You build your business. Now build your rewards.
Built in travel perks that go beyond business as usual.
Your customers are your small business's lifeblood. Make sure to show them how much you care. For big brands, "thank yous" involve expensive lunches, golf outings and bottles of wine—all luxuries that likely fall outside of your modest budget. Don't try to compete; get creative instead.
That's exactly what Grasshopper does for its customers. Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs, incorporates customer appreciation into its core product and marketing initiatives. Emma Siemasko, the company's content marketing specialist, enjoys building powerful customer bonds. She emphasizes that these positive interactions funnel back into the company's success.
"When we show customer appreciation, customers show they appreciate us," Siemasko says. "We sent a customer candy, who posted a picture and said that his daughters were jealous that they didn't get any. So, we sent more candy for his daughters. He posted a picture of the candy on Facebook and tagged us."
Grasshopper's customers are central to the company's product. "Many of our signups come from referrals, so it’s important that our customers want to share their experiences," Siemasko says. "Our main goal isn't just to provide a great phone system, but it's to connect with our customers and build relationships with them."
Customer appreciation should not be a unique occurrence. It should be part of your organization's culture and even a core part of your product or service. "To us, customer appreciation is built in," Siemasko says. "We’ve created a product with customers in mind—we’ve tried to respect customers’ time by making a product that’s easy to use."
Publicity and exposure are valuable business assets. If your company runs a successful blog, you can position your content marketing tools as a high-impact strategy for saying "thanks." That's why Grasshopper runs a "Tell Us Your Story" program where customers can fill out a form for help getting press.
"We use answers from 'Tell Us Your Story' to write customer spotlights for our blog," says Siemasko.
Leveraging this technique, Grasshopper has built a community of brand advocates. "By appreciating our customers, they’re willing to advocate for us in times of need," Siemasko says. "They often jump in to support us on Twitter when others are asking about what phone systems to use."
Focus on connecting with customers on a human level—as the popular expression goes, it's the thought that counts.
"I can’t count how many times I’ve called a large corporation like an insurance company and felt like a number," Siemasko says. "We aim to create deeper, more personal relationships with customers to make them more comfortable reaching out to us."
Siemasko agrees that you need to know your customers beyond business. "One goal is targeting what makes each customer tick—we try to find unique things about our customers so that when we send them gifts, it’s personal," Siemasko explains. And candy always helps. "A guest blogger, Lyn Graft, told us he loved Swedish Fish, so we sent him a huge package of them. When we do this sort of thing, customers love it, and they tweet about us and write about us on their blogs."
But it doesn't always have to be something creative and out-of-the-box. When in doubt, remember that your basic "thank you" can go a long way. "We also write handwritten thank you notes with gift certificates for coffee," Siemasko says.
Whether it's something out-of-the-box or a standard handwritten thank you note, the key to successful customer appreciation is to be genuine.
About the Author: Ritika is a San Francisco-based blogger who writes about trends in business, Internet culture and marketing. She's inspired by the intersection between technology, entrepreneurship and sociology.
Photos from top: iStockphoto, Thinkstock
The opinions expressed in this article are those of its individual writer, and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of American Express Canada or Amex Bank of Canada. Third party web sites may have privacy and security policies different from Amex Bank of Canada. Links to other web sites does not imply the endorsement or approval of such web sites.