What are the three most important skills a loyalty program marketer needs? (11 Loyalty Leaders share)

The lessons you learn from these Loyalty Leaders might lead to improving your loyalty career. Read carefully.

Since 2018, I have completed 26 interviews for my series on Loyalty Leaders.

I have had the privilege of learning from these leaders in loyalty and sharing their ideas and wisdom to inspire the wider customer loyalty and loyalty program community to take action to lift their customer loyalty strategies and loyalty programs out of the sea of sameness.

One of the questions I ask in the Loyalty Leader interview is –

What are the three most important skills a loyalty program marketer needs?

I have summarised the skills as provided by 11 Loyalty Leaders into a list which goes beyond three (more like 7 with three not-so-secret, secret extra’s)

The Loyalty Leaders who provided these insights with links to their Loyalty Leader interviews, were (in first name alphabetical order):

Andre Korte; David Palfreeman; Emma Porter; Felicity McIntosh; Glenn Baker; Jaimi Farrey; Kirsten Hasler; Leela Sennitt; Miranda Bliss, Rob Harker; Rosemary Martin; Sam Hopgood

Who can benefit from the curated list?

  • Leading a loyalty team:
    If you are a leading a loyalty team and you want to lift your team’s capabilities and confidence, consider some of the recommendations the Loyalty Leaders are providing.
  • Recruiting a loyalty team member:
    If you are looking to recruit loyalty team members to join your loyalty team, then here is a checklist to consider of what to look for (ask for proof).
  • Looking for a loyalty role:
    If you are looking for a new role or a career as a loyalty professional, then consider these skills (with proof) as you pursue a rewarding career in customer loyalty and loyalty programs.  

The curation of the list of skills are NOT in order of importance.

ALL are important.

However, it is clear where most of the Loyalty Leaders highlighted what they consider as important skills.

  1. CUSTOMER: A relentless pursuit to understand your customer
  2. DATA: A data focus – deal with data, analysis of data, curiosity for insights
  3. METRICS & MONEY: Know your numbers. Metrics that Matter must be top of mind
  4. MINDSET: A mindset of growth, curiosity to challenge what is and ask what else
  5. COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION: Internal team, partners and leadership communication (articulate, persuasive and listen to understand)
  6. TECHNOLOGY: Understand what is technically possible
  7. ATTITUDE to ACT: Actions speak louder than words (cliché but true)

There are three other not-so-secret, secret skills to have (see end of article)

The detailed list is here:

1. CUSTOMER: A relentless pursuit to understand your customer

  • A real strong passion for the customer. Someone who is always looking to understand our customers, what drives our customers, their behaviours, and then continuously tries to improve the customer experience solving customers problems. If you don’t have a passion for the customer, I think you would be struggling in the loyalty marketing space. ANDRE KORTE
  • Customer empathy: I think the ability to think from a customer's point of view. DAVID PALFREEMAN
  • Be oddly obsessed to understand everything about your members. It's good to have a healthy obsession, but I think loyalty needs an oddly obsessive desire to understand every single part of what makes your membership tick. EMMA PORTER
  • Understand customer behaviour. What motivates people. Understand psychological levers not to manipulate them but to frame content and offers to them in way it can impact on what they do next. JAIMI FARREY
  • A genuine interest in gaining a deeper understanding of your customer. LEELA SENNITT
  • Be customer driven to truly understand what a member wants from a program, how they want to interact with it and how they can create a customer value exchange. MIRANDA BLISS
  • I think a loyalty marketer should always walk in your members shoes. Never assume you know what your member wants. Always try and think 2 or 3 steps ahead. ROB HARKER
  • Customer centricity. You need to always think first about what is best for the customer and then overlay the commerciality. Build for the customer and the money will come! ROSEMARY MARTIN

2. DATA: Data focus – deal with data, analysis of data, curiosity for insights

  • The ability to deal with data, analyse data. Analyse the performance of a loyalty program, and understand what's going on, derive insights to then work out what do we need to do differently. ANDRE KORTE
  • Data skills and being insight driven. FELICITY MCINTOSH
  • Data and all its parts - understanding data, how to work with data, to question data, to interpret data. And this is what distinguishes loyalty and rewards programs compared to other forms of marketing or media spend and that’s what is great about it, it’s the measurability that’s brilliant. GLENN BAKER
  • Be data centric. If you are not close to your data then how can you make changes to improve. JAIMI FARREY
  • Diligence with data is important. Reviewing and analysing the data with the understanding about what you're reviewing, the cohorts you're segmenting and how you're approaching the communication on a one-on-one basis. SAM HOPGOOD

3. METRICS & MONEY: Know your numbers. Metrics that Matter must be top of mind

  • Commercial acumen. A loyalty program will not be successful just by making customers happy. It needs to work commercially. So as a loyalty professional, it’s important to be commercial.  ANDRE KORTE
  • Knowing the commercials of a program and how a program impacts the business and how it goes up to the overarching organizational strategy. FELICITY MCINTOSH
  • Commercial acumen and a head for numbers. A real understanding of the how it all adds up and why it's an effective use of funds and what are the right levers to pull and when.  Commercial isn't only about finance, it’s also about how the program needs to deliver the right things for the business so we can deliver the right things to members. If you can drive the right behaviours, then you will have more money to invest in member engagement type activities. It gives you permission to do a lot more for customers if you can measure and be commercial. GLENN BAKER
  • Business acumen. You need to love your numbers. A loyalty program is one of the most important business outcome drivers of marketing. KIRSTEN HASLER
  • Be commercially focused to ensure you can develop and maintain the program to drive value for the business. MIRANDA BLISS
  • Commercial skills. It’s important to know your numbers and the financial impact of the loyalty program on the business. LEELA SENNITT
  • Commerciality. You are going to need financial and data literacy. The ability to assess the current and potential performance to inform your program decisions. ROSEMARY MARTIN

4. MINDSET of GROWTH: A mindset of growth, curiosity to challenge what is and ask what else

  • That mindset of challenging the status quo. Have the motivation to always try to make the program better for the customers. ANDRE KORTE
  • Be innovative. You've got to be able to turn challenges and opportunities into actionable outcomes for the member and for the business. FELICITY MCINTOSH
  • Creativity is about problem solving and addressing insights. KIRSTEN HASLER
  • A growth mindset. You need to be willing to test and learn from the inevitable failures and have an appetite to constantly improve your program, the customer experience, and your ROI. ROSEMARY MARTIN

5. COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION: Internal team, partners, and leadership communication (articulate, persuasive and listen to understand)

  • People and communication skills for all-of-business stakeholder management. Being a loyalty program marketer, means you engage with many different areas of the organisation - from the store teams to the customer service team to finance to product and merchandise, to the web team, people and culture and training and legal. A program can be a win-win for everyone, and you need to keep on communicating the program’s success and challenges through-out the business. FELICITY MCINTOSH
  • Communication skills – listening, speaking or writing. It's critical to be able to effectively communicate to all parts of the business, with partners and of course, with members. GLENN BAKER
  • Collaboration. Loyalty needs to run through the business. It can't just sit with one person or one team. So, you have to be able to partner effectively. And you should also be able to understand what's in it for the people that you're partnering with. It can't just be a one-way relationship. It must be push-pull. LEELA SENNITT
  • Be collaborative in order to work cross-functionally to bring the program benefits to life and allow it to continue to develop. The program can't work in isolation to the rest of the business and its promotional plan. MIRANDA BLISS
  • The four KPI’s. This acronym is one I live by. Keep People Informed. Keep People Inspired. Keep People Interested. Keep People Intrigued. ROB HARKER

6. TECHNOLOGY: Understand what is technically possible

  • Strong ability to understand what is technically possible.  Understand how the system will work, how the data will flow through the various programs and know how to work with technology partners to get the best out of them. DAVID PALFREEMAN

7. ATTITUDE to ACT: Actions speak louder than words (cliché but true)

  • Attitude to act: Loyalty program marketers who have the get up and go to get things done - make the loyalty program better and customers’ lives better. DAVID PALFREEMAN
  • Patience. I think a loyalty program is a long-term play. We all want to make all the improvements as quickly as we can. But because it impacts so many parts of the business, whether it's creative or legal or brand or digital or your platforms and solution, it takes time. EMMA PORTER
  • Take on feedback. Always ask. Always listen. JAIMI FARREY

Three other not-so-secret, secret skills to have

  1. JUGGLER, PLATE SPINNER: (aka flexibility, organisational skills)
  • Excellent juggling skills. Especially for loyalty programs in the retail space. It's such a fast-paced environment that you need ten plates spinning at the same time. You can't let them fall. The wonderful thing about a loyalty program is that you think you might have solved one part of the puzzle and you might step away to fix another piece and you'll see that other piece starting to shift behind you just as you don't give it your full attention. EMMA PORTER
  • Spinner of plates. A loyalty marketer needs to find a rhythm and learn how to spin 50 plates at once, because that's what loyalty is about. Engaging the internal team in the program, thinking about strategy, enhancing the proposition and so much more. ROB HARKER
  • Be agile. Whether it's the bugs that appear day to day or wanting to pivot and capitalize on communications and engagements with members, it's important you can react and move quickly. SAM HOPGOOD

2. LIVE THE PROGRAM: Be a member

  • Live and breathe the program yourself and the lifestyle that the program comes with. I know with surfing it’s a bit easier especially if you love it like I do.  However, if you are let’s say creating a pet loyalty program, I think it’s important to understand what pet owners go through in their day to day, what they must deal with and how can your program elevate them.  SAM HOPGOOD


  • Understanding complex ideas and numbers and being able to translate for the business. KIRSTEN HASLER

I hope the wisdom and experience of these Loyalty Leaders will inspire you to:

  1. Lead a team of loyalty champions
  2. Recruit the best loyalty team
  3. Be the best loyalty professional you can be!

Have a happy loyalty day!