I attended the semi-final round at the Buick Invitational Golf Tournament this past weekend, held at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego (beautiful course!). It was great fun watching Tiger Woods and other golfers tackling the rugged terrain (and managing the fans). Something else caught my eye: the VIP tents.
We looked at the usual VIP tents, sponsored by companies for their guests (many of whom were likely valuable customers); is there any way for the average Joe to get into a hospitality area? The Buick Owner VIP Area provided that luxury, and all you had to do to get in was show your Buick car keys! Once inside the ropes, you registered as a Buick owner and had access to an area where you could relax. Additionally, from what I could understand, you also had access to a VIP viewing area on the 18th fairway! (As I am not a Buick owner, I couldn’t get in to check it out for all of you, and the security person at the ropes couldn’t tell me much… did any of you readers attend this? Let me know if you were a Buick Owner VIP!)
I would bet that Buick customers were surprised and delighted at this offering. Plus, the people who were “in” would feel like part of a special community. What a great way to tell your customers you appreciate them!
Buick has been reaching out to its customers interested in golf in other ways as well. Through their Buick Clubhouse loyalty program, Buick owners have the opportunity to purchase special tickets to premier golf events. Their interactive Clubhouse website is actually kind of fun; Tiger Woods invites you to come in, and he prompts you to click on various areas while you are there (must have been fun for him to do!).
The loyalty program targets new owners, but Buick is also accepting existing customers into the program. Per an article in Promo magazine, Buick is using this to engage new demographics for their vehicles:
“Buick traditionally has had the highest loyalty in the automotive industry,” (Larry) Peck said. “Our buyer has been older, too. With this program, we are trying to get younger buyers. Golf offers younger, more affluent, more educated consumers. We are trying to reach our demographic through the Internet…and offer a premiere owner experience.”
Proceeds from loyalty program events or merchandise after expenses will benefit the Buick Open Southeast Michigan Charities.
Building Customer Loyalty
What are your customers interested in? Where do they spend their time? Understanding customers, their interests, and their needs helps us tailor not just products and services, but also outreach and loyalty programs. Do your customers want to feel special? Create a customer recognition program. Do your customers want to have “access” to your company? Create a community, with your key execs/programmers/personnel playing a central role.
One of the most important ingredients in building customer loyalty is consistency of customer experience. Buick needed to make sure an owner’s experience at the Invitational Tournament was a good one in every way possible in order to contribute in a positive way to the brand experience. The same experiences now need to occur with the Service and Parts department, with Sales managers, with any emails and marketing sent to customers, and basically, in every single customer touch at every dealer. This requires knowing your customers, coordinating across functional areas internally, as well as collaborating with partners (in this case, the dealerships).
Is that doable? Yes – with planning. And flawless execution. Customers have high expectations. The companies that can do this have an edge. Is your company one of them?
(Photo credit: fintastic)