Do you remember to say thank you to your clients? In today’s guest blog post, Chris Wallace of Amsterdam Printing talks about the different ways you can say thank you.
Down the street from where I live there’s a butcher named Frank. Everyone in the neighborhood knows him and loves him — he literally has hundreds of customers who skip the meat section at the grocery store and purchase their pork loins, sausage, and steaks direct from Frank’s Meats. He’s one of those guys who always seems to be in a good mood and knows everyone and their children by name.
When Frank announced recently that he’d be retiring after 50 years in business, it saddened more than a few families who had shopped with him for generations. On my last visit, I asked him if there had been hard times over the years, considering the difficulty small family businesses have competing with the big chains.
“Nope,” said Frank. “I always had a winning business plan. Greet every customer with a smile on their way in the door, and tell them ‘thank you’ on the way out, or their purchase is free.”
Even though Frank put an economic incentive on himself and his employees to show gratitude to customers, the ‘thank yous’ were genuine (and the product great enough) to maintain a loyal base.
All too often in today’s business world, we turn on the charm in the initial stages of courting a client or customer, eager to secure their business. Once they’re ‘hooked,’ however, the doting attention shifts to new potential clients.
That’s a dangerous tendency. The customers you already have are your most valuable ones! Don’t let them slip away because they feel unappreciated. Remember a few simple tips for saying ‘thank you’ and you’ll find your business steadily growing, with both existing customers and their referrals.
The Classic ‘Thank You’ Note
Apart from wedding gifts and the holidays, handwritten thank you notes are almost a relic of a bygone era. Why take ink to paper when you can accomplish the same thing with a quick email? Because the effect is simply not the same. An email thank you can be sufficient, but to really stand out, write it down. Keep stationary and stamps at your desk and the whole process won’t take longer than a trip to the water cooler.
Show Them a Good Time
Few things inspire stronger client loyalty than impressing them with a party or dinner. This varies by company. If you have 100 clients who each spend a modest amount each year, throw a dinner bash with an open bar. Invite clients to bring their spouses and families. Establishing friend relationships cements working partnerships that last.
If your company has a few clients whose business contributes a large portion of your firm’s income, take that a step farther. Rent a mountain or beach house for a weekend (or a block of hotel rooms), and start an annual tradition of fostering those business friendships in a casual, neutral atmosphere. Don’t spend more than you can afford, but remember that any sort of ‘thank you’ trip or event is an investment in building customer loyalty.
Dole Out the Online Shout Outs
There’s hardly a business sector out there that doesn’t utilize Facebook these days. Does a client or business partner of yours have something new to tout? Give them a plug on your page. This can even work for companies you haven’t signed with yet. If they impress you in your initial meeting, mention it online and tag them. It’s free exposure and it lets the other group know that you publicly support them.
The same principle goes on your company webpage. Set up a ‘Links’ page and use it to direct your customers to your business partner’s websites. (Make sure you set it up to open their sites in a new page, so your site remains open in the browser).
On my key ring, I’ve got a handful of little cards for different stores around town. At the auto supply store, I get a $20 credit for every five purchases I make over $20. For every $1,000 I spend at the grocery store, I get a free tank of gas at the station in their parking lot.
Customer discount programs add up, and they’re the easiest way to say ‘thank you for choosing us.’ This can be as simple as ‘buy five sandwiches get one free.’ It can also be a willingness to ‘bend the rules’ for customers who stick with you. A marketing company may have a client with a new idea that doesn’t quite fit the existing pricing scheme. Make it work, because if you don’t, they’ll look elsewhere.
So much of building successful business relationships boils down to interpersonal connections. Even if your work is conducted by email, you can still drop a handwritten note in the mail. Connect with people. Smile when they walk in the front door, and never forget to say thank you on their way out.
What other ways do you say thank you to clients and customers?
Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and customized calendars, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses.