Why is customer appreciation so important?
As we all know, acquiring new customers isn’t easy. First, there’s finding them. Then, pitching them. Then, proposing your services to them. Then, closing the deal (hopefully). Then, making sure you put your best foot forward and do a good job for them. And, then there’s nurturing the relationship in order to get continued business. Many companies fall short when it comes to nurturing their customer relationships. They’re so focused on chasing the next big thing that they forget about the gold mine that they have in their existing customer relationships.
Showing your customers some love is actually pretty easy. Customer appreciation doesn’t require a super involved strategic plan. Simply identify your top tier customers, and even some from your second and third tiers that have good potential. If they’re local, make some lunch dates and spend quality time with them learning about them personally and how their work life is going. If they’re not local, consider visiting them once or twice a year to get dialed into their business and wine and dine them a bit. Or, if visiting them in person isn’t realistic, send them lunch or a gift card to a restaurant with a nice note.
The ROI of customer appreciation
In business, everything is tracked with the ROI, or return on investment. Business owners want to know that the investment they put into their business is coming back to them. This may include increased revenue, building their list, or increasing brand awareness. The return on investment for client gifts is partly found in un-measurable things like how clients perceive your brand. It can also be directly tied to client retention and referrals. The key is to do it the right way.
There's no right or wrong way to show you appreciate your customers -- as long as your customers see and value the gesture. You can spend thousands of dollars on a campaign or just spend a few minutes writing a thank-you note.
It generates word-of-mouth
It takes an exceptional product or customer experience to inspire someone to rave to their personal network about it.
One of the lowest-cost but highest-impact ways to prompt your customers to engage in word-of-mouth marketing about your product or service is to send a handwritten thank-you note. Why?
Handwritten thank-you notes are such a rare throwback to old-school customer service, because hardly anyone does it anymore. They stand out as a delightful gesture, one that makes people feel special enough to call it out and share with others.
What is a Customer Appreciation Strategy?
A customer appreciation strategy is defined as a marketing strategy adopted by companies to reward its loyal customers. These rewards are mostly aimed at existing customers.
A study by Andy Fred Wali and Bright C Opara found that a customer appreciation strategy influences customer loyalty and advocacy, which in turn led to increased business growth.
Why do I need a customer appreciation strategy?
How people feel about you and their willingness to do business with you are closely related. In the eyes of your customers it’s all about them. If they feel valuable to you and are treated with care and attention, they are more likely to become loyal.
Customer appreciation is a measure of a company’s efforts toward its customers. It reflects a proactive approach to engaging customers that make a difference in your company. And showing how grateful you are to a customer for their business is the foundation of a customer appreciation strategy.
Not only will being grateful make your customers feel appreciated, but a study by Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California found that gratitude accounts for 40% of a person’s happiness – so not only are your customers happy, but your team will be happy too!
How to show customers you appreciate them
Contact your customers regularly
It’s common for businesses to forget their customer after a deal is made. Once the contract is signed, it’s on to the next one, right?
But customer loyalty is not about what got your customers to buy from you the first time. It’s what gets the customer to keep coming back. If you want your customers to return, you need to give them a good reason to do that.
When asked what service providers could do to prevent switching, 55% of more than 12,000 surveyed respondents said that had a company contacted them proactively to enhance their experience, it would have impacted their decision as to whether or not they switch provider.
What service providers could do to prevent customer switching
The secret lies in being not only a vendor, but a partner to your customers. And you become a partner by making your customers feel important. Not only up until a deal is made, but also after the sale. By having some personal contact with your customers regularly you will show that you really care about them and that you appreciate their choice to do business with you.
For example, you can follow up with email or a phone call, just to ask how they are doing and what is their experience with their product or service is going so far.
If you are in business-to business sales, contact your customer anytime they are featured in a website or article or achieved some success in their company. Providing good after-sales communication is the key to showing your customers you want to build long-term relationships with them and earn their loyalty.
Promote your customers
Businesses spend a lot of time and effort in promoting themselves, but you can actually build loyalty and inspire positive behavior from your customers by promoting them or their businesses along with your own.
If you have a website, include your customer profiles that show how your clients are using and benefiting from their relationship with you. If you have a newsletter, share some of your customers’ success stories.
Not only will your customers appreciate you for this, but this is exactly what future customers are looking as 36% of B2B tech buyers are looking for case studies and success stories for when it comes to evaluating new technologies.
Make them feel like a VIP
We don’t have to be selfish, but we are all self-interested, and so are your customers. Appealing to your customers’ vanity and making them feel special can pay off with customer satisfaction and increased loyalty.
Best of all, it makes them feel important. And who wouldn’t like to feel like they are VIP?
