How Much Does it Cost to Say Thank You to a Client?

http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1105757Whether you’re just starting out in business and only have a few clients or you’ve just celebrated reaching the $20 million mark, saying thank you to customers is a vital task. You can not assume that because someone is working with you that he knows you appreciate his business. Before they even ask, “how much does it cost to say thank you to a client,” I often hear business people say they can’t afford it.

There are really two parts to the answer of how much you should spend on saying thank you to clients. First, you need to know how much a client is worth to you. In some businesses, a client may be worth $100 a year. In other businesses, one client could be worth $50,000 in the same time frame. A key point is that in either situation, a client could be worth even more, could send even more business your way, if you make the time and effort to show your appreciation.

Say you sell a $100 study guide that people buy one time. You might think it’s a waste of money to spend anything on saying thank you to the customer, since it’s not likely she’ll buy another. However, investing just $1.00 in a note card, $0.46 in a stamp and a few minutes to handwrite a thank you could inspire the recipient to tell a friend about your guide. Once you get a referral, now your small investment in appreciation is worth an additional $100.

For higher value customers, you may choose to invest more in saying thank you. Your plan may include sending a different $30 gift every other month. Or sending a $200 gift once a year in honor of the first day of summer. It’s your business, you get to decide what makes sense for you. The point is, by employing client appreciation as a marketing tool, you’re increasing the likelihood your customer will send you more business herself, as well as improving the odds you’ll get referral business from her.

The second part of the answer to how much does it cost to say thank you to clients is found in another question. How much will it cost you to NOT say thank you? What is the value of the business you will lose – and not even know about! – by not showing appreciation. If you forgo investing $45 in a thank you gift to strengthen the relationship with your client and that client leaves when your competitor comes calling, how much has that cost you?

All selling, whether selling business to business or business to consumer, is people to people. And people like to feel important and special. By letting clients know you value their business and your relationship with them is valuable, you are making them feel good. You WILL be rewarded for doing so, both karmically and financially.

The quick answer to the question is, it depends. Make your decision of how much to spend on saying thank you to a client based on factors relevant to your specific business, How much a client is worth? How much does it cost to get a client in the first place? How competitive is your industry?

Just Say NO to Gift Cards

Another example of why gift cards aren’t the best choice for saying thank you to customers, rewarding loyalty and building stronger relationships showed up in my world the other day. I belong to an entrepreneurial women’s group and as a gesture of appreciation, the founder sent out egift cards to all the members. Since they would arrive via email and could be overlooked as spam, she posted a “be on the lookout for this email” message on our private Facebook page.

While several people responded with excitement and gratitude, one person posted this:

FBpost-giftcard

It says: “Perhaps I am splitting hairs, but I don’t want something that was probably paid for with my monthly dues to be a gift. Technically it would be called a rebate. Unless the $5 cards were a measure of goodwill directly from the Starbucks corporation.”

Ouch! Now we can discuss whether or not the poster is justified or exhibiting bad manners, but the truth of the matter is, she’s not the only one who feels that way about receiving a gift card. If you’re using gift cards to say thank you to clients, members or referral sources, they may very well feel the same way. And if they do, it could affect their decision to send you more business.

Even though you may be spending the same $5 or $10 or $50, giving gift cards is very different from giving actual gifts. Gift cards have a monetary value attached and displayed right on them, (why not just hand the recipient a $10 bill?). A box of cookies, a plant or a beach ball do not and are therefore perceived as a much more authentic gift and genuine expression of appreciation.

In our society, we use money as a form of payment for market transactions. We pay money to buy goods and services. We can get away with giving money as a gift for weddings or children’s birthdays because what we’re really giving there is an investment in their futures. Paying out cash, or giving a gift card, which is the equivalent of cash, is not an acceptable form of gift for business associates.

In addition to now being viewed as tactless, giving a gift card is also not very memorable. It’s certainly not noteworthy. Who gets so excited about a gift card that she displays it on her desk or shows it to her colleagues? Why would you want to give something forgettable when you could easily share something more fun and remarkable? Often for the same price or less!

Next time you’re faced with the decision of how to give thanks, think of the most creative way you can do it, not the least.

Need help coming up with remarkable, impressive and still budget-friendly thank yous? I’ve got plenty of ideas. Call me and let’s brainstorm.

PS: Just for the record, I am not looking a gift horse in the mouth and do appreciate the meaning behind the giving of the above mentioned gift card. However, I felt compelled to take this opportunity to discuss the consequences of making that giving choice.

You Wanna Get Ripped?

Body Pump Class There’s a weight training class at my gym that I love because it’s like having a personal trainer put you through a tough workout. It’s always a full class, no matter what day, which is an environment that gives me a tad more incentive to keep going one more rep – I mean if THAT girl can do it…

At one point, years ago, I had my personal training certification, so you would think I could easily do these workouts on my own. Sure, I could. I know how. But I never push myself as hard or as far. I can get in a good workout by myself, just not a great one.

