A New Airline Loyalty Program that Puts B2B Front and Center

May 28, 2013

Little by little, brands are realizing the importance of business-focused loyalty programs, and a new airline initiative proves that point: United’s MileagePlus Small Business Network is the first US B2B Travel Loyalty program of its kind.

The MileagePlus Small Business Network allows businesses to earn reward miles for products they normally buy. Thanks to partnerships with more than a dozen vendors including Dell, UPS, Staples, Chase Paymentech, Canon, McAfee and the Apple Online Store, everything – from printing, shipping, credit card payment processing, office supplies and computing services – is covered. And, just like consumers, companies can convert their earned miles into travel reward upgrades.

Even in our age of perpetual connectivity and instant communications, traveling to trade conferences and meeting with clients or new prospects is vital to any company. Anything that helps small businesses thrive is great for the American economy.B2B Loyalty Programs

Small businesses, despite an improving economy, continue to struggle and they’re looking for a leg up. A recent CNN survey found only 14% of small businesses plan to add more workers and two-thirds aren’t hiring at all. Considering that small businesses employ over half of the US workforce and contribute up to 50% of the nation’s GDP, there’s an opportunity here for big businesses to help smaller ones – and earn their loyalty in the process.

Benefits of a Business Loyalty Program

As some of my colleagues have written about – including Social Media Outreach and Loyalty, about Dell’s innovative approach to slowing the PC sales death spiral – on the Kobie blog, B2B customer rewards programs are often the unsung heroes of the loyalty landscape as they empower genuine professional relationships while reducing overhead. Another great B2B loyalty example comes from Verizon and its “Small Biz Rewards” program. Small Biz Rewards allows Verizon customer companies with fewer than 20 telephone lines to accumulate one point per dollar spent on a variety of Verizon service upgrades including Long Distance and/or High Speed Internet, FiOS and certain charges on their phone service. They can also earn points by participating in surveys and by shopping on the Small Biz Rewards online mall.

Regardless of the vertical, loyalty programs that are geared towards businesses can help:

  • Improve communications and networking potential between brands
  • Heighten internal company loyalty, which can in turn influence consumer brand allegiance
  • Inspire new and innovative consumer-facing loyalty initiatives
  • Reduce business expenses by incentivizing bulk purchase of goods and services

Whether business- or consumer-facing, loyalty in all its forms is about building genuine trust and transparency and, ideally, reciprocal relationships that rise to the level of moral obligation. That’s a tall order. But that’s why loyalty programs require constant real-time employee/customer feedback and adjustment.

So congratulations to United Airlines on its new business-focused loyalty program. Here’s to the introduction of more B2B programs that truly focus on the needs of enterprise and business – a largely underserved segment.

Is your company looking for a business-focused loyalty program or looking to create one for employees? What additional B2B benefits would help your brand thrive? We welcome your comments in the section below.