Use the power of surprise
Surprises can help activate the pleasure centers of the brain. So, sending someone a note of appreciation or a small gift at unexpected times may make your gesture of appreciation more special.
You can also surprise a loyal customer from time to time with an unexpected discount, a special offer or upgrade—just because. This can help you stand out from the competition who may send out notes of customer appreciation at predictable times such as after a major sale or at Christmas.
Honor a customer's specific holiday
Try to customize your holiday gifts or cards to relate to customers who may not celebrate Christmas. Paying attention to holidays specific to your customer's background and culture signals that you have made an effort to know your customers. Your customers may appreciate being treated in a non-generic manner, especially when it comes to the expression of sincere appreciation.
Get up close and personal with your customer appreciation efforts
Rather than sending standard customer appreciation gifts, consider customizing your gifts. You can use insights you gain from your interactions with loyal customers to personalize your gestures of appreciation.
For example, if you know that your customer has small children, sending a children's gift is a thoughtful gesture that's sure to stand out. If some of your customers are golfers, you could send them gifts for golf lovers. Books are also gifts that are easy to personalize once you know a customer's particular interests.
If your company keeps birth dates, consider sending birthday cards to loyal customers. Years ago, I dealt with an insurance company. Every year since then, I receive a musical birthday card from them. Needless to say, when I am shopping for insurance, their name comes to mind. Likewise, a restaurant we frequent keeps a record of birthday and anniversary dates. Every year, close to those dates, the restaurant sends us a personalized letter in the mail with a special discount for a dinner at their restaurant.
Stay connected to your best customers
Consider taking an interest in your best customers' business. You can create a Google Alert for a customer so that you can be notified of their news. You can also periodically visit their social media sites to stay up to speed.
You could send them a congratulations note for positive news. If you happen to be connected to a customer on LinkedIn, take the time to press "like" or to comment when news appears in your feed. If a customer has published a LinkedIn article that you like, you can show your support and appreciation by placing a comment. All of these gestures of customer appreciation signal to a client that you're genuinely appreciative of the relationship.
Send personalized follow-up emails
Consider setting up an after-sales system to follow up with customers. This not only lets you thank them again for purchasing your product or service—you can also inquire how the purchase is benefiting them. It's a no-cost way to show your appreciation for their patronage.
Give the gift of knowledge
It's safe to say that we live in an era where the thirst for information is at an all-time high. You can tap into this need to consume information by sharing your expertise to help your customers. Whether through newsletters, blogs, webinars, social media posts or articles, consider giving the gift of your knowledge with no expectation of return. This mind generosity may be one of the ultimate gifts of appreciation you can give to your community of past and present customers.
Show your appreciation for customer referrals
Referrals may well be the lifeblood of a business. Take the time to personally thank a customer for a referral and send the referring customer a handwritten note or card without delay. Better still, pick up the phone and leave a message if you can.
And here's the thing: do this even if the referral didn't result in a sale. If the referral brought you business, follow up later by letting them know how things turned out and thank them again. Consider giving them a gift, a discount coupon or another token of appreciation.
Consider reverse referrals
If your customers are other business owners, consider referring their business to others when the occasion presents itself.
You can also give them a shout out on social media. This is a particularly thoughtful way of showing your appreciation. Helping them succeed may increase the chances that they will want to reciprocate.
Pay attention to your social media advocates
You may want to take the time to do some social listening by doing any one of the following:
- looking for any social media mentions of your services or products by satisfied customers
- refining your search to include not only the @nameofyourcompany or Facebook tags, but also possible hashtags for your service or product in your local area
- responding to any reviews on sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor
Expressing your appreciation can help you show how much you value your social media advocates .
Shine the light on a customer
If your business lends itself to this, consider establishing a customer of the day, week or month program. Let's say it's a customer who not only visits your neighborhood coffee shop every morning, but brings their family to the shop on weekends and buys your coffee beans for home. Surprise this loyal customer with a personal greeting, and a thank you. Consider giving them a free coffee or other merchandise. These gestures of customer appreciation can show customers that their patronage is not taken for granted. It's noticed and appreciated.
Send "miss you" messages
When you set up a customer appreciation program, try not to focus only on long-term, loyal customers. Consider past customers who are no longer doing business with you as well. You can send them a "We Miss You" note to let them know that you appreciate their past business and want to welcome them again. If you can, include a discount coupon or other incentive.
Show your customer appreciation at every opportunity
Consider sending a thank-you note even when you don't land a deal. A brief note to show your appreciation for the opportunity to submit a proposal or have the chance to meet with a decision maker is a graceful way to stand out in a crowded market. It may help to leave a positive impression of your business for a possible subsequent opportunity.
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