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?

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Never say thank you for your business?

I came across an article the other day, written by a “certified sales coach,” that recommended you never say “thank you for your business” to a client. His rationale is the customer is buying from you because what you offer makes the most sense for his organization. The solution you offer is a better value than what your competitors are presenting. If you say thank you to your customer for his business, you are weakening your value.

What? That makes no sense at all. I do agree with the guy that once the contract is signed, you need to get to work on proving to your customers they made the right decision. Of course you need to deliver what you promised you would. But does saying thank you for your business make you look wimpy? I think not.

Depending on your business, the timing of when you say thank you to customers for business may vary. Financial advisors for example may want to send a thank you to clients along with all the paperwork they need filled out at the beginning – something to make the task more palatable. Roofing, painting or plumbing contractors may decide it’s better to send thank yous after the jobs are finished, perhaps with a request for a testimonial or a referral. If you’re a high level business coach or a contractor with a project scheduled over many months, it might makes sense to write a thank you note at the start and deliver a thank you gift to your customer further into the coaching relationship or assignment.

But never saying thank you for business? That’s just rude. It’s that kind of attitude that gives clients reason to question why they’re working with you. Sure, you may be solving their problem, but someone else could probably help them just as well – someone who would be more open about expressing her gratitude. As I heard Sandi Krakowski say, “if you’re not saying thank you to your customers, you don’t deserve to be in business.”

It’s a big, big mistake to assume your customers know you appreciate their business. Not saying thank you seems so 1980’s greedy. And while it’s still quite a common blunder in 2013, once you know better, you’re obligated to do better. Don’t you think?

It’s a competitive marketplace. Good manners and gratitude are a great way to differentiate your business from everyone else’s.

What’s your take on saying thank you for business? Does it make you look weak and desperate? Or do you agree it’s a smart investment in building a strong relationship?

Some Days it’s More Difficult to be Grateful

Truth be told, some days it takes more effort to find things in your life for which to be grateful. Everyone’s on his or her own path and some people are more “enlightened” than others, but even those with a high level of awareness have their challenges. So what’s a person to do during difficult times?

Change how you’re looking at circumstances. Wayne Dyer said when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. The circumstances that surround you right now do not define who you are. If a client is upset with the service you’ve provided, it doesn’t mean you are a terrible, incompetent person or your business sucks at customer service. Maybe that client isn’t your ideal and is giving you the opportunity to see that and initiative to move on to find other people who are. Aha! You can be grateful for the insight.

Not to get all preachy and just to bring some perspective, I was half paying attention to the recent Carnival cruise line story and how atrocious the conditions on board the ship were after it was disabled. My friend Dawn, who does a lot of work with African refugees, posted a comment on Facebook about how much of the world lives in similar surroundings ALL THE TIME. Yes, I’m sure it was mighty unpleasant and it’s a shame their vacations were ruined. But it was for a few days. You will get off the ship and go home to all your modern conveniences. First world problem!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anyone should feel guilty or bad about having everything we have in the developed countries! Let’s get back to the topic at hand, which is finding gratitude even on the more difficult days. Can you be grateful for running water, a warm blanket, a hot cup of tea? Focus on feeling good about whatever it is you DO have. Say a quick prayer of thanks for even the smallest, potentially overlooked thing.

That complaining client highlights how wonderful some of your other clients are. Send those wonderful people a heartfelt note or gift to let them know how much you appreciate them. Consider the deal that fell through, the one you’ve been working on for months and really, really wanted, to be a blessing in disguise. Something better is on its way.

I was reminded of such a situation the other day when I saw a For Sale sign in the complex where I’d made an offer for my first townhouse. I was so disappointed when they rejected it and frustrated for days. But a few months later, my husband and I found one that was nicer and a much better value. Thank goodness those first sellers rejected the offer because now, years later, I see how that place would never have worked as well as where we ended up.

Yes, some days the things you have to be grateful for appear to be less significant than other days. Be grateful for them anyway.

What to write in thank you notes to clients

Right up there in the list of reasons why people aren’t saying thank you to customers is they don’t know how to express their appreciation. They don’t know what to write in a thank you notes to clients. It’s really quite esaying thank you to clients is easyasy. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Keep in mind, you always want to be authentic. Speak from your heart. That doesn’t mean you have to be mushy and saccharine sweet. Keep it professional but be sure to use your own voice and say what you feel. For some people, using humor is an appropriate expression of their personality. You know what works for you and what will be the right tone to take with your recipients.

You’re not writing the great American novel here. You just need a couple of sentences to convey your gratitude. I’ve got several thank you notes I’ve received in the past few months sitting on my desk. Interestingly, none are from vendors or suppliers, which goes to show you how rare it is for customers to get thank you notes from businesses they buy from. One says, “I so appreciate your time and effort on behalf of my audience,” sent by someone who interviewed me for her radio show. (Of course I sent her a thank you for having me on her show too!) Another says, “Thanks so much for your time! I’ve been a fan for a while now and I can see with your energy, passion and enthusiasm, it was a great idea to get in touch.” And a third person wrote, “I am grateful to be connected to you and love having you in my space.”

So you start out with what you are grateful for. Why do you appreciate this person? Perhaps something like “I enjoy working with you and am grateful to have you as a customer. Your business is important to us. If there’s ever anything we can do to serve you even better, please let me know.” And that’s it. If you’re including a gift, you can make reference to why you chose this particular gift. In one of the notes I mentioned above, my colleague went on to say is “Another thing I love is reading, so I’m giving you a bookmark.”

Some of Zen Rabbit’s clients have been known to send The Gratitude Cookies with a message such as “Happiness is a good cookie and great clients like you. Enjoy this treat!” For those who’ve sent gift packages of barbecue sauce, “Summer’s almost here and you’re probably getting ready to fire up the grill. Enjoy this delicious barbecue sauce as a token of my appreciation for your business.”

