With more than half (55%) of consumers citing loyalty rewards as a key decision making factor when it comes to choosing a brand or provider, it is more important than ever that brands take time to plan their promotional campaigns and ensure consistent brand alignment in every element of the programme delivery, according to Ian Horsham, divisional director of Promotions and Incentives for Grass Roots Group. This article is copyright 2015 The Best Customer Guide.

There is a common misconception that promotional programmes cannot dovetail into an organisation's overall brand objective and reinforce brand sentiment. It seems there is a belief that it isn't possible to execute a successful sales focused promotion that also increases brand sentiment whilst remaining aligned to a brands long term objectives - this is simply not the case.

Here are five key principles to follow to enable brands to bridge the gap between promotions that sell and long term engagement that shapes behaviour and builds sentiment:

  1. Long term loyalty vs. a quick buck
    It is important to carefully consider what you want from a new promotional programme and plan to ensure it achieves your objectives. Does it reflect your brand and your current/future customer base? Both new and prevailing customer bases should be considered when implementing a programme. Some suffer in the simple 'reimbursement' attitude to loyalty, which may be given with good intentions driven by an honest wish to say thank you, but every promotion has the possibility of estranging even the most loyal of customers if their needs and values aren't targeted and carefully considered.

    The programme in place should firstly satisfy the customers that regularly flock to your doors, before reaching out to entice new potential consumers that may or may not stick by you. By identifying the targets at the planning stages brands can ensure that they won't be left firefighting as a result of creating a programme which may not meet the original objective.

  2. Be consistent across all touch points
    Clearly define your brand proposition and ensure consistency is reflected within any promotional programme. Be clear on what the brand means to you and your customers and ensure it is engaging, inspiring and relevant to your target audience. It is then important to ensure there is a single brand 'voice' across every point at which the customer touches your brand to build a consistent experience.

    A strong proposition at the heart of a brand which is consistent across all communications is vital in driving sales, shaping behaviour and securing long term loyalty - without this your programme is powerless.

  3. Get to know your customers
    Utilise existing customer research to understand what your current customers really want - how do they want the brand to make them feel? What do they value? - and ensure your programme reflects that.

    The attraction of the programme doesn't have to be contingent on the financial gain of the customer it can be viewed more as a gift for a customer's loyalty, and should not result in offering perks to anyone who walks through your doors. Giving a gift that a customer isn't expecting can be an incredibly effective and thoughtful way to say 'thank you'. Fundamentally is this reward relevant for your customers, or is it something for everyone?

  4. Communicate and reward regularly
    Don't wait until you have something to sell or a customer is about to leave your brand before proactively engaging with your customers. Communicate early, reward positive behaviours and establish a relationship.

    Brands should avoid creating schemes that reward once at the end of the consumer journey, this kind of final hour bribe just results in the consumer seeing through the offer and destroys any sentiment built up during the brand experience.

  5. Use the right agency
    Brands must ensure all partners and agencies they work with are suitable in scale and reputation, it's no good offering a great experience if the agency responsible for delivering it lets you down. Be wary of using too many third party agencies that rely on further third parties for delivery, this muddies the brand experience and voice and can create too many fracture points. Choose carefully, and ideally work with one that can do it all for you.