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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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.

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?

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.

Getting Customers, Keeping Customers

One of the top challenges for many business people these days is getting new customers. Finding new clients takes a significant amount Finding new customers takes time and energyof time and energy, not to mention monetary investment. And to keep that pipeline full, you’ve got to be consistent and creative in your efforts.

There’s certainly no shortage of information out there on how to attract new business. Some sources make it sound like getting more new customers is as easy as turning on the water faucet. That’s not exactly been my experience. Has it been yours?

You might be interested to know there is an easier and more cost-effective way to build your business. It’s called customer appreciation. Focusing on keeping the customers you have is a far better investment of your limited resources.

How does it work? Good question.

When you put your efforts into building stronger relationships with current clients, they stay with you longer, they buy more from you, and they recommend you to more of their friends and colleagues. Those factors stronger relationships with clients means more businessequal more money in your pocket.

Think about it. Someone who is already a customer is already sold on your product or service. She already likes and trusts you. He already knows you’re reputable and deliver value. You’ve got an established relationship going, so it’s a good bet she will take or return your call. Someone you’ve never done business with before is going to be harder to reach and more skeptical of your pitch when you do get through. The sales cycle is naturally going to be longer because you have to lay the groundwork and establish the rapport.

What happens when you’re the consumer? How do you make your buying decisions? You probably turn to friends or colleagues who’ve bought a similar product or service for recommendations and advice. You likely search online for reviews and comparisons. Your prospective clients are no different. They want to make sure they’re making the right decision and will take their time to do so.

Just yesterday I needed to replenish a product I use in the business frequently. There’s no reason for me to spend time going online to search for another vendor and seeing if I can find a better price. I’m comfortable with the supplier I’ve been using recently. Even if I could save a few cents somewhere else, I’d rather buy from a reliable place where I know the guy and already have an account. In fact, I used to buy this product from someone else, but she was hard to get hold of and wasn’t very good at returning calls or emails, which made it difficult to order. She was probably always out chasing after new customers instead of taking care of the ones she currently had.

No matter what your business, look to your existing customers as one of your best sources of new revenue. The longer they stay with you, the more they spend and the higher the likelihood they will refer you new business. Sounds like a good investment to me.

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.

Do More Than You Think Necessary

With Ruth Sherman at her Charisma Event

Ruth Sherman came to the DC area last week to present her “Cash in on Charisma” program. Here are three points she shared that really resonated with me and could be of value to you.

One of the big reasons why video works so well for disseminating your message and building relationships is that humans are wired to connect face to face. I’ve been saying this for a while. All this electronic technology is great, no question, but at the end of the day, people need to connect on a more human level. They need to see each other, shake hands, reach out on a physical level. That human need is why sending thank you cards and gifts to customers is so powerful. It is a tactile form of communication.

Next, Ruth implored that when preparing for live presentations, YOU’VE GOT TO PRACTICE much more than you think you do. I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of not doing that enough. I know my subject matter and can deliver well, but I know I could do much better if I spent more time practicing. When I took piano lessons as a child, I hated practicing. I must have had some natural talent because I remember playing pieces such as Debussy’s Clair de lune, Beethoven’s Fur Elise and Joplin’s The Entertainer in recitals. But I hated practicing and after a couple of years I convinced my mom to let me quit.

Public speaking ranks at the top of the list of things people are scared to death to do. But I absolutely love it! So here and now, I commit to spending more time practicing my stories and material, because I realize the people in my audience are giving me their time and attention and in return, my goal is to deliver great value for them.

The lesson for you – whether or not we’re talking about practicing presentations – is you need to do and give more than you think necessary. Start thinking what you consider good enough is probably the bare minimum you can get away with. To really build those client relationships, you need to step up the game. Communicate more. Reach out to customers and potential customers more. Engage them in conversation! If they don’t want to hear from you, they’ll tell you. In the meantime, deliver more value more consistently.

Lastly, your communications don’t need to be long. Who has the attention span anymore? While there are still places for sharing in-depth explanations and details, most of your videos (or other regular communiqués) need only be a minute or two. Just pop-in, share quickly, and step out. That means they won’t take you long to put together either. Hmmm. Now you have no excuse to not do more.