Let’s talk about one of my favorite topics — rewards. They’re an important piece of any customer advocacy community, but they don’t always get the attention they deserve. Why? Here's what I’ve heard from many community managers over the last few years:

  1. Organization leaders don’t understand the value of giving rewards.
  2. Budget holders don’t want to extend a sufficient reward budget. (because of point #1)
  3. Community managers don’t know which rewards to offer.

If rewards aren’t a key piece of your customer advocacy community, they should be. So let’s address these roadblocks and get you on your way to achieving even more success.

Org leaders don’t fully get it.

First of all, we’ll cut them some slack. Community is your thing, not theirs. So it’s largely your job to explain the value. You can do this in several ways, but here are two that are relatively easy and impactful:

  1. Ask your customers. Recently I asked my community if/why they’d want a certain reward (if it was cool). In 13 days, I had 70 customers respond. A whopping 96% said they’d want the opportunity to earn the reward. While 22% cited the reason as wanting to add to their overall swag collection, and incredible 73% said having the reward would be a way to show their customer pride. (5% had other reasons) I guess the question here is, what organization wouldn’t want to give their customers the opportunity to show pride? That’s what we call a win-win.
  2. Show the social proof. Perhaps I’m lucky that our community members want to show off their rewards, but it also could be a bit of strategy (just sayin’). If you select unique, down-right cool rewards for your customers, they’ll want to share them publicly. If this isn’t easy, affordable marketing for your organization, I don’t know what is. So yes, screen grab those Tweets, Instagram photos and LinkedIn posts and share them internally. Everyone wants to see their customers celebrate the brand!
Screenshot from a LinkedIn post about a community jigsaw puzzle reward

Not worth the cost.

I suppose I can’t just say, “Of course they are,” and leave it at that. So let’s dig in a bit further. We already discussed a couple of ways to show customers want the rewards, but having this offering as part of a customer advocacy program is more than just giving things away.

Your customers need to do meaningful actions to earn the rewards. That’s where the value story comes in.

When establishing your rewards strategy, consider:

  1. What rewards do my customers want?
  2. How much should they do to earn the rewards?
  3. What value will their actions bring to my organization?

If your org needs more online reviews, weigh providing an online review as an activity of greater value than perhaps sharing an e-book on their social networks.

Again, I’m not sure which organizations wouldn’t want more online reviews. So, if you can, entice your customers to provide them by offering rewards as a thank you. Everyone wins. Rewards, if well conceived, are huge motivators. And when happy customers are motivated, they provide immense value to your organization.

Know what to offer.

But yes, you need to offer something of value to your customer base. This is another area I see go awry within communities, because it’s easy for community managers to offer rewards they’d want personally, rather than the ones their customers desire.

If you’re running a customer advocacy program, it’s your job to understand what motivates your customers. And these motivations help inform your rewards. Consider these questions:

  1. Are my customers motivated by swag? (e.g. they live for a new hoodie and tumbler)
  2. Do they prefer recognition? (e.g. access to your leadership team, byline on your blog)
  3. Do they like experiences? (e.g. access to a virtual escape room, virtual cooking)
  4. Would they prefer to earn a chance to give? (e.g. donations to charity)

Once you understand what motivates your customers, you can source/offer the coinciding rewards. But don’t rest on one or two good ideas. It’s also important to rotate your rewards. Because let’s face it, no matter what it is, the same thing over and over again gets boring.

Don’t be boring.

Consider implementing rewards based on the seasons, holidays, special company events, etc. This, folks, is your chance to be creative and have fun. Your customers will appreciate the extra effort!

Now let’s talk about the elephant in this virtual room…Shipping these days is terrible. We all know it, so let’s just get that out of the way. But I encourage you not to let it be a deterrent. Is the cost more than you’re used to — yes. Is it taking way longer to ship anything, anywhere — definitely yes. But again, remember the value.

Getting something in the mail that you chose, and didn’t pay for, is exciting. Please don’t transition fully to gift cards and virtual experiences. Can they help supplement the other costs, sure. But if you want to maintain a compelling rewards program, they shouldn’t be your only options.

Continuously ask yourself, “What do my customers want? What do my customers deserve?” The answers will guide you and help you achieve success now and long into the future.

Happy planning!

Jeni Asaba is the Senior Manager for Community Engagement & Advocacy at Jamf. Newspaper reporting, copywriting and customer advocacy…They’ve been her world for the past 15 years. And they’ve given her the chance to use her love of writing and passion for people to create a library of powerful stories (news articles, case studies, e-books) and build a thriving community (Jamf Heroes). She drives to always do more and be better for the customer's benefit continues to fuel her work.

Get the right community manager.

If you want to hear more from Jeni, she covers some vital and non-negotiable traits to look for in a community manager to steamline and perfect your customer advocacy community, and how you manage it.

She goes into detail about the following traits:

  • Empthy
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Humility
  • Optimism