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Take advantage of timing and reward your brand fans at the exact moment they are most engaged.


“It’s always about timing. If it’s too soon, no one understands. If it’s too late, everyone’s forgotten.”

– Anna Wintour

Yes, in our brave new, digital frontier, timing is everything. And delivering a well-timed reward, well, that’s the Holy Grail of brand fan engagement. But to achieve that, you need to do a lot more than throw out generic bundles of discounts or incentives. You’ll need to figure out when the right time is and what it is that your audience really, really needs.

The journey to find the right recognition moment

Ideal moments for engagement are not as elusive as they seem. Thanks to modern technology, we’re able to watch behaviour patterns of our customers and employees. Google even coined a phrase (micro-moments) to define the brief instants when people are purchasing an item, researching something new, or discovering a new site. Which has given organisations the opportunity to deliver offerings that speak to people’s needs.

This movement towards assimilating and understanding people data has shed light on many things. Possibly the most prolific being something we all knew instinctively (but until now lacked hard evidence of) – needs change depending on context and timing. It seems so obvious.

That little nugget has led to what Harvard Business Review (HBR) is calling – the transition from mass-era marketing to the era of relevance. Which is all about the shift from pursuing loyalty, to instead focusing on sharing the right message, experience or offer at exactly the right time.

Aim for relevance and you’ll get loyalty

Like the rest of the business world, recognition and rewards are in a new growth stage. Digitisation and big data have heralded in a rich, multi-dimensional approach. The buzz is around personalisation and real-time experiences.

Now, at the core of all that change, still lies the pursuit of loyalty. Loyal customers see value in your brand and make return purchases. Loyal employees see value in your organisation and are willing to work hard to achieve your objectives.

But as HBR points out, “The ‘loyalty era’ of marketing, as we’ve known it, is waning. It was built in part on the notion that consumers will keep buying the same things from you if you have the right incentives. Yet, according to recent consumer research from Kantar Retail, 71% of consumers now claim that loyalty incentive-programs don’t make them loyal at all. Instead, in this new era of digital-based competition and customer control, people are increasingly buying because of a brand’s relevance to their needs in the moment.”

Well-timed rewards are an incredible driver with which to remind your audience that you understand them and their needs. They create an emotional experience that bonds people to your brand. That kind of close connection is exactly what the ‘era of relevance’ is all about.

The 4Ps get a revamp

The benefits of relevance and ‘perfect reward moments’ can be tied back to HBR’s revised version of the 4Ps: Purpose, Pride, Partnership, Protection and Personalisation.

When you are able to recognise an employee’s success as they achieve it, you become a part of that achievement. Which bonds you to your staff in the most powerful way. Take the time to curate rewards that speak directly to their needs, and recognise them in the exact (or close to) moment when they reach a goal. That’s when you become relevant to them. Because they feel you share their purpose. They feel pride towards your organisation. They believe that you are partners in this together.

Taking advantage of timing and context when it comes to customer incentives has a similar effect. Rewarding someone who has been researching one of your products for the past week, with a discount on that exact item, shows you are listening. You’ve acknowledged their needs and delivered a reward that suits them. That’s a gift that keeps giving. Customers will share your purpose and feel pride about their next purchase.

Rewarding employees in real-time

Today’s technology makes it easier than ever before to collect company data to support your real-time, engagement strategies. Vanessa Brangwyn, vice president of customer success at recognition and rewards company Achievers says that “By incorporating real-time engagement pulse surveys, employers are able to capture real-time employee feedback, so managers can make adjustments quickly in order to avert negative situations and better support their teams.”

There are digital solutions for personalising, presenting and redeeming rewards directly after an employee achieves a goal. Which creates moments of instant gratification that boost the experience.

Not to mention the software and apps available that provide tools for measuring and monitoring performance and rewards. These allow for hard and fast figures from which to base when, where and how you’ll choose to reward your team.

Injecting yourself into customer micro-moments

Research shows that the average customer has around 150 micro-moments each day. The best of those have three things in common: intent, context and immediacy.

Creating rewarding customer experiences means having multiple touchpoints in place that show you are relevant to your audience. It also means rewarding in the moments when people are engaging with your brand.

“It comes down to how your customer experiences the brand – and how that brand makes a person feel.” ~ Alex Allwood, The Holla Agency

Don’t just thank them for completing a product/service feedback survey, send them a discount that is in line with their purchasing history. If they refer a friend, don’t just dish out a generic coupon code. Welcome them into your family with insider tips and information that resonates with their unique tastes and preferences.

A great example of rewarding customers at the right time, within the right context, is the new Hertz “Just in Time” approach. By using predictive analytics, the company delivers relevant offers the minute a customer is evaluating a deal. That’s across all their channels – mobile, website, customer service etc. Adding yet another layer to this approach, the offers they suggest are aligned to the customer’s propensity to accept them. So if they haven’t shown interest in a buy-one-get-one-free deal in the past, it won’t be offered to them.

The tail take-outs

Timing is everything. The basic science of that concept in relation to recognition is: When you reward at the right moment it evokes positive emotions, which the brain stores in its memory banks. At the most basic level, this creates a pattern where the brain realises that the effort has resulted in something beneficial. Done continuously, there’s a level of pleasure derived that can be built on exponentially.

But there needs to be immediacy when it comes to rewards. It’s the difference between your business being linked to that positive chain of events. Or your brand fans not making the connection.

Finding the exact right time means understanding the needs of the people you want to reward. And when you get that right, you find the sweet spot where you are relevant and forever connected to your audience.


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