Have you written all your thank you letters yet?

As many parents know at this time of year you often have to nag relentlessly to get your children to write their Christmas thank you letters.

But have you been setting the right example? Have you written to everyone who’s given up their time and money to do business with you either over Christmas or over the past year?

I have to confess I’m not a great one for sending Christmas cards to business contacts. Let’s face it, your Christmas card probably gets lost in a sea of other cards leading up to Christmas.

But sending something after Christmas; after the turkey’s being eaten, the tree’s come down and the cards have been binned, sending something of value to your customers is more likely to get to your customers attention and have longevity.

And I’m not talking here about bombarding people purely with a multitude of offers and promotions showing how desperate you are for business during the quieter months of the year. This doesn’t mean to say you can’t tell them about what’s coming up but do it in such a way that makes them feel appreciated.

Say thank you

Send something that shows you appreciate their custom. As a minimum this might be a simple as a broadcast e-mail to everybody on your mailing list, or homing in on those who have booked Christmas or seasonal events with you. Particularly think about those people who have been guests of your existing customers, maybe as part of a party and who have visited you for the first time.

But maybe you want to do a little bit more for your special customers; those that have been your perfect customers and you’d like to see a lot more of (and the chances are they’ll know lots of other people just like themselves, who they might be inclined to tell about you), the organisers of events, anyone who has made referrals that’s brought you extra business over the year, for giving you a glowing testimonial or review, or simply because they put their trust and faith in you to deliver something extraordinary for a special occasion.

A simple personalised thank you note will not only show your appreciation, but it will give them something to remember you by – especially if it is handwritten and tailored to them. There’s nothing quite like something sent by good old-fashioned snail mail with a handwritten signature (and not on stuffy, formal business stationery) to get someone’s attention.  Even better, if the whole message is handwritten on a hand-picked greetings card. Try to find a card that reflects something about that particular customer.

Some think in this web based age this is out dated; how would your customers react to receiving something in the post, rather than clogging up their email inbox?

Ask for feedback

A follow up thank you is also a great opportunity to get feedback too. Ask them about their experience and whether they’d do business with you again. Did it meet or exceed their expectations? Ask for specifics such as what they enjoyed most and any ideas, comments or suggestions they have to make the experience even better. If they’ve had a good experience prompt them to post feedback on review sites appropriate for your business such as TripAdvisor.  Make it easy for them by providing a link to the review site too. And don’t forget to thank them again when they give you feedback. Even if it’s not all glowing and what you want to hear, wouldn’t you rather know about it so you can put it right?

Rewarding loyalty

You might choose to show your appreciation with something more tangible such as a small gift, an exclusive offer for themselves or a friend, or maybe even relevant and useful information or tips that’s relevant to your business and customers’ interests.

The law or reciprocity means that if you give something to your loyal customers you are setting the stage for them to do something for you in return. Whether this is repeat business, a referral or maybe a testimonial, any one of these will add benefit to your business.  So the more you can do to show your appreciation the greater the chance of staying on their radar and of them remaining loyal to you.

Mark key milestones in your relationship: thank them when they’ve been with you for a year, and on each subsequent anniversary, when they’ve concluded a big event, when you’ve worked with them on a big project or programme or when they’ve just upgraded to a particular level of service.

When enough is enough

One of the things I get asked about most with e-mail marketing is how often can you contact customers without annoying them. Well you certainly don’t want to be branded as a spammer.

I read this comment on TripAdvisor for a hotel only yesterday

“A nice hotel, friendly staff, breakfast ok, ……..  BUT: since I spent 2 days there I get mails and mails and mails about everything and nothing. I asked them twice to delete my data but nothing happened and they lavish me with newsletters.”

Not really the sort of thing that you want to get.

So three lessons here:

  1. Give your customers something of value; something that they really want to read or receive (and if you don’t know what this might be, try asking them)
  2. If you’re going to be sending a series of messages (supposed to a one-off thank you or confirmation) always seek permission and include a way to opt out if they choose
  3. Have a full proof system in place to ensure people are taken off your mailing list the moment they ask you to

Remember, a customer is special and the aim is to build a loyal relationship.

And of course thank yous don’t just happen at Christmas, but whenever a customer has had a choice, but chose to do business with you.

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