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.

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Saying Thank You to Clients on Valentine’s Day

ValenValentine's is a great time to show appreciation for customerstine’s Day is right around the corner. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of what I consider a “Hallmark Holiday.” However, I do see this holiday as an opportunity for savvy business people to tell customers how much they love doing business with them. Reaching out on Valentine’s Day and saying thank you to clients works for a few reasons.

    1. Hardly anyone else is doing it. I’m a strong advocate for going against the grain when it comes to marketing. If everyone is sending client appreciation gifts at Christmastime, then I recommend NOT doing that. The whole point of marketing is to stand out so you can catch your audience’s attention and get them to take action. So, first you have to do something noteworthy and showing up at their doorstep with Valentine’s cards or gifts is memorable.

 

    1. You can have fun with this. It’s Valentine’s Day, no reason to be all serious or traditional. Remember we’re talking clients here, not romance, so use some humor. If you’re feeling creative, you can take a stab at writing some poetry. I actually stopped as I was writing this post and made my attempt at this genre. Um, it’s not exactly Emily DickinsonWrite a poem to clients for Valentine's Day or Maya Angelou, but if you are one of my clients, you may have the good fortune to see it when you open your mail in a few days. I’ll share this; it starts out “Valentine’s Day is here…”

      You can certainly go with candy, nothing wrong with chocolate M&Ms, but chocolate kisses might send the wrong message. Go with a message like, “Valentine’s Day means chocolate. It’s also a great time for us to share with you how much we value you as a client.” Or how about a book – “I loved this book and thought you would too. Letting you know how much we appreciate your business.”

 

  1. Some people don’t have a Valentine. Okay, I said it’s not a time to be serious, but in reality this day can be hard for people who don’t have someone significant in their lives right now. Some of your customers may not get any kind of acknowledgement of their specialness today and that could leave them feeling lonely. You can remedy that by letting them know they are important to you and they will remember you kindly for doing so.

This Valentine’s Day, make the most of the chance to strengthen relationships with your clients. Let me know what creative ideas you come up with, or what you are lucky enough to receive from one of your vendors. Share in the comments section here or on our Facebook page.

The Anguish of Gift Giving (to family or customers)

Today is my husband’s birthday. Not only is it his birthday, it is the anniversary of our first date. Yes, I took him out for his birthday after he gave me some sad story at the gym that evening about how all his friends abandoned him because he wanted to work out first before going for dinner. On top of it, today marks our having been together for half of my life. Kind of weird.

Enough sappiness, onto my challenge. Am I the only one, or are there others out there, who have a hard time finding a good gift for the significant other? The thing is, if there’s something he wants, he pretty much goes and buys it himself. I hear my family thinks it’s hard to buy gifts for me too, although personally I think I am the easiest person in the world to buy for. And still we are committed to this practice of giving gifts.

He’s a runner, so for a while he got everything running related – shorts, socks, cold weather tights, etc. But there’s only so much gear you can fit in the dresser drawers. He’s always been an avid photographer, so for a long time I could always fall back on getting something photography related. Even then, purchases required explicit details on exactly which lens or filter or bag to order. But then he became a professional and any such purchases were no longer gifts, they were business expenses.

No worries. Who needs more stuff anyway? Experiences are better. I shelicopter rides as thank you to customers?pent time browsing sites like http://www.excitations.com for ideas. One year I wanted to give him a certificate for sailing lessons at a local marina. Nah, I don’t have time, he said. Another year some of my Twitter friends suggested a helicopter ride. How cool is that? Don’t you know I’ll get motion sickness, he admonished. I guess skydiving, where I get to push you out of the plane, ready or not, is out of the question too then. Arg!