True thank you notes to customers do not include discount offers and coupons to use on the next transaction. Asking for referrals here is controversial as Don't include discounts in thank you noteswell; you would have to be extremely tactful. While some marketers will argue that not including such things is missing an opportunity, I believe it cheapens the message. You want your clients to feel your true appreciation, not feel like you’re just buttering them up to get them to buy something else. Certainly, there’s a time and a place for making new offers and requesting referrals; I’m just not convinced that you can put it in a thank you note and still come across as sincere.

If you ever need help in crafting your thank you notes to clients or customers, let me know. I’m happy to brainstorm with you.

The Humanization of Business

Years ago, back in the days of our grandparents, most people conducted business with people they knew. Business was local and you would recognize your vendors and suppliers if you ran into them at the grocery store. Some deals were done with contracts, but all agreements involved a handshake. There was a human element to every transaction.

Today, we can pretty much run our business and personal lives without having to interact with other humans. Everything can be bought and sold online, Writing emailconversations conducted via email or text. We can, however that doesn’t mean we should. For all the technology that’s been developed, humans are still wired to need physical contact and interaction with other humans. Perhaps ironically, the ability and expectation to be constantly available via electronic communications has actually created a greater importance for physically reaching out and touching someone.

How many of your clients do you know personally? Depending on your industry, you may have met with every one of them at some point in the relationship. Or you may have never even had a one-on-one conversation with them. The more of your business is conducted electronically, the higher the risk you have of customers leaving without saying goodbye. Why? Because it’s easy to walk away from someone you don’t really know, a business with which you have no real connection, even if they are providing you with a valuable service.

It’s much more difficult to change suppliers when you’ve had tangible interactions with someone. And this is why it’s so critical to take communications with your customers beyond the Internet! It’s especially important when you can’t physically meet face to face to send notes, gifts, tangible representations, because those things act as your surrogate. They are material stand-ins that aren’t likely to be ignored and can’t be deleted with a keystroke.

When you send a tangible gift, you’re telling your customer that he is important to you. He’s not getting the message that he’s just one of 1,000 people on a mass email list. He’s getting the message that he’s special, even if, in reality, you sent the same thing to 1,000 other people too.

Just last week, I received a bookmark and a note in the mail from a colleague. Her note Heart Bookmarksaid, “I am grateful to be connected to you,” and included a short list of her favorite books. Wow, very cool and unexpected (which is part of what makes it so cool!). Now I know I’m not the only person to whom she sent that gift, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she cares enough about our relationship to reach out and touch me in that way. We’ve never met in person, but she just strengthened our bond.

You can bury your head in the sand and say it’s not true, or choose to believe you and your customers are more evolved than to need such physical connections. The bottom line is humans are still wired to desire tactile interaction with other humans. Recognize and provide it to your customers and you will see the benefits in the success of your business.

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.

Strengthening Existing Client Relationships

Looking to improve your revenue this year and build a bigger business? That’s fantastic. How are you going to do it? What’s your plan? Most people answer that question with “get more customers.” And typically “get more customers” means do more marketing.

You could certainly spend time and money on chasing down new clients. OR, you could invest in the relationships you have with your current customers and strengthen them. When you do that, you’ll see existing clients buying more from you, maybe more frequently. You’ll also see an increase in referrals coming from those current clients. Business grows and you don’t have to work as hard. How great is that?

Here are a few ideas you can use to fortify those bonds.

Call them on their birthday. Everyone likes to receive happy birthday wishes on THEIR day. With the advent of Facebook, you’re probably getting a lot more than you used to, but most of them are not all that sincere. How many phone calls did you get on your birthday? Mine was last week, so I can tell you it was exactly seven – four family members, two friends and my financial adviser. Since only one was from someone with whom I do business, it stands out in my mind. I’m guessing he has a list he prints out every week and he sets aside 10 minutes a day to do those calls. Doesn’t take long and makes people happy.

Send a handwritten card or small gift on their birthday. Depending on the value of a client to you, you may choose to do something more than a phone call. One of Zen Rabbit’s clients sends a small package of Gratitude Cookies to each of his clients on their birthdays. Small gesture makes a big impression. If you are going to send a card, for gosh sakes, make it personal and don’t send something printed and signed by a computer!

Surprise them with random gifts of appreciation. These gifts don’t need to be expensive or extravagant. If you have products that are physical delivered to your customers, or you’re on site with them frequently, you can include surprises in what you send out or bring with you. One vendorGlass Teapot I know included a few lolly pops in each shipment. Otherwise you can do a special mailing. January is Hot Tea Month, so you could share your favorite tea. It’s also International Creativity Month, which begs for sharing a box of crayons or colored pens. Or how about sharing a delicious recipe or even an entire little cookbook of soup recipes for National Soup Month.

Print out or clip articles you see about your clients’ or their children’s achievements and mail them in an envelope with a note. Are you getting the drift here about delivering items in physical form via mail or other delivery service? It makes a difference! Electronic communications are fine and useful. But connecting on a more personal, tactile level is essential to human connectivity.

Going about business as usual, counting on clients to “know” you value their business is much like not changing the oil in your car when it’s time. The performance of your car isn’t affected right away. You may be able to drive for quite a while without issue. But sooner or later, that kind of neglect is going to cause major problems and will be pretty costly to fix.

Take care of your existing business connections, sincerely say thank you to customers for business, add the elements of fun and spontaneity to your client relationships and see how your business is rewarded with more.

What creative ideas have you used? Share here or come over to Zen Rabbit’s Facebook page to tell us about it.