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5 Fun and Inexpensive Customer Appreciation Ideas

Aja McClanahan

Contributor at Fundera
Aja McClanahan is a financial writer who blogs regularly at www.principlesofincrease.com and also writes for other online publications covering personal finance, entrepreneurship, travel and general lifestyle topics.

Customer appreciation doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can show your customers just how much you appreciate their business. Recognition, a kind note, or thoughtful gifts can deepen business relationships tremendously.

Customer Appreciation Ideas: Get Creative

German professor Armin Faulk proved the power of giving: In one of his experiments, donor solicitation letters that contained gifts garnered 17%-75% more in donations than letters with no gift. A similar study published in the American Journal of Psychology found that tips increased at restaurants when customers were given candy with their bill.

Know that an appreciated customer is a loyal, satisfied customer. Data compiled by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ties custom satisfaction to individual company profitability and even stock market performance.

According to ACSI, the implications of customer satisfaction go even further: It influences the entire U.S. economy. As companies impress customers and provide excellent experiences, GDP increases right along with overall consumer spending.

It’s pretty plain to see that business owners have incentive to express some form of customer appreciation. The good news is you can convey your gratitude without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at some fun and inexpensive ideas to keep you top of mind with clients while making it clear that you appreciate their business.

1. Write a Handwritten Note (with a Twist)

This seems to be one of the most popular gestures of gratitude among small business owners. It’s not expensive, and it doesn’t require much time on your part.

Challenge yourself to take the handwritten note to the next level by making it individual to your client’s interests and relationship with the company. You want them to know that you are giving them a unique token of appreciation specific to them—not just any customer.

The goal is to be remembered as thoughtful and attentive. So, here are a few more ways to supercharge that handwritten note:

  • Include a gift card or coupon to the client’s favorite store.
  • Add a newspaper clipping or magazine article that covers a mutual topic of interest.
  • Insert a fun picture. Add a humorous meme they’ll enjoy. (Make sure it’s appropriate and not offensive.)
  • Add fancy, themed wrapping, letterhead, or colors pallets that your client would instantly know as representing their interests like a sports team or hobbies like fishing, scrapbooking, motorcycle riding, etc.
  • Include anything else you can think of that would have special meaning to your client (and that fits in the envelope).

Jim Wang, founder of Wallet Hacks, warns that this is not the time to insert coupon codes or gift cards for your own service or product. That can be done later. Right now, you want to use this opportunity to be all about the customer and your appreciation for them.

2. Hold a Contest

Contests are both a fun and budget-friendly way to show clients you appreciate them. A contest means only one or a select number of clients actually gets a prize. This helps you keep your spending to a minimum.

Contests also offer an opportunity for your client to learn and share more about your company and offerings. Depending on the type of contest, you can ask customers to perform an action for a chance to win. Sharing a tweet, writing a testimonial, or coming to a trade show booth are examples that require clients to interact with you on another level.

Jessica Marshall, customer experience manager at the virtual visitor management company The Receptionist, shares one of her company’s successes with customer appreciation: “Administrative Professional’s Day was a no-brainer for our company. We wanted to honor both the administrators and their offices, so we ran a two-tiered event plus a secret prize. All entrants could win one of three prizes of $100 worth of locally baked goods delivered for their office, three nominees could win ‘an assistant for your assistant’ (an Amazon Echo Dot), and the customer who had the most clicks by sharing our event won their own iPad. For less than $1,000, it’s been the most successful customer appreciation campaign by far!”

In this example, we can see the win-win: Customers share information about The Receptionist while witnessing, first hand, the company’s high regard for administrative professionals and their offices.

3. Add Them to Your Customer Highlights

Featuring clients in your company’s communications is another grand gesture of appreciation. You can highlight a client based on their organization’s accomplishments, as a case study, or for positive contributions to the community like service or philanthropy.

Before featuring a client, get permission from them or their PR representative so you are not exposing sensitive information or using their branding assets in a way that doesn’t match their own corporate policies.

Once you get the greenlight, create a thoughtful piece that they’ll appreciate and remember. Let them know about it, and encourage them to share and use the content as they see fit.

4. Present a Gift

John Rulin, author of the book, Giftology, says that gift-giving can be a powerful symbol of meaningful relationships. In his book, he explains that you can give good, quality gifts without seeming manipulative or inauthentic. He urges givers to understand the true motivation of gift giving at the professional level:

“Giftology is rooted in the acknowledgement of someone’s time being the most precious commodity he or she has to share. So when someone shares it with you, let him or her know, unequivocally, how honored you were to receive it.”

A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to make the cut. If you listen to your customer and get to know them, you’ll find that catering to the “simple pleasures” they enjoy can be just as effective as giving big-ticket items.

The key to finding thoughtful, affordable gifts is to start early. Keep a gifting calendar to have ample lead time for holidays like Christmas or an official appreciation day for nurses, teachers, secretaries, bosses, etc. The longer you wait to plan these gifts out, the less likely you’ll be in a position to give customers sensible, unique gifts.

Check out websites like Groupon and Pinterest for ideas on inexpensive, yet fun, gifts your clients will enjoy.

5. Host a Special Event

A customer appreciation event might sound like the most expensive of all these suggestions, but it can be surprisingly affordable depending on the activity, venue, and size of your guest list.

With a customer appreciation event, you can pare down your guest list to include only those clients who will get the most out of it and be likely to spend more money with you down the road. This way, you can retain intimacy and have enough time to work on developing lasting client relationships during your event.

Lorrie Cozzens, marketing director of Drone Ascent, mentions a fun and inexpensive event her clients loved: “I used to hire a local AM station to broadcast live from my location. They would serve hot dogs, chips, and soda for free to the customers and broadcast live at the same time. The whole thing was super cheap, about $600, and people loved it because I’d interview them live on air.”

Other suggestions include bowling outings, wine tasting, or other experiences that customers will relish for years to come.

For any of your customer appreciation efforts, remember the goal—to leave a lasting, memorable impression that keeps your customer coming back for the relationship you’ve cultivated as much as the business you’ve earned.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Aja McClanahan

Contributor at Fundera
Aja McClanahan is a financial writer who blogs regularly at www.principlesofincrease.com and also writes for other online publications covering personal finance, entrepreneurship, travel and general lifestyle topics.

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