This is the same kind of anguish many busy professionals go through in thinking about how to say thank you to clients. Finding customer gifts takes up too much mental energy and time, so it gets put on the back burner and rarely gets completed, which ends up costing them money in the long run. You don’t perform your own heart surgery or sew all your own clothes. Certainly allowing an expert to manage a client appreciation program is a better allocation of your resources than doing it yourself.  Ironically, it’s actually fun for me to find and send gestures of customer appreciation on behalf of my business clients. Maybe when you remove yourself from the thick of it, and take a step back, finding the right thing becomes easier.

PS: Any fantastic birthday gift suggestions welcome!

Saying Thank You to Customers in October

October is another great time to say thank you to customers. Unlike in December and even November, your clients are not inundated with cards, gift baskets and goodies this month. That means your kind gesture will make you look like a rock star stand out. And who doesn’t want that?!

There are plenty of special occasions to share your appreciation and show your thanks to customers this month. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. You could go with a dog-themed gift or make a donation to a local shelter. It’s Apple Month; send a jar of delicious, organic apple butter. It’s Eat Better, Eat Together Month, which means you could put together baskets of simple and healthy dinner ingredients, such as whole wheat pasta and sauce or wild rice and lentils. October is National Book Month, so buy a case of your favorite book and share it with everyone. It’s National Caramel and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month; you could easily tie those two together in a yummy snack. In honor of Pizza Month, send a pizza making kit. To make this one even more interactive, ask your clients to then send you pictures of their pizza creation, or post them on your Facebook page.

Also in October:
National Food Bank Week, 14-20. Create a promotion that encourages your clients to donate canned goods to their local food bank.

World Vegetarian Day – share a veggie or bean soup mix or recipe.

Balloons Around the World Day – how fun to have a bouquet of balloons delivered to special clients.

National Chess Day – share chess sets or the more edible chess cookies.

International Top Spinning Day – send out those old-fashioned wooden tops and I guarantee your recipients will play with them all week.

World Pasta Day – again with the pasta, choose a package of funky shapes for extra attention.

Plush Animal Day – find your favorite animal and send a few out with a note tied around its neck, or attached to its paw. Better yet, make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund and you can choose which animal you want to “adopt.” Then they’ll send one of those plush animals to you or your recipient.

National Candy Corn Day – no one eats this stuff any other time of the year. Fill up some decorative bags and send one to everyone.

And of course there’s Halloween at the end of the month, giving you a great opportunity to send caramel or candy apple kits or an assortment of your favorite candies. Non-food items like masks or witch fingers are fun too!

You’ve got no excuse not to implement one of these creative ideas for reaching out and strengthening those client relationships this month.

You can debate the statistic of whether the cost of acquiring a new customer is five, seven or nine times greater than the cost of keeping current ones. What’s not up for debate is the fact that it’s much more cost effective to keep the ones you have, which is why customer thank yous seem like a worthwhile investment to me.

Need help coming up with creative gift ideas to reward loyal customers? Reach me at lori @ zenrabbit.com and let’s brainstorm.

Saying Thank You to Customers in September

September is a great time to say thank you to customers. Unlike in December and even November, you clients are not inundated with cards, gift baskets and goodies this month. That means your goodwill gesture will stand out, make a bigger impression and create more buzz.

There are plenty of special holidays or reasons to show appreciation and say thanks for business this month. September is Apple Month, Fall Hat Month, Honey Month, Self Improvement Month, Skin Care Awareness Month, Guide Dog Month, National Preparedness Month.

Teddy BearAlso in September:

  • Cheese Pizza Day – send a gift certificate for a local pizza place
  • Read a Book Day – share a copy of your favorite business or inspirational book
  • Teddy Bear Day – who doesn’t love a cute Teddy Bear?
  • Chocolate Milkshake Day – a gift card is probably the way to go here
  • Play Doh Day – send a mini jar of this childhood favorite. Who’s not going to play with it?!
  • Talk Like a Pirate Day – find a translation guide to send
  • Elephant Appreciation Day – write a note on a card with a picture of an elephant
  • Comic Book Day – get really creative and make your own
  • Pancake Day – pancake mix and a bottle of syrup
  • Chewing Gum Day – easy enough to mail or drop off a pack of gum
  • Most appropriately, September 27 is National Thank You Day.

Pick one of these fun holidays and use it as a reason to send your customers a note or gift. Remember, if you improve your customer retention rate by just 5%, you can expect to see an increase in profits of 25-100%. Seems like a worthwhile investment to me.

Need help coming up with creative gift ideas to reward loyal customers? Reach me at lori @ zenrabbit.com and let’s brainstorm.

Pop-By Gifts for Realtors & Other Business Professionals

While developing a special gratitude program to help real estate agents say thank you to their clients, I learned that the most successful agents use pop-by gifts to strengthen relationships. These are little “thinking of how much I appreciate you” or “reminding you I still exist” kinds of gifts, usually tied into the month or season. So for example, an ice cream scoopIce Cream Scoop, thermal bag for keeping foods cool or some sunscreen in the summer. Or a snow scraper, umbrella or a pair of gloves in the winter. The gifts are paired with a cute gift note that ties into the theme, such as “don’t get burned by working with someone who’s less than professional” to go with the sunscreen.

Such appealing reminders keep you top of mind and generate referral business. Realtors are certainly not the only professionals who need to consistently stay in touch with past and current clients. This pop-by gift idea is awesome for almost any business, including those in financial services, internet marketing, and sales training. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to implement regular appreciation marketing, nor do you need to drop off the gifts in person. And think about how much of an impact a small, unexpected thank you gift would have on a customer’s day.

It’s back to school season. Seeing all the sale flyers in the Sunday paper this weekend, one idea I came up with is to send mini dry-erase boards with the note “I appreciate working with you” written on it in dry erase crayon. Clients will get a kick out of the sentiment and creative delivery and then can reuse the board around their office.

You can tie your gift idea into a time or event in your industry, such as a tax file folder sent out in January from accounting professionals, or use a more general concept like sharing a box of note cards in November so your recipients will have them to use for holiday gift thank yous.

I love the creativity involved here and while coming up with memorable client gift ideas and messages is fun for me, not everyone has an easy time with this task. If it’s not easy or fun for you, don’t do it! Get in touch with me and let’s put together a customized done-for-you program. Saying thank you and consistently staying in touch with your customers is imperative to your success. Why are you waiting?

Infusing Humor into Your Customer Appreciation

Today is the birth anniversary of Lucille Ball. Born in 1911, she became one of the world’s best known and most loved comediennes. Who doesn’t haveLucille Ball a favorite episode of her wacky adventures on “I Love Lucy,” that when you think about it now, still makes you laugh out loud?!

A sense of humor is consistently on the top 5 list of characteristics people find most attractive in others. Even the most serious person enjoys a good laugh once in a while. Life and business can be challenging and stressful. Humor lightens the mood, makes you feel good and strengthens relationships.

Business guru Tom Peters claims “The number one premise of business is that it need not be boring or dull. It ought to be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re wasting your life.” He says humor in the workplace increases creativity, teamwork and ultimately productivity. People want to work with people who are fun.

Are you infusing humor as part of your customer retention strategy? When you’re looking for ways to say thank you to customers, incorporating humor can be the way to go. I hear all the time from professionals who think their industry is too conservative to allow them to use humor. Yes, I’m talking about you in financial services, insurance and the medical professions. It’s not true! Of course there is a place and time for everything. Customer appreciation is all about strengthening relationships, and since we’ve already established that humor does that, then here is exactly the right place to use it.

No need to dress up in a clown costume or send out rubber chickens. All you need is a little forethought and creativity. Here are few gift ideas you can use to say thank you this month that will surely solicit a laugh from your loyal customers, along with “reasons” why you’re sending this particular gift at this time.

Need more ideas or help creating a message to go with your humorous client appreciation gift? Want someone else to find and send customer thank you gifts for you? Not a problem. Give me a call and let’s get started!