Building brand loyalty is a great long-term strategy for the success of your business. What's the best way to achieve it? By taking the time to stop and thank your customers for their support. A recent study revealed that a simple thank you can go a long way towards showing your customers how much they mean to you.
There are lots of ways to say thanks. Here's how to use a handwritten note—plus seven other customer appreciation ideas—to build brand loyalty with your patrons.
1. Start a Loyalty/Rewards Program
One of the most popular customer appreciation ideas is a program that rewards loyalty, or repeat business. Typically, when a customer buys something from you, they're rewarded with points toward future products or services. But there are other options. Here are a few to consider implementing:
- Tiered rewards. This type of incentive rewards levels of loyalty. It's usually based on a point system. The more points accumulated, the higher the level. The higher the level, the greater the rewards.
- Paid membership. Customers pay a monthly or annual fee to join a VIP club that offers special discounts or exclusivity.
- Value-based rewards. When you appeal to your customers' values, they're more inclined to become advocates for your brand. One idea is to donate a portion of each sale to a relevant charity.
- Partner program. When you partner your loyalty program with another company, you give the customer added value. Meanwhile, you're building new business relationships. (For more on partner programs, keep reading.)
However you decide to reward your customers, when you give them an incentive to buy more of what you're selling, everybody wins.
Rewards Program Case Study: PetSmart
PetSmart initiated a rewards program called "Treats" that offers eight points for every $1 spent in stores and online. They also offer monthly bonuses, one of which includes 3x points when you buy a Purina brand, and 2x points on all stain and odor remedies. Remember, a rewards program needs to be easy to find if you want customers to join, so make it obvious (and understandable) with prominent signage in your stores and above-the-fold (top of page) banners on your website.
Rewards Program Case Study: Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A offers a tiered membership program where you can earn points with every visit. It's easy to become a Standard Member—just download their app or sign up on their website. You can become a Silver member by accumulating 1,000 points or a Red member by earning over 5,000 points. Each membership tier has increasing benefits. For example, the more you visit, the more points you'll get per dollar spent.
2. Celebrate Your Customers' Milestones
When your customer reaches a milestone in their relationship with you, reward them with a token of your gratitude. A popular customer appreciation idea is to honor the anniversary of their first purchase or account registration. When their yearly anniversary rolls around, send them a thank you for being a customer and offer a celebratory discount code.
Online memory gurus Lumosity offer a 35% discount for their program's upgrade: Lumosity Premium. On a customer's one-year anniversary, they receive an email that briefly reviews their past successes with the service, while looking to the future with a financial incentive.
Another option is to celebrate a personal achievement, like a birthday. Most everyone likes attention on their birthday. Make your customer's special day even more memorable by sending them a reward that celebrates their very existence.
Many brands have adopted this policy. Starbucks offers their Rewards members a free drink and 15% off at Starbucks.com. It works for smaller franchises, too. Pittsburgh-based hamburger joint Burgatory has nine local restaurants. If you sign up for their email list, they'll offer you a free gourmet milkshake on your birthday.
You can find lots of ways to celebrate your cherished patrons, but anniversaries and birthdays are two of the most popular. Remembering these special moments goes a long way in creating a customer for life.
3. Include Swag with a Purchase
If a customer made a purchase from you, there's a good chance they'll like you even more if you send more than what they paid for. Do your brand a promotional favor and provide something extra by including cool, branded giveaway items, sometimes referred to as packaging inserts. Depending upon what you sell, think in terms of stickers, pens, maybe even branded quality t-shirts. Be sure these are not lower-quality afterthoughts, however. The more impressive the freebie, the more adulation (and ROI) you can expect in return.
If your business doesn't offer physical products, throw in a free service, upgrade, or add-on as something extra special. You could even prioritize your best customers by giving them exclusive access to test (and evaluate) new features before everyone else. It makes them feel like they're part of the brand's development.
Headspace, the popular meditation and mindfullness app, took it a step further. For a limited time, they sent their subscribers an Askinosie chocolate bar along with some Headspace-branded stickers and confetti. This is proof you don't necessarily need a physical product to send a physical thank-you gift. Do what it takes to make your customers happy and they'll respond by becoming loyal, long-term patrons.
The concept of including samples from another business is a smart marketing maneuver. Bodybuilding.com, the world's largest online fitness store, is famous for this. With each order they fulfill, they include a variety of product samples and the latest issue of TRAIN Magazine. Granted, they sell these very products, but it's a thoughtful gesture—and part of their mission to keep their customers first. One of their six core values states: "Our mission is not complete until the customer says, “Wow.”
You can wow your customers by including something extra with their purchase. Any time you surprise them with an unexpected treat, you're creating a happy customer.
4. Celebrate Customer Appreciation Day
Customer Appreciation Day. Yes, that's happening. It's April 18.
(There seems to be a day for everything, right?)
Use this special day to show how much you appreciate your customers. They'll be impressed you're aware of such a day, and delighted you remembered them. Take this opportunity to publicly recognize your loyal customers with videos, photos, and/or stories on social media. You could even provide extra customer loyalty points or offer special promotions to celebrate.
If you don't want to wait until April 18 each year, develop your own ongoing customer appreciation days by spotlighting a customer of the month on social media or re-sharing some of their content from time to time. Have you ever had a customer post a particularly flattering compliment? Repost it along with a sincere thank you for their efforts and support.
