One of the most important lessons I learnt in my early business life was that showing your customers that you appreciate them – not once but on an ongoing basis – is one of the most powerful ways to build long term relationships and loyalty.
Twenty years ago, we would show our appreciation via a thank you note after a meeting, a “thank you” gift at Christmas, birthday greetings, taking a client to lunch or inviting them as your guest to a special function, etc. These are all still valid techniques and are used by many companies even today.
Fundamentally, they are no different to what you would do with a family member or friend, just applied to a business relationship instead.
Today, a lot of commerce is conducted online and so many relationships are of a digital nature and hence, quite impersonal.
In many cases, the relationship is totally system driven and so must be very structured in order to be efficient and reliable. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a “personal” touch to what you do.
In fact, it should be a priority … and it is not hard to do. For example:
- Personally respond to every comment on your blog
- Add a human face to your business via webinars, Skype one-on-one or group video, or Google+ Hangouts
- Be active on social media
- Create dialogues via your call center – i.e. initiate contact rather than wait for your customer to contact you because they have a problem
Preparing your “show of appreciation”
There are 4 areas which you need to consider in your deliberations:
Make Customers A Priority: List segmentation is crucial. Too many marketers treat every name they accumulate the same. You have to avoid this, especially if your list was built using a free offer (e.g. special report, sign up for a free webinar, etc). Buyers / customers are the people who matter as they have spent money with you!
Promote Your Brand: Yes, you can use external premiums (e.g. a gift voucher from a department store) to express your appreciation and often that is the best way to go. However, wherever possible, try to tie your thank you to one of YOUR own primary or secondary products / services – e.g. a special offer at a reduced price, an upgrade, etc – as people are on your list because of what you do / have provided and hence have a known interest in that area.
Focus On Exclusivity: Always keep in mind that most people appreciate being part of a small club as opposed to being just another number. Exclusivity works better than anything. A sales promotion which goes to everyone – prospects, suspects and customers – is not exclusive unless you give your customers something extra to all others.
Value-Adds: Look at all ways to value add your relationship. For example, establish a loyalty program where your customers accumulate points on their purchases, points which can be redeemed to get extra products and services from you and others.
How you apply these will depend on your business…
STARBUCKS: Whilst there are several Starbucks outlets close to me, I am a regular at the Greenbelt 3 outlet. The reason:
- As soon as I enter, I am greeted with “Hello George” by almost every staff member
- By the time I get to the counter, they are already preparing my usual drink
- If there is a lineup and people are still trying to make up their minds as to what to order, they will wave me to the front of the queue so that I don’t have to stand around waiting
- When they walk around with free samples (e.g. banana cake), they often come to me first with a sample which is slightly larger and say “that one is for you”
- When sitting alone, the staff will often sit down and chat to me on their breaks
These are all little things, they don’t cost money … and yet each is very much appreciated. I get great service in many establishments close to where I live, but nobody does it better than the staff at Starbucks.
WEALTHTRADERS.com: We regard ourselves as a service provider rather than a marketer / sales organization. As a result, we are a low key operation and communicate with our broader “past” clients on a periodic basis only. When we do, we always endeavor to show our appreciation via:
- Customer only / exclusive special promotions
- General promotions – via Affiliates: Existing customers are often invited to participate at a “further” discounted rate (typically the general discount less affiliate commission).
- This Article Library: The “how to” nature of our articles is deliberate – a way to provide buyers with extra guidance at no cost. Search engine visitors typically view one (at most two) articles within this library whereas the people we have a relationship with typically view four or more articles per session.
Every business is different and so the above may be less – or more – than what you may need to do in your business.
The key is that you do something special for all your customers and / or for select individual customers … and do it on a regular basis.
Take a few moments out now and list down what you are doing in this area at the moment … and areas you feel you can improve.
It’s an exercise you should perform on a regular basis as the more often you say “thank you”, the more your clients will appreciate you.