February 18, 2020 By SmartBiz Team

As a business owner, it’s exciting to see a spike in fresh, new customers or clients. However, don’t forget about your current customer base! Customer Appreciation Day-held on May 15, 2020-is a time to show gratitude to your loyal customers. But don’t wait till then! Showing appreciation should be a year round event.

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The first rule of any business is to retain and build a loyal relationship with current customers or clients. Attracting a new customer costs five times as much as retaining an existing one so this strategy not only delights your clients - you can avoid expensive customer acquisition costs.

Here’s why you should launch customer appreciation programs and ideas to get you started.

Why is customer loyalty important?

Learn why loyalty is an important component of any business from bestselling author Peter Economy: 15 Surprising Things I Have Learned About Loyalty. Loyal customers are your bread and butter and you get the following benefits:

  • They come back for more, becoming repeat customers.
  • They’re more likely to spread positive word-of-mouth about your products or services.
  • Customer loyalty programs help your business improve its overall brand image.
  • Loyal customers will stick with you through rough times if things don’t go as smoothly as they should. Technical problems on your website, merchandise shortages, products that don’t deliver can all drive consumers away. Customers with brand loyalty are likely to be more tolerant.

Before you launch customer appreciation programs

Now that you understand how important loyal customers are, make sure you’ve built a solid foundation. Here are 2 fundamentals you need to tackle before you launch an appreciation program.

Start with stellar customer service

A key element of showing appreciation is to be friendly, answer questions promptly, and solve problems efficiently.

You’ve probably heard stories of how big companies, like Zappos, treat their customers. In fact, “Deliver WOW Through Service” is the eCommerce company’s core value #1 listed on their website. Read 6 Best Examples of Customer Service to see how large companies like Nordstrom and Southwest Airlines are winning over customers. You might be thinking, “But those companies have a huge customer service department!” Don’t despair! You can offer great service, even if you’re a one man show. Review this article - Keys to Great Customer Service – Even if You’re a One Man Organization to learn how to make the most of the resources you have.

Get to know your customers

Before you can tailor programs to show appreciation, you need to get a handle on your current customer base. Here are strategies you can use to get to know your customers better:

Google Analytics

This free insights tool is powered by lots of data and now the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet. Focus on the “Audience” section. Looking at the Demographics & Interest reports reveals age, gender, geographic location, language, and frequency behavior.

Customer Surveys

When you send out a customer survey, you can literally ask anything –likes, dislikes, and more. Because surveys are so easy to create and distribute these days, some customers suffer from survey fatigue. If you’re not getting responses, you might try offering an incentive for completing the survey like a coupon or branded swag.

Have a conversation

In-depth one-on-one conversations help business owners understand customers like no survey ever could. If you want deep insight about your customers, there’s no better way than picking up the phone and chatting with them. The more you interview, the easier it will get and the more natural you’ll sound.

Leverage social media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide insights on what customers like, their habits, and what they are buying. When you post on your social media channels, you can garner comments from past customers, current customers, and prospective customers.

Read online reviews

Sites like Yelp, TrustPilot, and Google Reviews collect comments, complaints, and praises. It’s a great way to get a handle on who your customers are and how they feel about your brand.

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8 customer appreciation ideas your customers will love

Here are 8 time tested customer appreciation ideas. Each are easy to implement and cost effective ways to show you care.

1. Offer a loyalty program with special rewards

This digital strategy is easy to implement with the right software. It may sound intimidating to launch reward programs for customers, but there are plenty of easy-to-use tools. The software you choose should allow you to create your own branded loyalty program and engage customers with text or email marketing. You can even alert loyal customers about flash sales and other specials exclusively for those signed up.

2. Write a personal note

A simple thank you to customers is always appreciated and will help keep your business top of mind. An old-fashioned thank you card might seem strange and outdated in this digital age. However, cards are a powerful marketing tool when you customize them with personal handwritten messages. Develop close connections with your customers and build lifelong customer loyalty. As a bonus, your sales can get a boost too.

3. Spend quality time together

Do you have a physical location? Consider hosing an event or in-store party to mingle with consumers. You’ll be able to get up close and personal with loyal customers, putting a face on your business. You’ll also elevate your brand in the community. Need more convincing? Read
7 Ways Hosting an Event Can Benefit Your Small Business.

3. Feature loyal customers on social media

If your loyal customers are active on social media, you’d better be too! Ask customers to send you photos when they receive or use your product. Feature the photo on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Two SmartBiz customers are great at this strategy. The earthdog Instagram feed features dogs and puppies wearing their one-of-a-kind hemp collars. Not only does it enhance their content, customers love to see their fur babies featured online. Roshambobaby uses the same strategy, featuring customer’s children sporting their new glasses.

4. Refer customers to other small businesses

Once you've nailed down your loyal customers, a partnership with another small business serving that clientele can be a great marketing move. Do some research and make a list of retailers, brands, charities, or business organizations your loyal customers might support.

For example, if you own a landscaping business, you might partner with a local nursery that sells plants and outdoor furnishings. If you're a personal trainer, you could reach out to small businesses offering athletic apparel. Both businesses should offer referral discounts. Customers will appreciate the opportunity to discover new products or services and will appreciate the associated discount or special offer.

5. Send a holiday gift card

Shopping for the holidays can be stressful. A holiday gift card or discount for can give loyal customers a warm and fuzzy feeling. Be sure to include season’s greetings. Below are some ideas for a short and sweet message you can send in the mail, via email, or on your social media channels.

  • We wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.
  • Wishing you a Happy Holiday and a joyful New Year.
  • Happy Holidays and warm wishes for 2020!
  • Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.
  • Happy Holidays from everyone at [business name].

SmartBiz customer Bristly, makers of teeth cleaning chew toys for dogs, has this strategy down pat. They send subscribers to their newsletter and customers a happy holiday message along with a 10% discount on new products. If you have a pet, check them out!

6. Celebrate a major milestone together

Every company hits major milestones like the anniversary of your business launch, a new product release, or receiving an award. Milestones present opportunities to highlight happy customers, share their stories, and give them something of value. That could be branded swag or a discount. You can also celebrate your customer’s unique milestones like a birthday, anniversary, or a new addition to the family – furry or human.

7. Give customers the VIP treatment

Give loyal customers a VIP feeling with an invite-only after-hours event in your store. Drinks and snacks should be part of the fun and you can let them shop for a few extra hours with special deals or discounts. If you have the money in your marketing budget, invite a local musician to entertain your guests. You’ll be supporting another entrepreneur.

8. Giveaway creative branded merchandise

In a recent survey, 58% of respondents reported that they keep a promotional product anywhere from one year to more than four years. Even if the item is used once a week, that’s a minimum of 52 impressions made over the course of a year with the possibility of more than 208 during a five-year window.

Glance around your office, home or car. You’ll probably find at least one promotional item. If you pick the right product, your loyal customers will use, wear, or display, exposing others to your brand. The trick is to giveaway an item that’s creative and your customers want. This SmartBiz Blog post gives you some things to think about before you start swag shopping: Promotional Items for Small Businesses.

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