It was the day after class earlier this week, while walking to get lunch and as my glutes, quads and hamstrings, et al were letting me know how great a workout it had been, when I started thinking about the correlation with business.

First, you’ve got the people who show up at the gym, get on the bike, open a magazine and kind of pedal along as they read. Those are the ones I want to shake and say, HEY, what-are-ya-even-doing-here?! Get MOVING or give up the bike to someone who’s gonna USE it. I’ll assume you’re not one of those types and move on.

Then you’ve got the people who read the fitness magazines or do a few sessions a year with a personal trainer, just to stay up on trends and techniques. These are the equivalent to the business owners who study and learn all the strategies and tactics for creating a successful business.  Is this you? You find out what to do and set about implementing everything on your own for good results.

However, if you want great results, you need to put yourself in a setting that inspires you to push just a little harder on a regular basis. You join the classes, you work with a trainer regularly. In business, you get around other owners and entrepreneurs in a structured setting. For me right now, it’s a group called Her Corner, a local, face to face network of women business owners who are all committed to helping each other build thriving businesses. We meet in person in our local groups every other month, as an entire area group on the other months and connect via our closed Facebook group regularly.

For Kris, it’s a similar community in an online only format. And for Jason, it’s an informal group of colleagues nationwide who meet three times a year and talk by phone the other months. To be clear, what we’re talking about here is not the same as a team of people or employees who help you do the work. This is a person or group to sustain you as the business owner.

It comes down to accountability and support. You need both. You need someone standing in front of you, encouraging you to do ONE. MORE. CURL. driving you beyond your comfort zone. Someone challenging you to add another zero to that annual revenue goal. Reminding you of why you’re doing this – whether you want to look good in that bathing suit or create a legacy for the next generation.

Then you also need someone making sure you’re using correct form, spotting you on those last two bench presses so you don’t get hurt. That’s the person checking in at the end of the day to confirm you’re stepping away from the computer and spending time with your family or pushing you to take a few days off when you’re on the verge of burning out.

You want to get a good workout or a great workout? Put yourself in the right setting to see the results you’d like.

Humans are Hardwired to Connect

An email came through my inbox today from a colleague whose company is hiring. It said <Company> is looking for a passionate online marketer who has experience in web content creation, website development and social media. This person will help create and deliver a total marketing solution – combining web, social media, and SEO strategies – in a personalized client experience. (The bold is my addition.)

See, now this is the issue. An online-only marketing plan is NOT a total marketing solution and the companies and business people who believe it is may make some money in the short run, but they’re not going to build the relationships necessary to be around for the long term. You must connect with your target market and customers on a more human level. There’s no way around this requirement. It’s why companies such as Zappos, with missions of “providing the best customer service possible” have human customer service reps you can call instead of only allowing you to order online. It’s why they have such rabid fans.

Humans are wired to connect kinesthetically and interpersonally. That hasn’t changed in the past 20, 300 or 5,000 years. Yes, you can and should have online and electronic components to your marketing and sales plans. And for maximum success, you must incorporate traditional offline strategies as well. Pick up the phone. Send a note through snail mail. Have a package delivered.
Why do offline strategies seem so challenging? Is it because actually speaking to someone on the phone creates the opportunity to say something stupid or awkward or wrong? Is it because you are vulnerable to rejection? Sure, having someone say no to you directly might be harder to hear than not getting an email response back, but the upside is so much greater. You could engage in a dialogue – you know, where you ask questions, listen to the answers and offer relevant information based on those responses in real time!

Some offer the excuse that offline strategies are more expensive, given that sending something in physical form means you have to pay postage or shipping fees. Perhaps. What’s the value of the relationship to you? Is it a cost or an investment? Would you rather enjoy a delicious meal prepared by an incredible chef or just see a picture online? When you are tired of using electronic marketing as a shield, when you are ready (and hungry), you realize the importance of making a tangible connection to your clients.

The Art of Persuasion

Book Cover, The Art Of PersuasionNo one had to persuade me to read this book. I’ve been a fan of Bob Burg’s since I met him at the West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce about 14 years ago. I’d just moved there and he was one of the first contacts I made. Good fortune, I know!

Bob is the consummate storyteller and he makes good use of that ability in sharing anecdotes to illustrate his points. You want to know how to deal with difficult people? Early in the book, he gives one of my favorite techniques for winning over someone who you may initially feel is an adversary. He calls it “Handing Over Power,” in which you disarm someone by agreeing with his point, and then asking him to help you. Then you employ the key words, “if you can’t do it, I’ll definitely understand.” I have remembered Bob’s advice and used that phrase to great benefit on numerous occasions.

