For anyone watching the news coverage of Hurricane Sandy during the last week, it’s been impossible not to be affected in some way by the images streaming out of New York, New Jersey and the other affected states. For those of us living in Florida, we know all too well the dreadful force of hurricanes and our thoughts go out to the region’s displaced millions.
While the scope of the disaster has yet to be fully tallied, early estimates from Moody’s Analytics places the figure around $50 billion. That would make Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a Frankenstorm one of the United States’ costliest natural disasters. The storm’s impact struck at our country’s economic and financial center. As insurance companies begin the challenge of calculating how much to cover, many citizens will be left covering many expenses on their own.
Which brings me to small businesses. Considered the lifeblood of the US economy, thousands of small merchants will be severely impacted by this disaster. According to the Small Business Administration, they represent 99.7% of all employer firms, employ half of private sector jobs and make up 51% of US GDP. From places like Asbury Park in New Jersey, to Long Beach in New York, an estimated two-thirds of all property damage insurance claims, including small businesses, comes from these two states.
So from a loyalty perspective, what can marketers do? Now is not the time to pander to hurting businesses. Nor is it the time to capitalize on insensitive “are you’re bored?” promotions as some retailers did this past week. What we can do, though, is point out that when it comes to loyalty programs – programs that help users purchase items often in bulk they would not otherwise be able to afford or at a discount – B2B offerings that help small businesses compete with larger competitors can make an importance difference. This won’t help stores get their lights back any sooner. And it won’t prevent spoilage or remove the thousands of tons of water from flooded basements. But when the post-disaster bills start piling up, B2B loyalty is a unique vehicle for small business aid that gets far too little coverage.
Case in point: Through our loyalty marketing platform, Kobie has helped Verizon Small Biz Rewards loyalty program, as part of its customer retention commitment. Small Biz Rewards is a no-cost points-based program that allows companies with fewer than 20 telephone lines who are Verizon customers to accumulate one point per dollar spent on a variety of Verizon service upgrades including Long Distance and/or High Speed Internet or FiOS, qualifying charges on their phone service, and by participating in surveys. Member can also shop on the Small Biz Rewards online mall that includes top retailers like Apple, Walmart, Buy.com, and QVC.
Program members can earn up to 500 points per month while managing their rewards in a convenient and real-time prepaid MasterCard. Members simply log on to the Verizon Small Biz Rewards site, which can be used like a standard issue debit MasterCard, reloadable by using points that members earn in the program at their discretion.
In no way will a loyalty or reward program bring back lives or rebuild communities on its own. But central to any recovery process is the gathering signs of normalcy: the return of subways, trains and buses. Electricity. A hot shower and a good laugh. Quality loyalty programs are about delivering quality experiences. And quality experiences are how you drain floodwaters, refill faith and get people back to business at hand.
Considering the terrible week that millions of Americans and small business owners have just been through, the return of loyalty programs, will be a sign of normalcy too.
In the meantime, you can help the recovery process with Verizon’s Text to Donate Campaign.