By Stephen Ekstrom | Fire Starter Brands
UNIQUE, CREATIVE AND MEMORABLE WAYS TO CAPTURE CUSTOMER LOYALTY
We are what we do, not what we say we'll do and as nice as it is to say "thanks" to our customers, simple words don't carry the same weight as meaningful actions.
No matter what you do, product you offer or industry you are in, you've got customers to deal with and, to make the most of those relationships - you should be continuously working to express your gratitude in ways that are fun, memorable and speak from the heart.
"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." William Arthur Ward
I've put together 11 magnificent ways to show your customers that you value them. Each capitalizes on your attempt to deliver an earnest message by touching on four key values - relevance, personalization, noticeability and sincerity. Combined, these essential and simple pillars work to ensure that your demonstration of gratitude connects with customers.
Take a moment today to act on one or two of these great ideas and show your customers that you care.
Send something handcrafted
There are few things that connect on a personal level quite like handmade or homemade gifts. Unless you're a super-crafter or possess some mysterious baking abilities, the frustration of making gifts can be a bit daunting.
To avoid the inevitable pressure to get these projects completed without losing sleep or the use of colorful language, blogger, Melissa Breyer, came up with 10 DIY gifts you can make in under an hour. These clever items range from a fun fork bracelet to homemade hot sauce.
Spoil your customers' pet
Let's face it, our pets have become part of our families. If you've got a client who loves to pamper their dog, you've got an easy opportunity to show that you have been paying attention and that you care.
Services like barkbox start at under $20 per month and deliver at least four unique, fun and customized pup pleasers in every box. Items inside the box include toys, treats, food items, shampoos, leashes, etc.
Offer a surprise upgrade
The element of surprise is a powerful thing. Thank customers with a free, spontaneous upgrade. You can play database roulette and pick five customers at random, or make a list of your most loyal customers and send the upgrade to the highest-ranking.
Working in the travel industry, this may be one of the easiest tokens of appreciation for us to deliver. Consider a pair of premium seats to a theatrical performance for the group leader, a hotel room upgrade, spa treat or welcome gift for that great customer, a limo in lieu of a taxi or shuttle, or a surprise visit from the chef or seating at a chef's table when you send your customers somewhere to eat.
Airlines were masterful at this practice decades ago with their frequent flyer programs, and it remains a great way to delight customers. Bonus byproducts: building customer loyalty and creating brand advocates.
Send a treat
I'll admit, we do this from time to time and have become a bit famous for our toasted coconut chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are always going to be a winning idea - they're loved by everyone and easy to share. Consider your audience when selecting the flavors - lighter berry or citrus treats for the fitness minded and decadent chocolate or fudge flavors for those who like to indulge a little bit.
Make it easy on yourself... The next time you're baking at home or when you've got everything lined up for your holiday cookie-palooza, just double the recipes and set some aside to share with your customers. We've found that the boxes used to ship VHS tapes tend to be the perfect size to send a little greeting and assortment of sweet treats.
Highlight a special customer
Use your social media tools to call out your customers, letting them know how much they mean to you. Tools like twitter give you a 140-character challenge to make it personal, be sincere and leave the customer smiling.
You can also use your own website to reaffirm your appreciation: feature customers on your website. Not only will customers feel valued and proud of their work with you, but it also shows prospects how they could benefit from your services too!
Send gift cards
If you've got the resources to send gift cards, do it. Gift cards to popular retailers and coffee shops like Starbucks are available for as little as $5. You can really WOW a customer (including those hundreds or thousands of miles away) by sending a gift card to their favorite local restaurant that's generous enough to cover a full evening out.
Gift cards are a great opportunity to reinforce your personal relationships with customers by sending items that have a specific reference to their passions, tastes & sense of style.
If your customers are strictly B2B, consider partnering up to gift each others' products or services to customers. Maybe your motorcoach partner can provide free transportation to your corporate client's next event and, in exchange, you can cash in some points to offer them a weekend getaway to someplace exciting.
Help customers learn something new
So your company offers travel experiences all around the world. Why not bring in a chef, musician, artist, diplomat, historian or expert from a region you're planning to visit to talk about that area and offer a free tasting of local treats? How cool would that be?
The more educated your customers are about different parts of the world, the more they will appreciate the experience you offer and the more valuable they are to your business.
You can also use tools like your blog, webinars, white papers and free coaching to help customers outside of your immediate geographic area make the most of your product or service.
Make them laugh
If you are fortunate enough to have a creative mind on staff, let them get weird by making funny, personalized gifts. Consider photoshopping your client into their favorite movie poster or vintage postcards from the most recent destination they've visited. Create a spoof magazine cover and simply email the image with a simple note that says, "Thank you for choosing us."
For those of us with less graphic talent, there are always a variety of free tools online like someecards.com jibjab.com and a bunch of others that let you customize digital content to send to friends, colleagues & customers, alike.
Throw a party
Throw a bash for all of your customers. Consider a fall picnic, winter cocoa/coffee break, wine tasting, barbecue, summertime ice cream party - the options are endless and it doesn't have to be expensive.
Plan your event someplace with a dynamic, scenic backdrop and bring in a local photographer to capture images of your guests enjoying themselves that you can print & deliver as a thoughtful follow up.
Whatever you do, sponsor an activity that encourages guests to interact with you, your team and each other while having fun.
Amaze one customer
Indulge. For a moment, throw away any rational thoughts and create an astonishing WOW for one special customer. We often hear stories of amazing customer service - it's time to let your company be that story of the moment.
Deliver a customer experience so incredibly over-the-top that the one lucky customer will walk away with an awesome story to tell. If you're creative enough and know the right channels by which to share the story, that customer's family, friends, social media acquaintances and other business connections will be retelling your story for weeks.
Give your customer your quality time
Not all gifts require that you cash in your company's liquid assets. To many, quality time spent with great people is far more valuable than any gift item. Plan to bring lunch to your customers office, ordering enough for all those who may join you. When you arrive with the tasty treats, sit in and listen. Take time to meet the front line staff, those who help your point of contact be successful with their work and hear what they do everyday.
In addition to showing the customer that you care, this could be an awesome learning experience for your business. Hearing from your customer and their colleagues about the challenges they face can help you develop better product, services and processes. Big businesses use buzz words like "client development" to talk about this sort of activity, but let's face it, it's just really practical, old-fashioned, relationship building and customer service.
For more on how Fire Starter Brands is working with travel industry suppliers, destination marketers and product providers to help connect with more visitors, request a free consultation.