| One of the biggest mistakes a business can make is investing the majority of marketing efforts in attracting new customers and forgetting about past customers. Your current and past clients are the foundation of your business because without them, your business would not exist. It also costs far more to acquire a new client than it costs to generate business from an existing client.
Showing appreciation for your clients can set you apart from your competitors, increase loyalty, improve retention, inspire sales and even build relationships that last a lifetime. Reaching out to your clients is also an opportunity to remind them that your business exists. Effective marketing relies on repeat exposure and showing appreciation is an affordable and effective way to keep your marketing wheels in motion.
One note of caution: some companies and industries have strict guidelines about accepting gifts. This is especially true of media professionals and government workers. Gifts can be construed as bribes so when in doubt, ask your clients if such policies exist or stick to sending items with no monetary value.
Following are client appreciation strategies that can help you cultivate client retention.
1. Greeting Cards
The Guinness Book of World Records lists Joe Girard, a car salesman from Detroit, as the world's best salesman. Girard earned the honor by selling 18 cars in a single day. One of his secrets to success is sending 12 cards per year to every single customer and prospect. There are dozens of major and minor holidays throughout the year and each provides a great reason to send a card.
2. Personal Notes
Thoughtful and unexpected thank you notes can be sent after client appointments, following a purchase or whenever a client has done anything deserving some appreciation. While sending an e-mail may be quick and easy, you will make a better impression by sending a note in the mail.
Though it is important to recognize all of your clients, it is just as important to pay extra attention to your top clients. Spending time together outside of the office gives you a chance to cultivate the relationship by getting to know each other better (in the sales world, this is called "face time"). Consider inviting your top contacts to lunch, dinner, sporting events, charity functions or other events where you can spend time together.
4. Small Gifts
Flowers, books, a mug full of candy and other token items can make thoughtful gifts for clients. These can be sent on special occasions such as birthdays, holidays or anniversaries, or can be sent for no reason other than to show your gratitude.
Everyone loves food. Consider sending cupcakes from your local bakery, providing a catered lunch at your client's office or dropping off a tray of cookies.
6. Gift Cards
Sending gift cards for items or places your clients will enjoy can have an added benefit: they will think of you when it comes time to redeem the gift! Options include coffee shops, restaurants, movies, bookstores, office supplies or anything else your clients would appreciate. For even more mileage, consider partnering with another business and send each other's gift cards.
7. Referral Rewards
The highest compliment you can receive is a referral to your business. This gesture deserves recognition in the form of a thank you note, discount on services or small gift card. Always acknowledge when a customer sends business your way.
8. Reverse Referrals
If your clients are business owners, look for ways to refer business to them. This is an unexpected gesture that is sure to set you apart.
9. Customer Appreciation Days
Designate one or more days each year to celebrate your clients. You could offer a customer-only secret promotional sale, give away lunch if you have a physical location or provide a special bonus to those on your mailing list.
10. The Gift of Information
Ebooks, reports, workbooks, videos and other types of information products can make great gifts. For example, compile a list of useful tips that your customers will appreciate and either deliver it via e-mail in a PDF document or publish it in booklet format to mail or hand out.
11. Host Events
Host a party or an open house at your office or a restaurant. If your clients are geographically dispersed, you can hold a virtual event by inviting them to participate in complimentary online seminars.
12. Life Events
If you know that your client is getting married, having a baby, being promoted or enjoying another major life event, send an acknowledgement--even if it is a simple card. Your gesture will not be forgotten.
Stephanie Chandler may be contacted at http://StephanieChandler.com
Stephanie Chandler is an author of several books including "LEAP! 101 Ways to Grow Your Business" and “From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur.” She is also CEO of http://AuthorityPublishing.com, a custom publishing and marketing company, and http://BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs.