4 cost-effective ways to show customer appreciation

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Downey

Okay, first the numbers to help you get a customer appreciation expenditure past bottom-line conscious CFO’s. Flowtown’s research shows it is six to seven times more costly to acquire a customer than to retain existing business, and it estimates you could boost revenue from 5 percent to 95 percent by adopting a formal customer appreciation program. That’s reason enough to consider how to hold on to those customers you most appreciate – i.e., all of them.

We all want an inexpensive way to thank lower-revenue customers, as well as the fewer high-end spenders who help keep us in business. Either gift should really mean, “Thank you” and “You’re special”, so hold back from sending company promotional products like caps and coozies. Self-promotional gifts say, “Here, extend my marketing brand by carrying these around” rather than “I appreciate your business.” They are great to send a “remember us” message at a trade show, but not a great “thank you” choice. Here are some better suggestions for consideration:

The gift of choice
Consider letting your sales or service staff choose from a few options that would be most meaningful to the individual receiving the gift. For example, offer (1) inexpensive desk frames for adventuresome clients to help them bring that white water rafting trip or hot air balloon experience into the office; (2) quality pens with the client’s name on them for the high-end professional; (3) a book to read with children, such as a Dr. Seuss option, for parents of young children; or (4) a miniature evergreen plant for desk (which could be transplanted at home) for someone who likes gardening. Offering a choice of gift inspires staff to learn more about the person behind the CRM contact, which ultimately benefits the business relationship.

The personal touch
A handwritten expression of gratitude from the CEO for someone’s business, stamped and delivered by snail mail, is still in vogue. Include a few facts about their business to offset the impersonality of a form letter – some reference to their goals, which should be recorded by the sales staff in your customer records system. For example, “I’m looking forward to learning more about your tire manufacturing business this year, and our service department is proud to partner with you to help your reach your goal of 5 percent less downtime.”

Group outings
One of our company’s best received customer appreciation efforts was hosting a quarterly business appreciation event. We gave away baseball tickets or arranged for a restaurant to serve free light hors d’oeuvres if we brought xx number of clients for the cash bar. The top 20 clients were invited to a private summer party at the president’s home or given a seat on a chartered bus headed for Chicago to enjoy a complimentary Blue Man production. Partnering with a non-competing company that also wants to reach your customers (who invites others you’d like to reach) is an especially affordable option to stretch entertainment dollars.

The Shout-Out
Introducing a “customer of the week” on your website is one way to share a spotlight with a client. Inviting customers to submit press releases, and setting up an area for that on your website (limited to a paragraph per company) is another way to encourage and reward business.

What’s worked for your business? We’d like to share your client appreciation ideas here!

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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