You can just buy as you want, right?

Carla: You can do both now. So you can do a la cart where you get different recipes. You can pick whatever you want, but then we’re also doing subscriptions as well.

WomensNet: So tell me how you heard about the Amber Grant, and what made you decide to apply?

Shelley: We heard about this even before Carla and I went into business together. It was always kind of a goal on our list as we would scroll through the finalists and the winners. We actually applied a few times, and I encourage people to do that as well. We’ve grown a lot in the last year and we’ve put our application in a couple of times and, you know, we felt really strongly about our company and our growth. So we’re really, really, really excited to have been chosen for September.

WomensNet: How are you going to use the $10,000?

Shelley: It’s so critical. So again, we’re so thankful — the $10,000 is going to actually go directly towards our retail investment. So as Carla mentioned, we’re going into stores for next month, around Thanksgiving, in the Chicagoland area. And there’s a big upfront investment that’s involved in getting into retail stores because you have to prove your concept before you even make a sale. So, it’s going directly towards all of the inventory, all of the custom packaging and demo, demo kits and demo sales that we can provide stores to secure our spot on the shelves and also to provide some samples for our first launch around Thanksgiving.

WomensNet: So looking ahead, what are some of the future plans that you have for the business?

Shelley: As Carla mentioned, we just launched our subscriptions, which is a new feature and channel for us where you can go in and pick as many kits as you’d like on a monthly basis. We are also working with pastry chefs on developing some really, really great holiday and seasonal items that will be coming out for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, as well as beyond, into 2022. We’re really excited because we’re also going to be working with pastry chefs in the Chicagoland area to create some more unique, and special recipes that are coming from some known names in the Chicagoland area for exclusive ideas and exclusive ways to bake at home.

WomensNet: So you’ve really made a lot of progress in a short amount of time. Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs?

Shelley: I would say it’s really, really important to be passionate about your idea and work really hard at it. But I think what’s helped Carla and I especially is having really great mentors and people, not only women, but men and other executives that are in your field or have touched your field and can really, really help you hone in on the idea and get really smart. [And] practice your pitch, practice your messaging and your verbiage, and just be really, really sharp. It’s challenging. There’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot of other entrepreneurs competing, potentially, in the same space. So definitely mentorship, definitely practice and keep working hard at it.

Carla: And I think just saying yes to anything that’s thrown your way. We’ve talked to a lot of folks who have said, ‘have you talked to this person?’ Or can I send you this list of potential people to talk to? And you just say yes, and you say, thanks. Just be very, very open and accepting, because you never know which is going to be the right door.

How to Set Up a Simple Loyalty Program

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

One big lesson that has come out of the pandemic is the value of customer loyalty. Loyal customers not only spend more, but they also serve as business ambassadors, attracting new customers to their favorite small businesses. 

An often-cited statistic for spending, which originated with Bain & Company in 1991, is that loyal customers spend 67% more than new ones. Not only that, but 56% of customers will spend more at a business they are loyal to, even when there are cheaper priced options elsewhere (that they likely know about), Yotpo reported. That percentage is up significantly from 2019, when only 34.5% were willing to spend more.

Loyal customers are also more profitable customers, according to a Harvard Business Review report that found increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits anywhere from 25% to 95%. That statistic is in line with the Pareto principle, which says that 20% of your customers are responsible for 80% of your profits. 

In the simplest terms, holding on to customers you already have will help you build your customer base faster, increase sales, and increase profits faster than trying to attract new customers.

So how can you foster loyalty? Creating a program that rewards shoppers is one easy way. Bond Brand Loyalty found that 80% of buyers say loyalty programs both make them more likely to keep buying from the company or brand, and 68% buy more to maximize their loyalty benefits.

Loyalty programs can drive sales and, fortunately, starting one doesn’t have to be complicated.

Encouraging Customer Behavior

The first step in creating a loyalty program is deciding what you want to encourage customers to do. For example:

  • Do you want them to come in more frequently? 
  • Do you want them to spend more on each visit? 
  • Do you want their help in attracting more customers? 
  • Do you want them to help promote certain products or brands?

Once you’re clear on what you want them to do, you can start to think about what you can offer that will entice them to take the action you want.

Choosing a Reward

There are probably hundreds of ways you could reward customers, but it’s important to think about what they want.

You could offer a gift certificate after customers spend a certain amount. Kohl’s does this with its Kohl’s Cash, which customers earn after spending in $50 increments. However, shoppers have to come back during the redemption period, which is typically a week or so after the cash is earned, rather than being able to spend it immediately. This boosts spending and return visits.

You could offer a discount on-the-spot for checking in on social media. Or a special prize for sharing a photo of a product purchase. This may be useful if your goal is to increase social media engagement or followers.

Many small service businesses offer cards cards that track each visit and reward the customer with a free product or a discount once the card has been filled in. That encourages repeat visits, without having to track dollar amounts spent.

You could offer free products for purchases made during a certain timeframe, like Clinique does with its bonuses. A pioneer of the free sample gift-with-purchase, cosmetic brand Clinique offers a special pack of several mini products when customers spend over a certain amount. Not only does this entice customers to spend the minimum amount to qualify, but they receive samples of other Clinique products to try that they may opt to buy next time.

Some loyalty programs offer regular benefits to regular customers, such as a percentage rebate on each purchase.

Others allow their loyalty program participants early access to sales or events, like American Express does when it offers cardholders early access to concerts and live event ticket sales.

Be sure to keep in mind that the reward needs to be something customers want in order to have any impact on your bottom line. Offering a 1% discount after spending $100, for example, is unlikely to make a difference (or the tiny amount may actually irritate customers).

Picking a Platform

When it comes to managing your rewards program, it’s best to keep it as simple as possible. Don’t invest in expensive tracking programs until you’re sure it will be worth it.

A physical punch card is a simple option that requires no tracking on your part. Design, print, and copy it yourself or use a service like Vistaprint to create something.

A software program tied to your cash register is an option for tracking amounts spent, or specific products purchased.

Sign up with an easy-to-use text-based loyalty program, such as Social Spiral, which has customers enter their cell phone number to participate. There’s no app to download and they can check their rewards via text. 

Or if you want an app, try CandyBar, which is a digital loyalty program that helps businesses track customer purchases and reward them.

With both software programs, businesses can also communicate with loyalty program members, sending them special alerts about sales or limited time offers.

Since retail loyalty program members generate between 12% and 18% more revenue for retailers than customers who aren’t program members, according to Accenture, investing a little time and money to create your own could result in a big boost to your sales.

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