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The airlines frequent flyer points program was hailed as the marketing program of the decade when it was introduced. Their program is held up by many as the ultimate “loyalty” program.  Is that really so?

Airline frequent flyer programs and other similar points or frequency programs don’t really drive zealotry action.  Why?  Consumers understand that they must perform – take certain actions, make certain purchases, jump through proverbial hoops in order to earn rewards.

On the other hand, think about the last time you received something unexpected. The waiter who comes to the table with an appetizer “compliments of the chef?” The fresh flowers upon check-in to your hotel room?  Your car freshly washed and detailed after a service appointment?

Which action engenders more loyalty – collecting points for a purchase or the unexpected touch?   Which one are you more likely to talk about or share with others?

The name of the game in Zealotry Marketing is referral.  It is clear to us that unexpected delights (or rewards) are much greater motivators of true guest retention than most so-called “loyalty” programs.  Consumers understand that earned programs offer value.  If I make multiple purchases, I gain additional value.  But, touches or actions that are unexpected create delight that is the basis of referral and Zealotry action.

Of course, every reader will not read your ad.  And, its not likely any reader will respond directly to you.  Then, consider having 500,000 followers – at no media cost.  And, they can respond directly to your communications.   Check out why one company has 50o,000 followers on Twitter.   It’s not why you think it is …

Did you know that JetBlue has over 507,000 followers on Twitter? (as of 13 May, 2009). Yes, that’s more than half a million “fans” of the brand who choose to be exposed to the airline’s 140 character-long short messages. And this is almost 20 times greater than the second most followed airline, Southwest, which has just over 27,000 followers. But why? What is it that JetBlue does that makes it such a loved brand on Twitter?

Here are some stats for those of you who like numbers. Of the last 62 messages JetBlue sent out,
42 were replies to others (68%)
33 contained external links (53%)
12 were free tips, like how to overcome jetlag (20%)
10 answered customer service  queries (16%)
9 had sales offers/promotions of some sort (14%)
6 were Re-tweets (including one from SimpliFlying!) (10%)

It’s NOT just about selling on Twitter.

The numbers tell a story. Do you realize that the overwhelming majority of messages were interacting with individuals, as they were replies. And there were less than 10 messages that were trying to drive sales. The key – JetBlue adds value to their “followers” through interaction, and doesn’t only see Twitter as a medium for additional sales.

I’ve seen airlines pop-up on Twitter recently that have only been releasing deals! Well, if they really want to do that, then have they should set the expectations right, like @delloutlet, which only sends out special special offers.
From:  Shashank Nigam,  an aviation blog

Guest Relations Marketing
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