ImageI often say, if you have a finite budget for marketing, you should spend less on advertising and invest it in your customers in some form of customer appreciation. You will get a better return for your money when you invest in your existing customers.


No disrespect to the media, they have a role to play. But it costs a lot more to earn a new customer than to keep an existing one. Tom Peters used to talk about locking in a customer, so that you and your customer are joined at the hip.

Regular, happy, repeat customers are your bread and butter. The lifetime value of your regulars can be estimated, and your cash flow projected. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship, where you each depend on the other. They come back because they trust you. You depend on the income they bring.

I am all in favor of using a database or CRM solution to keep track of customers. But don't go too far. The objective is the happy repeat customers, not the CRM system and its data. And be cautious where that data is stored, because it is private information that could hurt your business and lose customers if it is compromised.

Customers want to feel appreciated, and that you care about them more than the income they bring you. They are more than just a number. Perhaps you have heard the saying "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

You should reward customer loyalty to the max. To illustrate this point, let me tell you a story I heard once: A fisherman heard a thump on the side of his boat and saw a snake with a frog in its mouth. The fisherman grabbed the snake and released the frog. The frog was happy and hopped away. The fisherman felt badly for the snake losing its meal so he poured some whiskey down its throat and let it go. Later, he heard another thump on the side of the boat and looked over the side. There was the snake holding up two frogs in its mouth. Clearly, you will get more of whatever behavior you reward. And loyal, repeat customers is what you want.

ImageI have read that you should target your appreciation on the customers that bring you the most profits, or the customers that cause the least issues. There is some wisdom in that, especially if you have limited funds, or if you are trying to discourage less desirable customers. I once read a story of a man who went into his bank and did a small transaction, and asked about the policy where they pay for customer's parking. The teller, based on the transaction, said it was for the "more important customers" or something like that. Anyways, the customer immediately withdrew all his accounts (which were substantial) and moved them to a bank across the street. The moral is that you have to be careful what kind of message your appreciation or lack of it says to customers.

And when you appreciate your customers, don't make it seem like you are trying to bribe them. They can't be bought. Don't send some gift without thinking about how appropriate it is. One I just got was from my cellular provider, offering me a "discount" on some magazine subscription as a "thank you". It seemed to me that they were trying to sell me magazines more than they were ever trying to thank me.  If they were really thankful, I could suggest a better way to show it.

ImageMy local grocery store is offering a customer appreciation day, where you get a 10% discount if you spend more than a certain amount. Does that mean if I spend less I am not appreciated? I feel it is more of a promotion to get more sales than real appreciation.

Be Specific

Be specific about what you are appreciating. Sure you can appreciate them for being a customer of yours, but can you come up with something more specific? For example:

  • Longevity - appreciate them for X years of loyalty
  • Referrals - appreciate them for introducing more customers
  • Testimonials - appreciate them for agreeing to offer a testimonial for use in ads.
  • Large purchases - a follow-up call from the manager when someone buys more than X dollars worth of product or service
  • Perhaps you were out of stock and you appreciate the customer's patience
  • You had to reschedule and you appreciate the customer was flexible

I hope that gives you ideas. Now is the time to come up with a list of your own, so that you are prepared and ready for when such an event occurs.

Go for the personal touch. Busineses become far too impersonal, and it creates barriers to developing genuine relationships with your customers. For example, if the manager at my local store takes the time to learn my name and then uses my name when they talk to me in the future, that makes me feel more appreciated.

I go more regularly to restaurants where the staff know me by name, and are truly glad to see me return. On restaurant learned I was diabetic, and they went out to the library to read up on some suitable recipies they could prepare that were more healthy for me. You can bet I feel special there.

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Thank You Cards

With my coaching clients I have long recommended the thank you note as a very powerful tool in keeping in touch with your customers in a more personal way. You can get some cards made up with the company contact information on it, but that is not essential. The key things are this:

  • Send a card soon after an event worth appreciating the customer for. The longer you wait, the less impact it will have.

  • Use a pen and write out the thank you by hand. It shows you are real and not just using some word processor generated form mail.

  • Go beyond a script, and say something unique to each person. This requires you to recall your interaction with your customers.

  • Write out the address by hand on the envelope.

  • Use a stamp, not a postage machine, so it looks less like admail. Extra credit if you go to the post office and buy a pack of cute looking collectable stamps. It stands out, and costs the same.

Don't be surprised if you get a call or a visit from a customer, thanking you for the thank you note. By sending cards and notes, you stand out from your competition. Think about how many cards you have received in the last few months. Not a lot usually.


I hope this has been of use to you.


How To Write An Appreciation Speech
My latest article is here.