With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it is hard to escape all the turkey-themed calls to better your small business via holiday promotions, Thanksgivifying your website, or making the most out of downtime while your turkey cooks. However, with all the smiling turkeys and cornucopias dripping with produce and strategic product placements, it is easy to get caught up in the commercialism and forget about the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving.

Don’t. Study after study has shown that simply taking the time and (often minimal) effort to sincerely thank your customers not only creates a connection with your business and your brand that strengthens many aspects of the business relationship, it can also help to empower your team and make them feel more connected to your business.

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The Science of Gratitude

For example, a 2011 research study found that restaurant customers who received a small gift upon arrival (in this study a keychain or cup of yogurt was presented—both nominal cost items) spent 46.4% more than those who received no gift. (Fancy restaurants offering an “Amuse Bouche” (a small free pre-appetizer bite as a gift from the chef) to whet the appetite, will appreciate this research showing that it may also increase the tab.)

Another 2008 study looked at the social evolution of gratitude, and not surprisingly found that a showing of gratitude generated not only good will in the recipient but also an inclination to reciprocate that good will. This finding reinforces the value of sending thank you notes or crafting thank you pages that suggest (if not right-out ask for) a referral to others who might benefit from the products/services your small business offers. However, the study notes that it is very important to carefully craft these thank-yous in a way that truly displays gratitude, and not in one that generates feelings of obligation. Freely given gratitude they find, generates positive feelings of “contentment and wellbeing” that makes people more likely to “pay it forward” and help others, while obligation is a negative emotion that makes people feel “uncomfortable” and results in them being less inclined to positively respond to requests for assistance, such as recommending a business to others.

The benefits of gratitude extend beyond the recipient to the giver. According to a recent Gallup State of the American Workplace report, “when organizations successfully engage their customers and their employees, they experience a 240% boost in performance-related business outcomes compared to an organization with neither engaged employees nor engaged customers.” Companies with engaged employees, the study finds, have 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) than their less-engaged competitors, and fully engaged customers are worth 23% more than baseline customers.

Other studies find that it can cost 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one; that increasing customer retention by 2% can have the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%; and that depending on industry, reducing customer defection by 5% can increase profitability by at least 25% and as much as 125%.

With so much upside, don’t relegate the “Thank You” to special cases; make it an integral part of all aspects of your small business operation. If you’re in doubt about the ROI, read The Business Case for Loving Customers which walks you through the numbers and the benefits.

How to Say Thank You

While simply taking the time to thank your customers can go a long way, going the extra mile can make the difference between a satisfied customer and a brand-promoting customer for life. Earlier this year PaySimple’s VP of posted on ways to Surprise and Delight customers—something we at PaySimple go to great lengths to keep at the core of our interactions with all of our customers. For example, we often send hand-written thank you notes with small gift cards to customers to show appreciation for a referral, for working with us through a difficult problem, or for no specific reason at all.

There are about as many ways to show appreciation for your customers as there are customers—and sometimes the most effective, memorable, and genuine ways to do it are deeply individualized. One great example occurred in Canada earlier this year. A large bank worked with its tellers to identify customers facing life-challenges, and then invited those customers to come into their local branch to test a new ATM. Upon arrival, those customers found themselves “speaking” with an “Automated Thanking Machine” that not only thanked them for their business, but also dispensed personalized gifts. For example, one elderly woman was given plane tickets to visit her sick daughter, and one woman was provided with tickets to take her children to Disney Land. See it unfold below:

If the ATM approach is a bit too costly and elaborate for you, try one of these:

  • Send a “Thank You” email. In addition to a sincere thank you, you might also want to include a special offer or other incentive to purchase again. According to this post, which also provides tips for crafting the email, order follow-up thank you emails have 42.51% open rates, 18.27% click-through rates, and 10.34% conversion rates– way better than a typical targeted email marketing message.
  • Give a Social Media Shout-out. Post a video about your customer, tweet or share your customers’ posts (or re-tweet their tweets), or recommend them on LinkedIn. See this post for more social media ideas.
  • Create a compelling and effective Thank You page for online purchases, form submissions, and other sign-ups. There is no better time to sincerely show your appreciation for a purchase (or even just for providing contact information), set expectations for the (potentially new) business relationship, up-sell to an enhanced or complimentary product, request a social media connection, or request a referral. See this post for 4 Thank You Page Examples That Got It Right, and this one for an in depth analysis of how successful thank you pages work.
  • 25 Ways to Thank Your Customers, from Help Scout, provides a number of “fun and quirky” ideas, including sending cards on unique or obscure holidays. (For help finding them, see my previous post on occasions to celebrate your small business—do I hear pastry cards for National Doughnut Day?)
  • Another Help Scout post suggests unexpected product personalization. It highlights a restaurant that designed plates based on personal information the wait-staff were able to glean from conversations with customers.
  • 9 Virtual Ways to Thank Loyal Customers provides tips for thanking customers from afar. For example, it suggests doing “virtual lunch” by ordering food and having it delivered to your customers.
  • For even more ideas, check out the 55 Customer Appreciation Ideas infographic from the Self Employed King website, and the associated article. My personal favorite from the list: #54 Send a gift card to have their house cleaned.

However you say it, don’t forget the power of a “thank you.” It is just good business.

Which reminds me– Thank You for reading PaySimple’s Small Business . Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I’m the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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