Village Cinemas gets smart about loyalty

Who goes to the cinema these days? The answer: plenty of people.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground might have three million people go through the turnstiles each year. But Village Cinemas gets 12 million bums on seats a year.

Presenting to the dm Forum on 21 February, Mohit Bhargava (head of sales and marketing at Village) explained that last year Australian cinemas sold 84 million movie tickets!

“Going to the cinema is the highest form of paid participation entertainment in the country,” said Mo.

With so many customers and so many cinemas, how do you keep a customer loyal to your franchise?

Mohit painted the picture of how poorly Village Cinemas was managing its loyalty program. He used one particularly rusted-on customer, let’s call him Bob, to demonstrate how bad things were.

Bob and his 8-year-old son attended their local Village cinema for the screening of Captain America. As usual, both of them were in full costume. With much anticipation and preparation for their night at the movies, Bob’s reward ticket was rejected because it had expired.


Can you imagine how that made Bob feel? He called the contact centre. He tried to get his problem resolved through Facebook. To no avail – he had to buy a ticket.

“This guy had been in our program for 15 years,” said Mo. “He was worth $428 per annum and we didn’t help him. He was the movie star of our business, but he certainly wasn’t treated like one.”

With poor loyalty experiences like Bob’s, drastic action was required. “We realised we needed to widen the scope of loyalty,” said Mo. “Customer loyalty was siloed and didn’t consider the customer experience.”

Realising the damage being done, Village has established a “single customer view now, regardless of where Bob is interacting with us.”

“We’ve stopped obsessing about ‘bringing Bob back one more time’ and started focusing on his loyalty, his rewards and his in-cinema experience. Because the customer experience is now the currency.”

The good news is Bob did come back. He remains loyal to Village Cinemas and importantly, remains passionate about dressing up for a blockbuster.

Customer loyalty…it doesn’t stop at rewards.


Thanks to Mohit Bhargava from Village Cinemas for presenting to the dm Forum in Melbourne.

Practical advice for charities: how to write to your biggest supporters

When you write to your most generous givers, asking for a donation, you need to be very clear about what you want. They already know your cause, but you must reinforce why you need their backing again.

Here’s what you must include in a letter to major givers:

·       the need – if it’s not strong, why should your donor send a gift?

·       how much you’d like the donor to give

·       exactly what the gift will achieve

·       how to respond

·       when to respond.

Your letter to your best donors will fail if these five points are not crystal clear.

Use design elements

Around 80% of your donors will scan your letter before reading it. So you must make it easy for the reader to scan and quickly digest major points.

By using bullet points or bolded text, you can highlight the most important facts in your letter.

But take care – don’t over-use this technique. Select only the most important sentences, with the most vital action.

Understand where a scanner’s eyeballs go

There are key areas of a letter that attract the eyes of a scanner. Almost immediately, a scanner will be drawn to:

·       any hand-written text

·       the P.S. at the end of the letter

·       bolded copy.

If you’re not using these design techniques, you’re missing an opportunity to grab your reader’s attention.

Make the need compelling

Why should your donor send a gift if there is not a compelling, urgent need?  You know how many children will be clothed/fed/hydrated/educated with a $125 gift – but your supporter usually does not.  

Make it clear. Make it achievable. Make it urgent. If you’re vague or wishy-washy, you will not get a response.

Tell your donors your story with authenticity and compassion. Don’t blind them with statistics – engage them with the emotion and human element of your need.

Remember to be donor-centric

It’s all about the donor – not you. Put your donor at the heart of the solution. It is achievable with your support.

It’s the life-changing outcomes that major donor support delivers that have the power. The infrastructure behind the change is not what motivates donors – it’s the change they can effect that makes them want to give.

Your major donors are your lifeblood – don’t forget to let them know how wonderful they are and how grateful you are for their support.