If you're an owner of a small- or medium-sized business who spends regularly on pens, paper and other office products, loyalty programs offered by some suppliers could save you some cash.
Retailers such as Staples, Grand and Toy, Fedex and Best Buy, as well as big-box department stores such as Costco, offer programs tailored to business customers. While some are not technically reward programs, they do offer discounted pricing or perks, such as free delivery.
"Small firms do want to take advantage of any deal, and if they can get a reward, extra product or save money, I think many want to take advantage of that," says Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
But Mr. Kelly warns that loyalty and rewards programs are "not there to thank you, but to encourage you to purchase more."
"With any rewards or loyalty program, the one thing you need to look out for is whether you are still getting the best deal," advises Patrick Sojka of Rewards Canada who provides consumer advice on rewards programs. "You want to make sure you are getting the cheapest price and don't want to be swayed by a loyalty program unless you are saving on your bottom line."
In most cases, pricing is pretty competitive, he says.
Mr. Sojka says while a Costco business membership is $55 a year for business owners and managers, "if you spend $2,500 a year or more, you might want to jump on a Costco Executive membership." Executive business members receive an annual 2-per-cent reward up to $750 on most purchases, as well as savings on services such as business long-distance, Internet and toll-free services, life and health plans, car rentals, custom logo merchandise and emergency roadside assistance.
Grand and Toy has four ways that small- to medium-sized businesses can benefit, says Jeff Hayward, general manager of marketing. Anyone who opens a Grand and Toy account is offered savings on a rotating variety of products, and this is often the best option for businesses with only a few employees or those that don't spend a lot each year on supplies, according to Mr. Hayward.
For businesses that spend $5,000 or more annually, Grand and Toy offers the Spark program, which offers discounts and promotional pricing on a core list of 400 to 500 products and has dedicated account representatives, as well as resources to help businesses become more productive, efficient and environmentally responsible.
A new initiative, says Mr. Hayward, is Grand and Toy's partnership with Bell Business Advantage program, where program members receive discounts of 10 per cent to 60 per cent on Grand and Toy products.
Grand and Toy also holds two major appreciation events for its business customers annually, such as the one held in May in Toronto with free massages and information sessions.
Online ordering is becoming a growing trend among small and medium businesses, and Dwayne McMulkin, marketing manager for Staples.ca, says about 40,000 business owners in Canada have joined Staples's Preferred program for online customers.
Members access the program through a gated website, where they are offered prices lower than in the store or the regular site, as well as frequent promotions. One of the big perks is free next-day delivery, even for small purchases, says Mr. McMulkin, as a growing trend for small and medium businesses is to order supplies online rather than going to a store to pick them up.
"We try to be pro-active as possible and have dedicated account managers so if business owners have any questions or issues, they can talk to their account manager," says Mr. McMulkin. "The account managers will check in on a monthly basis to see if they have any issues or questions about a new product."
To be eligible for the Preferred program, businesses must spend about $3,000 a year, which isn't difficult if they consider what they spend annually on pens, paper, postage, shipping, cleaning supplies, furniture and technology, says Mr. McMulkin. "Most don't have a tough time meeting the spend requirement. If they don't spend on that basis, they may benefit instead from the coupons or promotions offered on the regular website."
Preferred customers can negotiate better prices on items they buy in large quantities, such as paper towels or thumbtacks. They can also receive regular reports to show what items they are spending on and who is placing the order.
Mr. Kelly says some companies build the cost of the reward into the price of the product or service and business owners might be able to negotiate a better price with another supplier that doesn't have a loyalty program or find better deals through business associations such as the CFIB.
"But if you are paying the same whether you are taking the reward or not, it's foolish not to take advantage," says Mr. Kelly.
Search your suppliers' websites or talk to your customer service representative to see what loyalty programs are offered that may benefit your business.