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Showing Thanks: 4 Ways to Appreciate Customers

by Taylor Sisk, Staples® Contributing Writer

Saying thank you to your customers and clients doesn’t have to mean the same old, same old. For example, let’s face it, a standard gift card is the business equivalent of a tie for Dad on Father’s Day.

The good news is it’s not that hard to get clever with the way you show customer appreciation to the people who keep your small business in business. Here are four ways for you to consider showing customers you care. Bonus: none of them need to break your bank.

The Personal Note

A simple but classy tactic is sending a handwritten note. A message of thanks on nice stationery (branded or not) is often enough to stand on its own — and it’s clearly effective.

Jennifer Martin, a business consultant with Zest Business Consulting in San Francisco, CA, sends clients a note and a small plant — suitable for the desktop — “that they can watch grow, just like their business.” Though she likes to send the plant in October or November, the timing isn’t the important thing. “I want them to know that I'm thankful and appreciative all the time, not just at the holidays,” she says.

Even the electronic version of a personal note, if executed with care, can be effective. Craft such emails individually, right down to the salutation. Nothing says “form letter” like a bcc.

The Unexpected Gift

Lou Altman, CEO of Portsmouth, NH–based satellite communications company GlobaFone, says his staff has tried out a few clever approaches to showing their customers they care. But his personal favorite was sending a copy of the Dr. Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham as a customer appreciation gift.

“It was just a fun, off-the-wall thing to do,” he recalls. “No rhyme or reason to that book, just something memorable — it was just an idea I had one day. Sounds silly, but we received such positive accolades and several handwritten notes, including one from the CEO of a major brand-name Fortune 100, thanking us.” The executive said he appreciated it so much because it had been ages since he’d taken the time to sit down and read with his kids.

Brenda Do, founder of Live Gracefully, a provider of health supplements and solutions in Sparks, NV, says her company divides customers into five sales-revenue bands. Each time a customer reaches a higher band she sends a note card with a gift. It might be a meditation CD or a book that someone on staff really likes, but it’s not from Live Gracefully’s product line. Do says sending something other than one of the company’s own products underscores that the gesture isn’t meant as a sales promotion and is an extension of Live Gracefully’s bottom-line objective.

“Our mission statement is also our company name: Live Gracefully,” she explains. “We believe the happier you are, the better, or more gracefully, you live. We like to help add more happiness to your day by sending you something that supports your journey. By doing so, we add more value to your life above what our supplements provide.”

How about a twist on the traditional customer appreciation gift idea? “The past few years, we've been sending gift baskets that someone in our office assembles,” Altman says. His DIY version includes local products that lend a personal touch. “Clients love them — chocolates, snacks, gourmet condiments, fudge, cookies, brownies,” he adds. “What's not to love?” Store-bought gift baskets also work.

The Shout-Out

Sandy Bodeau is the founder of Sira & Mara, a line of fashionable, affordable jewelry and other accessories sold online. Her company expresses thanks via its Fan of the Month contest. “We ask customers to show us how they’re wearing our pieces, and then we pick the best picture at the end of the month,” she explains. “That person is then featured on our social media channels, and the winner gets to pick an item from our site that we ship at no charge. We launched this contest only a few months ago, and our customers love it.”

The contest has allowed Sira & Mara to build “a community of women who like to play with outfits and like to share them with their virtual girlfriends for inspiration and ideas,” Bodeau says. “I make a big effort to find those pictures on Instagram and leave a comment on the customers’ pictures so they know we care and pay attention to the pictures they are sharing.”

The Survey

Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center, based in Chapel Hill, NC, follows up every customer visit with a quick email survey or a phone call. Co-owner Marc Pons says the company began doing this eight or nine years ago with an eye toward achieving two goals: “We wanted to show people we care. But also, if we were doing something wrong, we wanted to be able to deal with it. We didn’t want it being lost in the wind.”

Pons feels this practice makes Chapel Hill Tire a better company because all comments are documented and made available to the staff. The positive feedback is used to “celebrate the good things we do. That drives the right kind of behavior,” which in turn drives customers back to the shop.

Asking for that feedback indicates that not only are you grateful for your customers’ business, you also value their input.

Regardless of how you do it, though, express your gratitude with a dash of pizzazz. Do it in the spirit you intend it. They’re some fine folks, your loyal patrons.

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