Customer Appreciation Guide for Small Businesses

Your customers return to your company time and again not only because of what you offer, but of what your business represents. Relationships are a crucial part of earning and retaining business, but maintaining these connections can be a job all its own. Showing appreciation to your customers is an excellent first step in expressing your gratitude to the customers who keep you running. This customer appreciation guide can help you maximize retention and ensure that your customers know how special they are to you.

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What is customer appreciation?

Customer appreciation comprises the steps you take to acknowledge and honor a customer’s value to your company. It mostly involves the development of long-term relationships and the offering of comprehensive customer service. It also includes – most pertinently to this customer appreciation guide – actions that make your customers feel understood and adequately assisted.

Why is customer appreciation important?

Customer appreciation is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • Increasing your client retention rates. 67 percent of customers appreciate when companies from which they’ve previously purchased give them unexpected appreciation gifts. In fact, these customers often consider these customer appreciation gestures make-or-break factors when choosing between a company and its competitors. Customer appreciation efforts are an easy way to build brand loyalty and encourage return customers..
  • Boosting customer lifetime value (CLTV). Your customer lifetime value (CLTV) is a numerical representation of the average amount of revenue that each customer earns for your business. Expectedly, this number increases when customers make repeat purchases. The higher your CLTV, the more revenue you stand to earn every time you acquire a new customer. To reach peak CLTV, appreciating your current customers is key.
  • Separating you from the pack. Not every company is willing to go out of its way to show appreciation to its customers. When you take extra steps to do so, you bring value to your company that customers won’t necessarily find with your competitors. The result can be easier customer acquisition – and then, since your new customers will feel appreciated, the opportunity for increased retention.
  • Offering support during a crisis. Let’s say your business unexpectedly suffers major property damage or a costly cyberattack. In such cases, you’ll likely need to find additional revenue fast. Engaging your most appreciated customers is a great way to generate additional revenue through targeted sales efforts. Whether through a fundraiser or your standard sales, your initiatives will prove more successful if you have a loyal customer base to whom you can turn.

How to create a customer appreciation strategy

To devise and execute a customer appreciation strategy that retains customers and encourages the maximum number of repeat purchases, consider the steps below:

1. Identify your customer types

Most businesses will interact with six types of customers, each requiring a different targeted approach. These customer types are listed below with tips on how to show each type your appreciation.

  • New customers. A new customer is someone who purchases from your business without ever having done so before. To properly appreciate these customers, you should thank them for their business after their purchase and offer them exclusive access to special offers. Email or direct mail marketing campaigns are great routes for both.
  • Potential customers. Consumers may be more likely to make first-time purchases from businesses that will clearly appreciate them. This distinction makes potential customers key to any customer appreciation strategy. To include them, look at who’s visited your website, signed up for your newsletter, or contacted you directly. Direct these people to content about your company and make yourself available to answer questions and offer advice. Once the customer makes a purchase, you’re more likely to have converted them into a new customer!
  • Impulsive customers. Impulsive shoppers often follow urges and feelings instead of logic or plans. They might see your storefront on a stroll around town and just pop in or stop by after seeing discounts promoted online. The goal with these types of customers is to offer deals that can turn the urge to buy something unplanned into a concrete purchase.
  • Discount customers. In a way, discount customers are the inverse of impulsive customers. These customers will only buy your products when price-slashing deals are on the table, meaning that logic and planning power their purchases. As such, repeat purchases are less likely unless you’re constantly discounting your services or providing incomparably great customer service.
  • Dissatisfied customers. Customers who are dissatisfied with your products or services can eventually become people who love them. Taking certain steps toward addressing negative reviews can make your customers feel seen, and, if you fix their problem, they could become repeat customers in the future.
  • Loyal customers. Of all the customer types, loyal customers are perhaps the easiest to incorporate into your customer appreciation strategy. These repeat buyers are already emotionally attached to your products and services, so showing them appreciation should come naturally to you. In fact, your customer loyalty program is a customer appreciation strategy entirely of its own. Learn more below.

2. Build customer loyalty

Did you know that retaining current customers can be 5 to 25 times less expensive than acquiring new ones? This statistic alone testifies to the value of customer loyalty programs in your appreciation strategy. If anything, loyalty is the ultimate form of customers feeling appreciated. And, of course, loyal customers fill your bank account time and again.