Highmark Health, a national health and wellness organization, tapped into their Instagram account to showcase photos of their Pittsburgh-based fleet of Healthy Ride bicycles. They sent a direct message to select enthusiasts who had posted high-quality images on Instagram. Then they followed up with an authorized repost as well as a shipment of branded goodies, like travel coffee tumblers, water bottles, and drawstring backpacks.
Customer Appreciation Day happens once each year. Use that day, and create some of your own celebratory days, to show your customers how much you care.
5. Send a Handwritten Note of Thanks
One of the most popular customer appreciation ideas is to send a handwritten note of thanks. Greeting cards are an $8-billion a year industry because people like to receive something in the mail with a handwritten message inside.
Take Nordstrom's TrunkClub, for example. With each order, the premium menswear service includes a handwritten note from a personal stylist explaining their selection of products. They use high-quality stationery, express gratitude, and feature the details about at least one of the products. Plus, they always use the customer's first name.
The same principle applies as a customer appreciation idea. When you send a handwritten note of thanks to your customers, you're showing that you care. It will make your brand stand out as one that takes customer service seriously.
SimplyWritten takes the idea of handwritten thank-you notes and makes it easier than ever with digitally handwritten messages for your customers. What's the difference? You don't have to write each note by hand. Consider the time savings while also showing your customers how much you appreciate their business.
The process is simple. You select your stationery, type your message, select from hundreds of handwriting styles (not fonts), and we'll take it from there. The reason our digital handwriting looks so much like real handwriting is our patented technology. We're able to capture up to 25 glyphs per character. Then we select each glyph based on the letters around it to imitate the natural variations of real handwriting.
The end result is incredibly realistic digital handwriting that looks like the real thing. Get your free digital handwriting sample today and see for yourself.
6. Create a Referral Program
If a customer is incentivized to refer others to your business, there's a greater chance they'll do it. Start by making them happy. Build rapport with your customers and be sure you've provided everything they need to be happy patrons. Then let them know about your referral program, where they can earn rewards for referring new customers.
HomeChef, an online meal-delivery service, rewards both current and potential customers. Once you sign up, you customize your delivery dates and select your meals. Active subscribers then have access to a referral program where they can earn credit for every referral that creates an account with HomeChef. Both customers get $30 discounts.
HelloFresh offers a similar "Refer-a-Friend" program with $50 in savings for both parties.
Referral programs are quite common among brands that want to reward their current customers and attract new ones, no matter how large or small the business.
American automotive and energy company Tesla, Inc. has offered a number of referral programs, giving its current car owners incentives to find new buyers. Each owner could give up to 10-$1,000 discounts. Based on the number of referrals, these owners receive a tour of Tesla's factory, attend a grand opening party, and/or have the opportunity to buy a Founder Series Model X. The first person to reach 10 referrals receives a free Model X SUV. Considering Tesla's customer satisfaction rate of 97%, it's difficult to argue with their unconventional method of luring new buyers.
By offering your customers a reward for helping to create new customers, you're strategically positioning your brand for more business. Make your customers happy, then develop a referral program that gives them a reason to love you even more.
7. Use Social Media to Say Thanks
You can go public with your customer appreciation ideas if it's appropriate. Select a social media account, then call out a particularly awesome customer with a thankful post that explains why they're such an outstanding patron.
International kickboxing club 9Round Fitness celebrates their members' 100th and 500th workouts with a free t-shirt and photo on their Instagram account. It's a goal for many participants to reach these levels.
You could even make your brand's social thanking a regular occurrence by highlighting a different customer each week or each month. Encourage participation by asking your followers to enter a contest to be featured. The more people that enter, the more awareness you're creating for your brand. You'll see increased engagement with user-generated content, plus you'll get a better handle on the demographics and interests of your customers.
BMW's Mini runs a monthly photo challenge where fans of the brand can share their themed photos. One particular contest centered on the hashtag #FitsInMyMini. Winners get their submissions showcased on the brand’s Facebook and Instagram channels.
When you post a public thank you, it's a thoughtful gesture. But don't forget to acknowledge the everyday likes and comments when a fan of your brand mentions you. Never ignore them—even when the comments are less than flattering. Thank them for their praise and offer to solve any problems if they arise. A simple response goes a long way.
8. Make Your Customers Feel Special Every Day
You don't always need to devise a special plan to reward your customers. Sometimes the simplest acts of outstanding service are the best ones. There are plenty of customer appreciation ideas you can put into action every day. Here are a few ways you can make sure your customers feel appreciated today.
- Don't keep them waiting. Respond to any and all customer inquiries as quickly as possible. You'll build trust and confidence when you return calls and emails in a timely fashion.
- Find a way, not an excuse. Take responsibility for any mistakes you make and prove to your customers how important their business is to you.
- Verify the purchase. Assure your customers they made a wise decision in purchasing your product or service. Don't allow for any post-purchase doubt to creep in.
- Ask questions to show you care. Your customers will be pleasantly surprised when you care enough to ask them about their day. Be prepared to really listen to the response, though. Don't turn it into an empty gesture.
Put Your Customer Appreciation Ideas Into Action
Thanking your customers for their business is a great way to encourage long-term loyalty. There are plenty of different (and creative) ways to accomplish that. As long as you take the time to show your customers you care, your brand is on the fast track to success.
Of all the customer appreciation ideas, a handwritten note stands out as one of the best ways to sincerely demonstrate gratitude. Take the time to pen a heartfelt message and you'll create connections that last a lifetime. Are you ready to get started?