Thankful concept.Thankful concept.

Client appreciation improves your client relationships and facilitates retention—and it doesn’t cost much to execute.

When customers feel appreciated, they’re much more likely to stick around, and they’re more likely to recommend you to a friend or colleague. If you apply a customer appreciation strategy consistently, you can greatly improve both client retention and acquisition, and sustain business growth indefinitely.

Of course, client appreciation seems like a very simple concept, but to execute it effectively you’ll need to consider your strategy carefully.

Client appreciation tips

These tips and strategies will help you design and execute a consistent client appreciation strategy:

1. Remember the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle is an informal rule that says you get about 80% of your results from about 20% of your efforts. For our purposes, we can estimate that 80% of your revenue will come from 20% of your customers.

Even if your business doesn’t closely follow that formula, we can assume that some of your customers will be inherently more valuable than others. Accordingly, your most valuable customers should be the ones getting the most appreciation. Appreciate all your customers, even the small ones, but go above and beyond for the ones you’re most eager to keep.

2. Be specific in your messaging. Whenever you’re writing messages of appreciation or doing something special for a customer, be specific. A generic “thank you” card won’t mean nearly as much as a paragraph-long message of gratitude for the experience of working together. A generic gift basket won’t mean nearly as much as a gift basket that was hand-picked for a specific client. Know your audience and appeal to individuals specifically when possible.

3. Send handwritten notes or greeting cards. Email and other digital messages can be valuable, but few communications are as powerful as receiving physical mail. Consider printing greeting cards for your clients, and/or sending handwritten notes. The excitement of getting a piece of physical mail that isn’t junk can instantly make someone feel appreciated—and handwriting always feels more personal than written text.

4. Apply both group and individual appreciation. Your customer appreciation strategy should include both individual and group level tactics. At the individual level, you can send gifts, write notes, and take clients out to dinner. At the group level, you can host customer appreciation weeks and special events where your customers call gather together.

5. Take advantage of holidays. Holidays are the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for all your clients. Around commonly celebrated holidays, like Christmas or the Fourth of July, consider sending a gift basket (or at least a card in the mail). The same is true for birthdays and celebrating personal accomplishments.

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6. Offer discounts and freebies. For recurring customers, consider offering periodic discounts and freebies. Customers love to see surprise discounts applied to their orders, and they love getting free extras in the mail even more.

7. Make time for face-to-face communications. Even in this predominantly digital age, face-to-face communication remains one of the best ways to bond with other people. Instead of just sending a card or an email, try to have a meal together or a chat over coffee. Periodic in-person visits can make your client relationships much stronger.

8. Bend the rules (when appropriate). Your company likely has some firm rules in place about client interactions, procedures, and other business interactions. Be willing to bend, or even break those rules for your best clients. For example, if you typically offer one round of client edits, consider offering two or three—show your appreciation by going out of your way to make them satisfied.

9. Include small surprises. Surprise can make any positive gesture seem even better—and your clients will be more likely to share surprises with other people they know. Go out of your way to plan and execute small, positive surprises for your customers, like delivering projects earlier than anticipated or sending a surprise gift.

10. Learn from your past efforts. Pay attention to how your clients respond to different gestures. They may be relatively indifferent to one mode of appreciation, but particularly receptive to another. Learn from the past and update your customer appreciation approach for the future.

Consistency vs. novelty

Showing customer appreciation is a strategy you should employ consistently; only if you’re persistent with your customer appreciation will you begin to reap the results. However, repeating exact processes can also get stale. If you always send the same greeting card after completing a project, it’s going to mean less and less. Accordingly, you should find a balance between consistency and novelty. Always show your customers appreciation, but try to show it to them in new and different ways whenever possible.

RELATED: Customer Retention: 6 Techniques to Cultivate and Build a Stronger Customer Base

Originally published at All Business

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