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It seems obvious. Established businesses reward their customers all the time with birthday deals, access to special sales and more, but Michelle Black discovered this strategy is particularly important for small businesses. She adds, you don’t need the budget of a bigger company to pull off a customer loyalty program.

She has been hosting an annual makeover contest since she opened her Social Butterfly Boutique in 2011, enlisting the support of local hair and makeup stylists to offer a winning package. The effort pays off in priceless customer fidelity, which, Black stresses, can’t be taken for granted in the highly competitive retail climate. “This is also an inexpensive way to advertise,” she adds.

We asked Black how small businesses can create simple and affordable loyalty programs that yield tangible results.

MadameNoire: What inspired you to host the makeover contest?

Michelle Black: When I opened my doors in September 2011, I noticed the women that were stopping by always expressed that they were looking for a new look, a change, didn’t see themselves as pretty, and had low self-esteem mainly because of their appearance. …[I] thought of a way to change at least one woman’s view of herself by offering a free head- to-toe makeover. I bring on a professional hair stylist and makeup artist to help complete the look. Afterwards a photographer is there to offer a free mini photo shoot.

MN: How do you make the connection between the makeover and your brand?

MB: I call it the “Butterfly Transformation” which allows the beauty from the inside to radiate on the outside. The contest is actually open to any woman that wants to enter, customer or not. I’ve had two thus far and the outcome has been extraordinary. The results raised their self-esteem, gave them a newfound confidence, and enhanced their social skills and so much more. One Butterfly actually left an abusive relationship because she then saw herself worthy of much more. I eventually want to expand this into a nonprofit to help even more women. My tagline at Social Butterfly Boutique is “Take a Flight from Ordinary to Extraordinary.”

MN: Why is it important to you to reward your customers?

MB: It shows them that we appreciate them choosing Social Butterfly with so many other retail options out there… This helps business because the customer will continue to shop when they know that I appreciate them. Even though I have something they want, I still need them to remain in business.

MN: How can small budget businesses show appreciation to their customers without breaking the bank? 

MB: By implementing a loyalty program. The loyalty program allows you to reward those that patronize you the most. I offer two programs: one that tracks their visits, and the other tracks their spending. Once each one is met, a discount on their total purchase is given. It shows customers that you appreciate their loyalty in such a competitive market. Another way that I show appreciation is by reposting my “Butterfly Divas,”’ as I call them, photos on social media wearing items purchased. This is also an inexpensive way to advertise.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

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