Customer appreciation doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Although you often see huge brands putting together huge, expensive customer appreciation gifts on their Customer Appreciation Day, such grand gestures aren’t necessarily feasible for smaller businesses. Nonetheless, investing all the time and resources you can into customer appreciation ideas is a must when it comes to small business marketing.
With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can show your customers just how much you appreciate them, and in return they will support your business. Recognition, a kind note, or thoughtful customer appreciation gifts can act as a thank-you for supporting your small business, which will deepen business relationships tremendously and ensure that your business’s customer base remains steady. Here is your guide to showing customer appreciation.
18 Creative Customer Appreciation Ideas
Know that an appreciated customer is a loyal, satisfied customer. German professor Armin Falk demonstrated the power of giving in one of his experiments: he found that 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.
Data compiled by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ties customer 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 draining your marketing budget. 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 customer appreciation among small business owners. It’s not expensive, and it doesn’t require much time on your part, making it one of the best customer appreciation gift ideas for a small business owner.
Challenge yourself to take your 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.
The goal is to be remembered as thoughtful and attentive. So, here are a few more ways to supercharge that handwritten note:
- Include a coupon.
- Add a newspaper clipping or magazine article that covers a mutual topic of interest.
- Insert a fun picture or add a humorous meme they’ll enjoy. (Make sure it’s appropriate and not offensive.)
- Add themed wrapping, letterhead, or color palettes that your client would instantly know as representing their interests—like a nod toward their favorite sports team or hobby.
- Include anything else you can think of that would have special meaning to your client (and that fits in the envelope).
2. Hold a Customer Appreciation Contest
Contests are both a fun and budget-friendly way to show clients you appreciate them. A contest means only one client, or a select number of clients, actually gets a prize. This helps you keep your small business promotion 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—there are tons of giveaway ideas for you to choose from.
Jessica Marshall, co-founder and director of customer experience at the virtual visitor management company The Receptionist, shares one of her company’s successes with customer appreciation:
“Administrative Professionals’ 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, firsthand, the company’s high regard for administrative professionals and their offices.
3. Feature Customers in Company Communications
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.
This can be a great B2B social media idea, but remember: 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 green light, 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. Give Customer Appreciation Gifts
John Ruhlin, 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.”
Good customer appreciation gift ideas don’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 out 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, or anyone else that might comprise of your target demographic. The longer you wait to plan these gifts out, the less likely you’ll be in a position to give customers thoughtful, unique gifts.
Check out websites like Groupon and Pinterest for ideas on inexpensive, yet fun gifts your clients will enjoy.
5. Host a Special Customer Appreciation Event
A customer appreciation event might sound like the most expensive of all these customer appreciation ideas, but it can be surprisingly affordable depending on the activity, venue, and the 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, vice president of marketing communications and sales at 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 customer appreciation promotion ideas include bowling outings, wine tasting, or other experiences that customers will relish for years to come.
6. Create a Customer Loyalty Program
A more common way to show a customer you appreciate their business is by setting up a customer loyalty program. A customer loyalty program rewards customers for repeatedly shopping at your business with discounts or free products.
Your loyalty program can be fairly simple or very sophisticated, depending on how much you are willing to spend. An example of a simple loyalty program could be a customer punch card that you stamp every time they make a purchase of a certain dollar amount at your business. After a certain amount of stamps, the customer is entitled to a free product or a discount on their next purchase.
If you want to get more sophisticated, you may consider investing in loyalty program software. Major point of sale providers like Square and ShopKeep offer loyalty programs as a service add-on. With loyalty program software, customers can opt-in to your loyalty program when making a purchase and collect points based on the amount they spend that can be credited to their account. They can then redeem those points during future purchases to lower the cost of that purchase. This is often how credit card rewards programs work.
The added benefit of using customer loyalty software is that a customer’s personal information, including name and contact details, can be saved in your POS system. This makes it easier to maintain a relationship with your customer and send additional correspondences. The cost of loyalty program software varies depending on your POS provider. Square, for example, offers their loyalty program for $45 per month.
