by Stephen A. Kreger, L.M.T.

Keep Clients Coming Back for More with Punch Cards, MASSAGE Magazine

This month I’m giving a little twist to my earlier article on punch cards. Rather than a prepaid discount, this involves clients earning points.

There is an old saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold.” This is especially true in a service business. The lifeblood of any business is repeat business. It is costly and time consuming to attract new clients. It’s easier to get regular clients to book more.

A punch-card promotion is one way to keep clients coming back. This marketing technique works like this: The company gives its clients a card about the size and weight of a business card. The client has the card punched or stamped each time a service is purchased. After a certain number of punches, the client becomes eligible for something free. It might be a product, a free session or a deep discount off of add-on services, such as spa treatments. The client turns in the completed card to get whatever is being offered for free.

There are three main benefits of punch-card promotions:

  • They help build regular clientele.
  • They serve as advertising by reminding clients about the business.
  • They foster goodwill by rewarding regular clients.

There is a lack of hard data showing how much repeat business punch cards are likely to generate and how many companies actually use this promotion. Some studies, however, have determined that a number of clients of selected businesses say they wouldn’t patronize the businesses as often as they do if they couldn’t take advantage of punch cards. Having a punch-card promotion requires that you be aware of a few details.

  1. Businesses with multiple locations can run into a problem of keeping cards in stock at each outlet. Sufficient cards have to be printed for each location.
  2. Purchase a “unique” (one with an odd shape) punch from the office supply store to discourage clients from punching their own cards with a standard paper punch.
  3. Try to develop two or three different punch card programs to keep it interesting.
  4. Make sure you put your contact info on the card; it serves as advertising.

Punch-card promotions are used by all kinds of businesses. Business owners who use punch cards say the main goal is to encourage repeat business and help make clients happy. It isn’t so much a way of promoting new business, it’s more to reward clients. Giving new clients punch cards often brings them back and it gives you a reason to talk to new clients. You give them the card, and it gets them to return. I believe it keeps them from going to other therapists.

Punch cards are simple but effective and easy to produce on your computer. You don’t have to give away much to realize a dramatic return. One free massage for every 10 paid sessions is the equivalent of a 10-percent discount on each session without actually having to discount your services. The difference is, with a discount, you might never see the person again. Keep in mind that punch-card promotions, like any form of promotion or advertising, can’t take the place of quality and service, which clients rely on. Give good client service and reward loyal clients, and you’ll keep good clients coming back.

Stephen A. Kreger, L.M.T., is president of Island Software Company,