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Let’s Play A Game

If you’re still offering that old “Buy 10 Get 1 Free” method, I’ve got a new word for you: gamification.

Gamification means putting game-design techniques to work for things that aren’t considered games – using what people like and respond to when they’re playing a game, and funneling that into your marketing strategy.

You want to give your customers positive reinforcement when they achieve something for your company. But what? Think about what you’d like to do: encourage brand loyalty? meet new customers? gather market data? Choose a primary objective and make that the initial goal. It’s like a hoop-jumping strategy: the lion jumps through a hoop and gets a reward, so the next time it sees a hoop, it jumps through!

Think about what people respond to: rewards, discounts, power, and STATUS.

Yes, status is the name of the game! These days, your customers are using social media, which not only broadcasts what they’re doing and when they’re doing it, but tracks the number of friends and interactions they have. Priority status is everything to today’s customer.

Say you’re a coffee shop owner. Instead of giving away a free cup of coffee to your regular customers (value of this prize=$2), consider having a priority line for car-carrying regulars (value of having your own fast-service line at the coffee shop=priceless).

Or maybe you have an automotive repair shop – instead of working out pricing for your regulars on the fly, implement a rewards system where they get $50 off every time they send a referral your way. This way, your customers are doing marketing for you, and since you’re rewarding them for doing it, they’ll keep doing it!

There’s a bar in Raleigh called Flying Saucer, and they’ve been using a gaming tactic for years: buy 200 beers (over time, limit 3 per night that will add to your tally), and get your name in the “Ring of Honor” – your name is printed on a large gold-painted plate which is mounted on the ceiling of the bar. Walk in sometime and take a look up! There are hundreds of people who’ve done it. And just think – each of those people bought 200 beers* (at least), at no discount! The names of people who are almost at the goal (197-198) are posted on the website to let patrons know who’s next up for a coveted spot. The reward for their customer loyalty isn’t a discount at the bar, or a free T-shirt – it’s the status they get from being part of a special club. One that doesn’t come with discounts.

People appreciate feeling appreciated, especially by a business they’ve invested time and money in. The waitress at your favorite restaurant who always remembers your lunch order. The cashier at the grocery store who opens his lane just for you so you don’t have to wait in line. The coffee shop that gives you your own permanent mug (you still have to pay for the coffee that goes in it, but it’s YOUR mug and they keep it there JUST FOR YOU). The car repair guy that gives you a discount because you sent your neighbor to him for a new transmission.

Don’t just reward your customers for showing up. Reward them for interacting with you, your business, and the community. And make it fun! Make it something they want! After all, we’re game-ifying.

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