7. Reward Customers for Referrals
One of the most powerful forms of marketing out there is word-of-mouth advertising, so why not reward your customers for referring others to your business? By creating a referral program, you not only have a system in place to do so, but you also incentivize your customers to get the word out. Like a loyalty program, customer referral programs can be fairly crude or highly sophisticated. You can do something as simple as ask every new customer if someone referred them during checkout.
You can also invest in referral program software. This software also integrates with your point of sale or ecommerce platform and asks customers if someone referred them during checkout. The new customer can provide the name and email of the referring customer, allowing them to receive some kind of reward for the referral. Capterra has a list of some of the most popular referral program softwares on the market.
8. Remember Their Birthday
This one is kind of a combination of a bunch of different customer appreciation ideas we have already covered. On a customer’s birthday, you can send them a handwritten note, send them a gift, or give them a shoutout on your social media channels. Ultimately, you just want to do something that shows you remembered their birthday and that you care. If you reward them on their birthday, they will reward you with their business the rest of the year.
9. Offer Pre-Sale Access
For your most dedicated customers, you can offer special pre-sale access. If you’re planning on having a sale, maybe around a holiday or an anniversary for your business, offer your most loyal customers access before others.
This will at least bring people into your business to check out what’s available to them. And it could be great promotion for your upcoming sale, or encourage others to become loyal customers in the hopes of accessing the same deal.
This works especially well for stores that sell physical goods. Offering a pre-sale and noting that there is a limited amount of product available can get people into the store and shopping.
10. Offer New Inventory Access
This one is similar to the last customer appreciation idea, but it centers on offering your loyal customers access to the newest items before anyone else. Since you should already have their emails or phone numbers, you can reach out and let them know that new inventory has arrived and you want them to be some of the first to see it.
This not only shows that you’re thinking of them, but it also helps make them feel like part of the inventory purchasing process. Their feedback on the new inventory can serve as a sort of test for you to see whether your new items are something your customers may be interested in or not. Down the line, you can tailor your early access to your customers’ tastes to make the experience even more special.
11. Interact With Customers Online
When your customers leave a review online or comment on your social media posts, interact with them and let them know you appreciate the feedback. Social media marketing is quickly becoming an essential tool for many small businesses. But instead of pouring dollars into Facebook ads, you can just as easily thank customers for stopping by, answer any questions they may have, and form a small, online community that will make your customers feel like they’re part of something larger just by shopping and interacting with you.
You can also respond to anyone who leaves you a bad review and help to rectify any issues they’ve had with your business. This shows customers who may not be your biggest fans that you’re willing to go the extra mile—you might even end up winning over a few.
12. Follow Your Customers Online
You can also follow your customers online and hope they follow you back. This is a client appreciation idea that can help you amass more followers and grow your online reach as a business. It may also make it easier to respond to any complaints or suggestions a customer might have since, increasingly, customers turn to social media when they have grievances with a company.
Being exposed to more potential customers, while also helping your customers grow their follower base is a win-win situation. It can help make your customers feel more seen as well.
13. Celebrate an Anniversary
If you want to treat your customer like family and really make them feel special, you can celebrate one of their special milestones with your company, whether it’s that they’ve been shopping with you for a year or coming back repeatedly for six months.
You could combine this customer appreciation idea with a bunch of our others. For instance, you could send them a hand-written note reflecting on their first visit to your store, or you could offer them exclusive access to some new inventory that arrives on the anniversary of their first visit to you. The gesture you put forward doesn’t have to be lavish, but it should be personalized enough that they realize it’s specific to them.
14. Offer Refreshments
No matter what kind of business you run, your office or store can benefit from you offering customers refreshments. Salons and barbershops do this a lot with their customers because, sometimes, customers can be there a while. Some go beyond your usual tea, coffee, and water offerings and also offer a cocktail.
Shops can also benefit from offering refreshments. Shopping can be tiring and a cool cup of water can go a long way in rejuvenating a customer so they’re ready to try on more clothes or some shoes. Plus, it’s a personal touch that shows you care about their well-being. If you have room for it, you could also offer them seating so they can relax even further.
15. Send Some Holiday Greetings
When it’s Thanksgiving or the New Year, send your customers a greeting card to tell them how thankful you are for them and for their business. Holiday marketing is the norm for a lot of companies, since it’s a time of increased spending for most consumers—but most companies offer a coupon and leave it at that.