You want to know how to best phrase questions to get solutions that work for you? Chapter 4 is titled “The Art of Making People Feel Important,” something we talk about at Zen Rabbit all the time. Bob includes several examples here of how to negotiate, decline a ridiculous offer, ask for help and respectfully disagree. His recommendations allow everyone involved to retain dignity and find a workable solution.

Long-Term Persuasion Through Personalized, Handwritten Thank You Notes is one of the subtitles of this chapter. He applauds this tactic as a simple, powerful secret to long-term success and makes it clear he’s talking actual written on paper, sent through the mail notes, not emails. Hmmm, I may have heard this advice somewhere before. Sounds like all the successful kids are in agreement on this idea!

You want to know how to set yourself apart from all your rude fellow citizens? This book is chock full of ideas and examples, including letters and conversational responses you could swipe and deploy. Study what Bob teaches and you’ll be well-positioned in business as well as other areas of your life.

The Power of Following Up with Customers

As a successful business person, you probably have an effective system for staying in touch with your prospects throughout the sales process. But do you have an equally effective system for staying in touch with those same people once they’ve become clients? Or after their project has been completed?

If not, you could be missing out on significant opportunities.

I was talking with a neighbor the other day who was having issues with her hot water heater. She’d had someone repair it in the past, and was perfectly happy with their work, but she couldn’t remember the name of the company she had called then. If the company had the foresight to stay in touch with her, they could have gotten even more business from her, as well as from referrals she might send their way.

Think about how busy you are and how much information you’re required to retain every day. Your customers are experiencing the same overload, so it’s highly unlikely they’re remembering you and your company unless you are reminding them you exist.

Sure you can over do it and become a pest. I’m not suggesting you use the Popcorn Factory method of emailing customers every other day with a new promo. Depending on your business model, you could send out a weeklUse special days like Pecan Day, to stay in touch with clientsy, bi-weekly or monthly newsletter with useful, inspiring information. Or cards to celebrate random “holidays” (did you know that the first week in March is National Write a Letter of Appreciation Week? Or that the 25th is Pecan Day? International Customer Loyalty Month is coming up in April.)

How about implementing a strategy that gives your clients more personal attention, something most all humans crave. Last year I experimented with calling my clients just to see how I could help them, in a way not necessarily related to my business’ product. I had gotten the idea from a vendor who had called me to ask what she could do to help my business – was there anyone she could introduce me to. It felt so good to know that person wanted to help me, I was eager to see how it worked from the other side. I was surprised at how caught off guard they all were, as if no one had ever called with such a question unless they had an ulterior motive. Most of them didn’t even have an answer. But it gave me an opportunity to reconnect with them.

You might not get more business from them immediately, but this is about strengthening the relationship. Over time, those who consistently check in with their clients are the ones who create a better customer experience, have higher customer loyalty and more referral business.

Getting Referral Business from Clients

create a referral based businessPretty much everyone claims his or her business comes primarily from referrals. It’s true that clients who come to you at the recommendation of someone else are the best kind. After all, they’re proactively contacting you because they need what you offer and they’re biased because their friend or colleague already likes and trusts you.

If you want your business to continue growing, it only makes sense then to have a program in place to encourage and collect referrals. Don’t have a referral program already? Here’s what you need to do. Shortly after delivering your product or service, ask for a testimonial along with three referrals. The testimonial can be written or it can be an audio or video recording. Now is presumably the time when your client is most happy with you and therefore most willing to recommend you to others.

Put these testimonials on your website and share them on social media. They provide social proof for your services and they give your clients nice exposure as well.

Reach out to existing clients by sending a special letter asking for that testimonial if you don’t already have one, as well as the referrals. It’s a good idea to include an actual script that your clients can share with someone they think could benefit from your services. Make it super easy, take away the need for your clients to put a lot of effort into giving referrals, and it’s far more likely they will deliver.

Once those referrals start coming in, you absolutely must acknowledge them, whether you think it will be a “good” referral or not. It’s common courtesy to let the person referring know you’ve connected with their acquaintance. Then keep him posted on the outcome.

Sharing the outcome is important for two reasons. First, it’s good manners of course. Second, regardless of whether or not the referral works out, your feedback allows the referral source to get better at sending you future connections. For example, “Thanks so much for the referral of Sally Smith. We had a great conversation. Unfortunately we weren’t able to work together because she’s in the xyz industry and my services are better suited for the abc industry.” Now your referrer can be on the lookout for contacts in the abc industry.

When the referral does turn into a client, it makes good sense to not just let the referrer know, but to share your appreciation with a thank you note or gift. (See why cash isn’t as good a gift in this free special report.) Rewarding people for their kindness encourages them to continue that kind of behavior. Make this reward part of your appreciation program system and you’ll never have to stop and spend time figuring out what to do or give. You’ve already decided when you created the program and now it’s really easy.

You want a referral-based business? Set up the proper systems to support you.