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Expert’s Guide to Marketing your Gift / Rewards Program
A gift and rewards program can provide a lucrative revenue stream. But how much it contributes to your bottom line depends, in part, on how (and how well) you promote it.

Gift and rewards programs are increasingly common for retail and restaurant businesses. Other industries, too, are discovering the value of a well-developed gift and rewards program. Our team of gift and rewards program experts compiled this list of promotion ideas to help you get the most traction from your gift and rewards program.

Rely on all the conventional marketing channels to get the word out.

  • In-store: place displays or advertise your cards at your hostess stand / register, in the waiting area, on table tents, on your menu, at the cash register, on video screens, and on your receipts.

  • Email: If you send regular customer emails, frequently include a small mention of gift cards to keep them top of mind. Around traditional gifting holidays such as Mother’s or Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Birthday, or Christmas, you can place a special emphasis on your gift cards or even send gift-card-promotion-specific emails.

  • Social Media: Wherever you are active on social media, be sure to promote your gift / rewards program.

  • Wait staff, hosts, or retail clerks: These folks are your front-line sellers. Be sure they are trained to suggest gift cards, answer questions, and complete a gift card sale transaction. Managers and regional managers should constantly talk up gift cards at every opportunity. Finally, run periodic sales contests and offer nice prizes to gift card sales superstars.

  • Direct mail: a bit more expensive than other marketing methods, this channel can nevertheless be effective, especially if you have a particular demographic you want to reach.

  • Your website.

  • Your restaurant app.

  • Partner with a gift card mall.

  • Send an email or push text campaign to your loyalty program or eClub participants.

  • Press release: some local/regional business journals accept short press releases or announcements and will publish them at no charge.

Try some unconventional ways to promote your gift cards.

  • Reward regular customers: If you know your regular customers or have a way to track their loyalty to you using sales data from your POS or CRM system, reward them with a gift card as a thank-you, even if it’s just $4 or $5. Chances are, they will reload it (especially if your gift cards state they can be re-loaded). If these loyal customers re-gift your thank-you gift card, you’ve just gotten your brand into someone else’s hands.

  • Use gift cards as name badges.

  • Give back to your local community: Offer gift cards as an auction item at a raffle, charity or local organization’s event.

  • Use gift cards as promotional or holiday/thank-you gifts: This is a great idea for vendors, contractors, employees, or business partners.

  • As a gesture of goodwill: Although not strictly marketing per se, you can use your gift cards as a sort of ‘currency’. If you need to turn a bad customer experience around and say “we apologize,” you can do it with a gift card.

  • Exchange for returned merchandise: Also not strictly marketing, offering a gift card as exchange for returned merchandise has a number of benefits. It lets the customer choose their own gift while you keep the profits. It gives the customer the opportunity to return and shop later. Often, customers spend more than the value on the card, so you have an opportunity for even more profit. Plus, it puts your brand in their hand.

  • Promote your cards as a refillable ‘spending card.’ They are great for the people on your customers’ gift list whom they want to gift again and again, such as a college student, parent, special friend, or star employee.

Final Thoughts

Take the time to learn who your customers are and what they really want. If you operate in several locations, run a trial in one or two locations to see which offers and promotions work. Finding the right marketing mix and message is all about experimentation.

Hopefully this post gives you some ideas for how you can promote your gift cards. Remember that customers and their wants are constantly changing. You may need to periodically evaluate and change your promotional tactics to keep pace with trends, technology, promotional channels, and preferences.

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