Last week a friend and I had lunch at TGI Friday’s, one of my favorite restaurants. The waitress had only one thing on her mind: getting me to sign up for the TGIF Gold Card.

Start your customer off with five points. The customer feels that he is half-way there already—and certainly doesn’t want to lose those five free points.

First she asked me, “Do you have a Gold Card?” When I said I didn’t, she spent three minutes explaining all the “frequent eater” benefits of having a TGIF Gold Card. I told her that I wasn’t interested, but wanted to order something to drink.

When the waitress returned with the drink order, she reminded me that the TGIF Gold Card was free, and that she would even help me fill out the simple application. I wasn’t interested, and insisted that she take our order for food.

As we waited for our food, the waitress checked the status of our drinks and reminded me that I would get 500 points just for signing up for the TGIF Gold Card. Then I would get ten points for each dollar spent at TGIF’s.

I asked, “And what do I get for the points?”

She answered, “You can redeem the points for free appetizers, desserts…and even a cruise.”

A cruise? Now I was paying attention. “How many points do I have to accumulate for a cruise? One million? Two million?” She didn’t know, but reminded me that she could help me fill out the application while waiting for our food order. I declined.

Finally, the food arrived. The waitress continued:

“You know that you get one free appetizer just for signing up for the TGIF Gold Card, right? It’s free. I know you’d love a free appetizer.”

I caved in.

“Yes, a free appetizer would be nice to go along with our meal today. Could you bring me the menu so that I could choose an appetizer?”

…And now, the hook:

The waitress smiled and replied, “Oh, you don’t get the free appetizer now. You get your free appetizer the next time you visit any TGI Friday’s restaurant.”

The TGIF Strategy: Repeat Business

Now I understood why the waitress was so persistent. I’m sure that a supervisor had lectured the staff that no one leaves TGI Friday’s without a Gold Card. It was the new corporate policy. Everyone had to get one.

Why? Repeat business. Fear of loss motivates people. It’s powerful. It works. “Fear of Loss” is always greater than the “Desire for Gain.”

I now have a TGI Friday’s Gold Card. I will lose my free appetizer if I don’t go back to a TGI Friday’s and eat again. They have guaranteed my repeat visit.

How much does a cheap plastic membership card cost? A penny, maybe two. And how much does a free appetizer cost? Less than a dollar.

TGI Friday’s has now guaranteed that I will come back, probably bringing at least one person with me (maybe more), spending $40 to $100 on my next visit—all for the total cost of one measly dollar.

Pretty neat, eh? Wait: it gets better.

When they got my TGI Friday’s Gold Card application, they got my email address too. I’m sure I’ll be receiving email offers soon: “Buy one order of buffalo wings and get the second order for half price.”

How can you use the same TGI Friday’s Gold Card technique in your business?

Idea #1: Offer a Frequent Customer Program

Every time the customer orders, you give the customer one point. After 10 points, the customer gets something free. Maybe give the customer a free month’s supply or a complimentary product or service.

But to instill the “Fear of Loss” factor, start your customer off with five points.

The customer feels that he is half-way there already—and certainly doesn’t want to lose those five free points.

Idea #2: Offer a Frequent Meeting Program

Every time your distributor attends an opportunity meeting or training meeting, you give your distributor one point. After 10 points, the distributor can attend the special all-day Saturday rally at no charge.

And yes, you’ll instill the “Fear of Loss” factor by starting the distributor with five points. What a great way to get your distributors to attend meetings regularly! Or maybe you could give the distributor an extra point for every guest he brings to the opportunity meeting. Would that help your business and the distributor’s business?

Can you see your distributor saying this to his friend?

“Awwww, you just have to come. Do it as a favor for me. I need the extra point to get my free ticket to Saturday’s rally.”

Now the distributor has one more reason to invite his friend.

Idea #3: Be Creative in Your Reward Program

Here are examples of things you can offer as rewards:

  • Priority position to be first in line to get the new products when announced.
  • A pre-paid phone card to use for getting guests on conference calls.
  • A free subscription to a product newsletter.
  • A seat with the company president at the end-of-the-month banquet.
  • A Big Al book.
  • Your frequent reward program will lock in your distributors and customers. It’s a great way to motivate people to do things. The “Fear of Loss” factor might be that extra motivation to get the job done.

    Tom Schreiter writes the Fortune Now newsletter for network marketing leaders.
    You can read some back issues at www.fortunenow.com