If possible, you can wish them a good holiday season or a happy New Year by going one step further and mentioning any personal details you’ve discussed in the past. If a customer deals with a specific member of your staff, you could personalize your seasonal greeting card even further by having them sign it specifically from that staff member.
Your customers are sure to appreciate you letting them know that when thinking about how the year went for your business, they’re front and center in your mind.
16. Create Personalized Welcome Boards
If your business deals with clients one-on-one and your customers won’t mind having their first names on display—like at salon—you can create a welcome board to greet them. They may even like it enough to share photos on social media, or at least to a few close friends. This is one of those customer appreciation ideas that goes beyond just being prepared and shows that yours is a business that actually looks forward to seeing its customers.
If having a personalized welcome sign right upfront seems too public, you can also put a welcome board at the station a customer will be sitting at and change it for each new customer. Or maybe you can go digital and text them a welcome note with fun graphics a few minutes before their appointment.
Having a real life welcome sign might be more impactful, though: Think about how nice it would be if you went to have your hair done and at your seat was a sign that said “Welcome!” with your name on it. Little touches like this can show customers that they’re more than consumers to your business—they’re real people.
17. Offer Complimentary Company-Branded Items
Free pens, stickers, reusable water bottles, drink koozies, and more are great for branding and aren’t so expensive that you can’t offer them up to customers as a sign of appreciation. There are a ton of customer appreciation gift ideas that you can easily brand, but it will be even better if your gift is something they can use in public—just think of all the people who walk around with tote bags from their favorite brands.
You can brand these items with your logo and then keep them in a basket by checkout to offer to customers as a free gift. Of if you’re at a conference or event, offer them for free to potential customers. This has the added bonus of getting your business branding out into the world.
18. Give Charitably on a Customer’s Behalf
Last, but not least, on our list of customer appreciation ideas: You can also allow your customers to choose from a list of charities and then donate a small amount or a portion of your stock on their behalf. Being charitable as a company can show customers that you’re interested in giving back—but letting them choose where their charity goes shows that you care about their interests, passions, and beliefs.
Customers love to be part of a business that focuses on contributing positively to the world. This is increasingly true if you’re marketing to millennials, so even though this isn’t technically one of our customer appreciation ideas where the customer profits monetarily, it’s still worth pursuing.
Why Showing Customer Appreciation Is Crucial
Showing customer appreciation is worthwhile in and of itself, but providing customer appreciation gifts and gestures can also have a big, concrete payoff. You’re probably wondering how spending tons of money on customer appreciation programs is actually a viable business move. Well, when you consider that 68% of customer fall-off can be blamed on perceived company indifference, customer appreciation starts to look remarkably practical.
In fact, if you’re focusing on small business growth, coming up with original and effective customer appreciation ideas is a must. To confidently expand your customer base to new boundaries, you need to make sure you’re retaining your early adopters. Even better? Have your early adopters sing your praises.
And a surefire way to make this happen is flying your customer appreciation flag high.
When Is Customer Appreciation Day?
Customer Appreciation Day is celebrated on April 18 of each year, but just like you shouldn’t wait until a friend’s birthday to appreciate them, you shouldn’t limit your customer appreciation to one, single day. Of course, you can choose a particular day or week to perform a grand customer appreciation gesture or to present a thoughtful customer appreciation gift, such as Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday.
Many brands will brand a specific day as their very own Customer Appreciation Day. Still, others will name a customer appreciation week filled with deals and contests.
Long story short, there’s no one mandated day on which you’ll have to execute Customer Appreciation Day ideas, so we suggest you choose a day that is most convenient and most meaningful for your customer base.
The Bottom Line on Customer Appreciation
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. Beyond just helping you to avoid customer drop-off, showing customer appreciation will help make sure you become a part of your customers’ lives.
And, at the end of the day, making your customers feel appreciated will help make your business an unquestioned go-to in their lives.
- OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com. “Gift Exchange in the Field“
- Cornell.edu. “Sweetening the Till: The Use of Candy to Increase Restaurant Tipping“
- TheACSI.org. “ACSI Scores as Financial Indicators“
- ReputationXL.com. “68% of Customers Leave You if You Don’t Care for Them“