It’s only natural to ask, ‘what if there was a Small Business Rewards Leader?’ Canadians, to be sure, are among the world’s most “literate” players of the loyalty-marketing game, holding 120 million memberships in customer-loyalty programs, and averaging eight programs per household, according to the 2013 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census.

But the COLLOQUY Census counts Canadian loyalty players in their role as consumers. The Canadian small business owner, it’s fair to say, could benefit from a little more … literacy. That would be a worthwhile investment since small businesses account for 98 percent of all Canadian companies and 30 percent of GDP. They create a little more than 100,000 jobs each year.

Program benefits that are most familiar to small business owners include business-class upgrades from preferred airlines, concierge services from credit card issuers , and even personal shopper services from favourite retailers.

Owners generally are aware that participating in loyalty programs earns them points, miles and cash back that help defray the cost of travel and everyday business expenses.

Less well known are some of the so-called soft benefits available from business-to-business vendors who operate loyalty programs. Among these are billing consolidation and other tools, including expense tracking and online account management, that offer convenience to the harried small-business owner.

Other soft benefits can include lead generation assistance, like co-op advertising opportunities, graphic design services or even exclusive events such as online seminars and VIP conference invitations. 

Atlantic Canada’s Rodd Hotels and Resorts, for example, extends to Everystay Rewards members who book at least 25 room nights a VIP invitation to its Rodd Golf Tournament and Holiday Party.

No less than 800,000 collectors in the AIR MILES Reward Program are small business owners, providing ample incentive for the 2013 launch of AIR MILES for Business. This still-new facet of the program helps small business owners reward themselves, recognize staff and top customers, and make the most of their businesses.

AIR MILES for Business features exclusive short-stay vacations for time-strapped entrepreneurs, access to special events, such as PROFIT Magazine’s W100 Idea Exchange and other Canadian Marketing Association events, and redemption options for business services, such as translation and logo design. Unlimited supplementary cards for employees and bonus offers at relevant sponsors make it easier for members to earn quickly.

Bell Canada offers exclusive discounts in its Bell Business Advantage program, helping small businesses save up to $5,000 a year on everyday business essentials. The program also gives businesses access to discounts on office supplies, gas, and courier services, and access to special events they can use to host or thank clients, employees and suppliers. Additionally, it provides savings on advertising opportunities and email marketing and access to the Bell-sponsored Toronto International Film Festival.

With a modest boost in rewards literacy, small business owners could grow very fond of receiving the royal treatment.