The Mutual Benefits of Pro Programs for Brands and Pros
Finding ways to offer something special that helps your business stand out is a critical piece of the puzzle for driving success in retailing. Some make their mark with super-limited extreme deals like semi-annual sales. Others have stellar perks built into their loyalty programs and membership plans. In a creative inspiration that seems to combine those concepts, the benefits of pro programs have been boosting new revenue streams and creating free advertising for retailers. It’s been popularized in the outdoor gear industry but is starting to make waves in other areas, too.
Understanding how pro programs work is an important first step in determining whether you should begin one for your brand. If you decide to jump in, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of running your own pro program. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of these programs for both brands and professionals. Plus, we’ll show you how to prevent many of the headaches that can come with the territory when you launch yours.
How Do Pro Programs Work?
Pro programs are basically a membership that your qualifying customers can join. To qualify, they should be industry professionals and meet whatever additional criteria you set. You may decide that your pro members must be pursuing their path full-time or have a certain number of followers on social media. Whatever you determine the standards are, the point is to make it feel like they are joining an elite membership.
As a member, they’ll be able to enjoy whatever exclusive offers and benefits of the pro program you’ve opted to include. You might give them a discount across the board on all purchases or use purchase tracking to offer rebates when they reach a certain goal. How you lay it out is up to you. It just needs to feel like a great opportunity for the applicants and be supported by the functionality of your store.
Interestingly, you’ll find that many businesses offering a pro program don’t say much about what the exclusive benefits are. They may have teasers and applications on their website, but no information about what’s included for the qualifying pros who get accepted. This tactic feeds into the strategy by creating a sense of secrecy until approval.
Other businesses are very transparent and rely more on the many benefits of pro programs to draw in new members instead of the allure of the exclusivity of the membership. This is common with home improvement stores wanting to connect with local contractors. They may offer bulk discounts, additional support, credit cards that multiply the rewards, and more.
How Do Pro Programs Differ From Loyalty Programs?
Loyalty programs are usually kept open for all customers to join but some are an elevated VIP experience for online shoppers. It’s a great way to get people into your database for emails and texts. You can keep your brand in front of them, provide coupons and discounts, and grow your relationship with them. These basic memberships usually include some sort of rewards program that incentivize customers to make additional purchases over time.
Many of the perks found in loyalty programs are woven into the benefits of pro programs. However, the main difference is going to be the requirements to join and the aspects that are designed especially to benefit professionals in their work world. It’s more than just a discount club; it’s a membership that elevates their own business, too.
Should Your Brand Offer a Pro Program?
There are a few things you should think about when considering whether a pro program is something you want to offer:
- Do you have products that appeal to professionals and that they will use in their line of work?
- Are your margins comfortable enough that you can give discounts that will make pros happy?
- Is your marketing team prepared to take on the work of getting the word out about your new pro program?
- Do you have the functionality needed to run it effectively without adding a ton of extra human labor to the process?
Once you’ve answered the questions surrounding the logistics of having a program that brings industry professionals and influencers to your club, you should also weigh the benefits of each side to determine if it will be worth the effort.
The Benefits of Pro Programs: A Win-Win Scenario
There are a lot of things you can do to grow or scale your business and to increase your revenue. It’s also important to implement things that will benefit your customers and keep them coming back. Sometimes these two concepts are in conflict with each other. For example, in order to offer a better price than your competition, you may need to temporarily sacrifice your own profit margins.
With pro programs, though, you’ll find that there are many benefits for brands and customers alike. It’s a win-win!
Benefits for Businesses
Businesses and brands with great pro programs will find a lot of rewards that positively impact the bottom line. Mostly, it revolves around the fact that a strong base of customers are using your products in their own line of work. They become very comfortable with buying from you. The easier and more beneficial you can make this for them, the more likely they are to come back to you instead of seeking out a competitor.
You’ll also benefit greatly from the natural advertising that occurs when professionals use your gear and products. Depending on the industry, you may find that your members tend to be online a lot and will actually talk about your products with their audience.
In other industries, online influencers may not be common. In these areas, word-of-mouth is still incredibly relevant as pros will discuss the gear they’re using with colleagues in the field. Either way, the trade-off for the revenue is worth it because money can’t buy this kind of natural advertising.
Perks for Pro Members
With membership in pro programs, these elite customers may benefit from exclusive discounts, bonuses on qualifying purchases, and other pro deals that help them avoid paying full price. Your membership terms might give them additional discounts or deals applied at checkout when they reach spending thresholds. When providing special offers and deals with the right business tools, members will have a smooth user experience in your online store as well.
You can also offer perks like early access to new or limited products. Other benefits of pro programs include special treatment outside of purchases, like VIP customer service or early entry for in-store visits at brick-and-mortar locations. Whatever you decide to give them, it should always be presented as exclusive and special to create a sense of value.
Bonus Benefit: Impact on Other Customers
There’s an unexpected advantage that occurs as a ripple effect of running a smooth pro program — it creates brand awareness. Customers who discover professionals using your products get a boost in positive perception about your brand. They’ll feel more confident in their own purchases and be more likely to join your contact lists. As the professional community grows and affects the broader customer base, the sense of community deepens between them, your brand, and the pros.
Running an Effective Pro Program in Shopify
Historically, pro programs have been a very laborious manual process. In a very “how it used to be” way, many businesses have had employees managing their memberships by hand, much like having account managers. As retailing has evolved, though, personal reviews for approval of real paper applications and data-filled spreadsheets are circumvented. Back-end technologies and effective business tools can expand the capabilities of your online store and make pro program partnerships accessible and easy.
If you’re running ecommerce through Shopify, consider using a dedicated app designed to manage the specific data needed to run a successful pro program. While your marketing team will need to uncover who your professional audience is and how to reach them, a Shopify app like Alliance Pro streamlines everything else for a great membership experience on both sides.
Alliance Pro will keep all of your pro membership data flowing well with minimal effort. Your program applications, membership, renewals, benefits, and more can all be centralized and managed efficiently. The dedicated revenue stream will be easy to monitor, and their purchase tracking will be all in one place.
Skip the hassle of spreadsheets and faxed applications that take days to approve. Set your approval criteria, submit your membership benefits, and know that your favorite pros can log in anytime to access the pro deals you’ve created for them.
It’s Time to Take It Pro
The benefits of pro programs are undeniable for everyone involved. Offering a membership allows industry professionals to become personally connected with your brand. It also creates natural opportunities for coveted word-of-mouth advertising. It opens up new revenue streams and gives you exposure to new audiences. The professionals who participate will enjoy the perks of your program and explore gear and products that they’ll use in their chosen field of work.
When you’re ready to launch your own pro program, you’ll want to do it in the most efficient ways possible. You need your applicants, validation, renewals, discounts, and deals to be centralized and automated. That will help to prevent headaches for you and make it all feel seamless for your pro members. Put your best foot forward with Alliance Pro, our all-in-one pro membership manager app for Shopify!
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