Potential customer loyalty program options include punch cards, email rewards, business partnerships, gifts for special occasions, and much more. No matter the route you go, you’ll need to find the right loyalty management platform, determine your program’s structure, and promote your program. Additionally, your loyalty program should be customizable, omni-channel, integratable, user-friendly, and based on more than money alone.

3. Take additional steps to retain customers

Your loyalty program should be just the start when it comes to customer retention. You should also collect customer feedback, communicate with customers in a personalized manner, and prioritize accessibility and customer service. All these steps show the customer that you value their part in keeping your business running smoothly while reminding customers why they should buy from you again.

4. Don’t forget about customer satisfaction

Chances are that a satisfied customer is one who also feels appreciated, and that is important. Four in five customers who interact positively with a business will buy from it again. In other words, actively taking steps to appreciate your customers is likely a fast conduit to more sales.

To do so, try launching an online community, providing rewards after a certain number of purchases, and keeping your customer service accessible around the clock. There are literally dozens of customer satisfaction approaches you can take – what they should all have in common is a focus on keeping the customer happy during interactions with your business. After all, when customers experience negative emotions as they interact with your company, they might write negative reviews that can deter potential new customers.

5. Give customer appreciation gifts

You’ve probably identified discounts and other rewards as a recurring theme in this customer appreciation guide. That’s because gifts are great for showing appreciation, and there’s never a bad time to give them. Between birthdays, holidays, and the one special day of the year known as Customer Appreciation Day, gift-giving opportunities abound.

When one of these occasions rolls around, you can give customer appreciation gifts including free samples, gift cards, coupons, and branded items such as tote bags and office supplies. Simple thank-you gestures such as “thank you for your orders” letters, emails, and cards can also make for meaningful customer appreciation gifts.

6. Hold customer appreciation events

It’s one thing to take a quick moment to thank your customers with gifts or kind words. It’s a grander and often more memorable gesture to carve out an extended period for a customer appreciation event. These events will be full of enthusiasm and upbeat vibes that tie your company to positive emotions. This connection can yield repeat purchases in the near future.

For your next customer appreciation event, try something as simple as a customer meeting or as extravagant as a customer party. If you run a B2B company, you can also take smaller gestures to show customer appreciation, such as short coffee breaks with clients or open-feedback video conferences.

7. Promote your customers

All kinds of businesses, but especially B2B companies, have the capacity to promote more than their products and services. They can also promote their customers, and doing so can itself be a form of product promotion. Every time you browse software apps and see customer testimonials, you’re looking at simultaneous product and customer promotion. These testimonials target potential clients while appreciating a current client.

Another great customer promotion tactic is to display trust logos on your website. Doing so shows your clients that you highly value and appreciate their use of your services. A client that knows you appreciate it is, of course, likelier to continue paying for access to your products or services. In B2B, a little public gratitude can go a long way.

8. Practice empathy

It’s easier to understand customers when you can relate to where they’re coming from. A customer empathy map can help you do so. You’ll use your empathy map to approximate your customer’s thoughts, feelings, and pain points. Your empathy map can also help you identify what your customer hears, sees, says, does, and gains with regards to your brand. Once you establish all these considerations, you can meet your customers at their level.

When you’re operating on the same wavelength as your customer, you’ll understand what does and doesn’t feel like genuine appreciation to them. This way, when you thank your customers, your gratitude appears meaningful instead of just for the purpose of making a sale.

9. Personalize your service

With the number of communication channels available to consumers, blanket-mailing customers loses its effectiveness every day. It’s better to personalize your service so your customers feel like their relationship with you is akin to one-on-one interaction directly with a person. A human touch is more memorable than a copy-pasted, cloned, generalized interaction.

Automation programs can help streamline your personalization efforts, however, there’s still nothing quite like hearing directly from a person on the phone. A call to ask a customer how your products and services are working for them shows that you appreciate the customer’s input and purchase. Thereafter, further input and purchases become more likely.

Start a customer appreciation program – you’ll appreciate the results

Customer appreciation programs may at first seem like fluffy feel-good initiatives, but you can now see why every business – yours included – should implement them. And with this customer appreciation guide, you have a variety of inspiring ideas for how to design and execute your program. If you need even more ideas and inspiration, the SmartBiz Loans® Learning Center has plenty to offer.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.