During the holidays, consumers and businesses alike focus on giving, whether to family and friends, charitable causes or clients and customers. According to the American Express 2010 Open Small Business Holiday Monitor survey, 44% of respondents said they plan to give their clients or customers gifts this year.
And showing appreciation to those who keep your company profitable is good for business–in terms of branding and boosting clientele. “The investment alone will often result in a higher return on marketing dollars (in the form of increased sales and profits) than most of the marketing and advertising they do all year long because they’re acknowledging someone who knows, likes, and trusts them,” says Desiree H. Young, business consultant and CEO of VentureWalk Business Partners. “And with the economy still working its way back, this type of marketing is also cheaper. The primary cost is creativity.”
BlackEnterprise.com talked with Young on five tips to lead you in the right direction to show your clients and customers appreciation, even in this tight economy.
Tailor gifts to your business. This is a perfect time to even add branding to the mix. “The idea of a CPA sending out calendars is okay, but an even better gift would be calendars with all of the tax deadlines (business and personal) marked on the appropriate dates,” Young says. “Even better than that would be including your clients’ birthdays scattered throughout the calendar and/or special events or meetings you may be hosting for your customers along with each month being dedicated to your staff, your clients, or information that would assist your clients.”
Provide a value-added service or product. Listen to what clients want and offer what they consistently ask for or services/products that complement what they sell, Young says. “I have a massage therapist client that offers her clients products from another business that makes natural body products,” Young says. “It’s a great complement.”
Give referrals. “If you do business with other business owners, the best gift you can give is a referral to help them grow,” Young suggests. “Send the lead a personalized letter with your testimonial and then send the same copy to your client, arrange for them to meet, and ensure that the initial meeting or exchange happens. Your clients will know that you are focused on helping them and their business.
Produce an event of interest. They don’t have to be parties, Young says. For example, it can be special awards that you develop for your V.I.C.’s (very important clients/customers) such as luncheons or educational seminars. “This type of event can normally be put on for a reasonable price per person,” Young says. “For example, I have an image consultant client who provides training sessions as a customer appreciation service for businesses in the cosmetic, retail, and fashion industries.”
Make the reward match or exceed the client’s investment, and vice versa. Go for items or services that people value, appreciate and want such as those that save time, money, and make them happier, Young says. For example, a business could give coupons that include discounts on your business’ goods and services. The most effective way to use such a conditional gift is for clients that are on retainer or have a set amount of purchases to make, ensuring that the reward matches the thanks.
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