Dina Bertacchi-Sulkin is the Chief Operating Officer of epoints USA, a loyalty and rewards program that is launching in the U.S. after perfecting its platform in other markets around the world. As the lead marketing and operations mind at the company, Dina brings her expertise to everything from developing marketing launch plans to streamlining internal processes to orchestrating the company’s social media strategy.
I interviewed Dina as part of our 6 Questions feature: a series of one-on-one interviews with people we work with who’ve made us proud. We get very close to our clients and their brands during the brand development process, and when we see them doing great work and achieving great things, it’s very personal to us. They’re rocking their brands in exciting and innovative ways, taking the ideas we developed together and using them to grow their organizations. We find how a brand works out in the “real world” fascinating and hope you will, too.
Read on for Dina’s thoughts on the importance of loyalty, the go-to tools in her marketing arsenal and how epoints is using social media to build its brand.
1. What is the biggest difference between epoints and other loyalty programs out there?
There are two big differences that benefit both merchants and cardholders. First, let’s start with the merchants. When merchants join the epoints network, they gain access to knowledge on all their customers who are epoints cardholders. As people frequent epoints businesses, we collect transaction data and provide customer behavior summaries, giving merchants a wide array of information. Merchants can see who their top spending customers are, who have visited only once and who used to be frequent customers but haven’t been back for three months.
The epoints platform provides many types and combinations of data to our merchants, with the underlying goal of giving them the ability to really KNOW their customers. With this array of data, they are able to target market customers, increase their revenue, lower unnecessary advertising costs and build a loyal customer base.
Another big difference that merchants get from being a part of the epoints network is that they are able to preload a $ amount onto cardholders’ cards. Say you want to reward a specific customer or group of customers—you can call our Marketing Concierge service to help you target those customers and send a personalized offer, straight to their cards.
The Marketing Concierge team is like a marketing department for our merchants. If you have a plan, they can deploy it, and if you need help coming up with an idea, they can create a targeted promotion. This $ preloading feature allows merchants to set themselves apart from their competitors. And with the Marketing Concierge service, it’s very easy to do.
As an epoints cardholder, the two biggest benefits are that you’re rewarded on how much you spend and the points you earned are treated like cash. These are valuable rewards—not 5% off coupons or offers that look good until you read all the fine print.
You are able to shop at your favorite places in the epoints network and be rewarded a cash equivalent based off of your transaction amount. The more you spend, the more you’re rewarded.
2. 2013 looks like it will be a big year for epoints as you continue to launch in new cities and partner with new merchants. What are some of the new benefits epoints cardholders can expect to see this year?
2013 will bring some new and exciting updates to epoints merchants, as well as cardholders. We will be launching a mobile app for iPhone and Android that will allow cardholders to log in to their accounts and search for the promotions and locations that are near them.
We will also be launching epoints “deals.” These are deals that merchants can offer to their cardholders—special discounts, promotions and offers. For instance, Restaurant ABC may want to offer a deal like, “Spend $10 and get $20 loaded on your card to use at the restaurant!”
These deals will be available online only and will all be loaded onto cardholders’ epoints cards, so there’s no need to remember codes or print out vouchers. All you need is to go to your favorite place and use your epoints card.
The benefit to the merchant is that unlike with other deal sites, merchants can see who used the deal and who returns after they redeem the deal. Merchants can then use this data to reach out to those who didn’t return, as well as to make targeted offers to turn the returnees into loyal regulars. This is a big part of the epoints philosophy—we give you the data you need to create targeted, effective marketing campaigns.
3. BatesMeron created many different marketing tools to support epoints’ growth this past year. Which pieces were the most beneficial?
The two most beneficial pieces of marketing collateral that BMSD created were the two brochures—a merchant brochure that focuses on “Precision Loyalty” and a cardholder brochure that breaks down how the program works. Since epoints needs to reach out to both merchants and cardholders, these marketing pieces are crucial for people to understand the business from both sides.
These brochures have been given to all prospective merchants as well as any new cardholders. They have become standard use by all salespeople on the epoints team, as they are creative as well as informative.
4. One of the big messages epoints wants to communicate to merchants in 2013 is the concept of “Precision Loyalty.” What does that mean for business owners looking to join the epoints network, and why is it so important?
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest benefits that a merchant gets from being a part of the epoints network is data—the information they need to really know their customers. This is what we call Precision Loyalty. With the valuable data that the epoints platform offers, we are able to work with the merchants to analyze this data and put together targeted promotions—offers to really build that loyal base of customers. We want the merchants to get the most out of our services, so the more precise information we can provide them, the easier it is for them to build that loyalty.
Loyalty is such an important aspect of running a business. Many business owners don’t know anything about their customers or how much they shop or spend. Having this data allows you to really reward those loyal customers and form a stronger relationship with people who may not be frequent customers, thus increasing your revenue.
5. epoints has an active social media presence. What has been your strategy for building your online network, and how has it helped epoints grow as a brand?
Social media is a great way for us to practice what we preach—form stronger relationships with our customers. We have two audiences, merchants and consumers, and we need to communicate with each group in a different way. Social media has been a great forum for that.
Through Facebook and Twitter, we’re connecting with consumers. We talk about new epoints features, highlight epoints merchants and we share some fun things, too. We want our Facebook and Twitter interactions to feel like a conversation with a friend. And we’ve been listening as much as we’ve been sharing—we’ve gotten some great feedback through Facebook that has allowed us to improve the epoints experience.
We’re also using social media to build our relationships with our merchants. We just launched a new blog that’s going to be a great resource for epoints partners, as well as any small business owners and marketers in general. On the blog, merchants can get marketing tips, get ideas from other epoints merchants and learn more about loyalty best practices. We really want our merchants to reach new levels of success, so the blog is a great way to connect them with small business resources they can easily use and benefit from.
6. What’s your favorite part of working with BMSD?
BMSD has been an excellent company to work with. In the 10+ months we’ve worked with them, we have had nothing but amazing collaboration and outcomes. The team is made up of extremely innovative and clever individuals, and the communication is outstanding. Never a week goes by without some sort of interaction with the BMSD team.
Their design and marketing work is creative and innovative, and every meeting/discussion with them is productive. They provide ideas on things that we would never have thought of. They are a pleasure to work with and a great group of people—we have fun together!!
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