Lifetime Value of Customer Appreciation
 By Bob Martel, president, JMB Marketing Group

If you have been even an occasional reader of this column, you know that I believe that when the perceived value is clear, the market for your products and services will appear, money in hand. It’s all about communicating and building upon the perceived value of what your company offers in totality. Agree?

Marketing theory is great for intellectual conversations, but if you also agree that the best marketer wins, then even if you only have one customer, your mission is still centered on communicating value. It’s also about using sincere gratitude as your most powerful customer retention tool if keeping that one customer is important. Marketing through customer appreciation is a key strategy that you cannot afford to overlook. Take your customers for granted and your competitors will be thanking you for sending business to them! Take a page from world history for your marketing play book: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”- Marcus Tullius Cicero.

So, when was the last time a company president or executive actually reached out and said thank you for doing business with them? How seldom is it that we receive a note of gratitude, or even a handshake in appreciation for our patronage? As human beings, we all want to be acknowledged in some small way for what we do in the course of our daily lives. We are here on this planet for such a short while and we lead such busy – and increasingly isolated lives – that the impact of an authentic showing of appreciation is huge.

Technology has rewired our brains and we have forgotten the basics of human interaction, which makes a simple thank you note or appreciation gesture stand out. Demonstrating sincere customer appreciation is an obvious priority, yet it’s seldom a serious effort. Customer appreciation, both as a marketing strategy and as a survival strategy for some companies, begins with employee appreciation. A long ago published report in the Harvard Business Journal makes the case that you cannot have loyal customers until and unless you have happy, loyal employees.

Customer appreciation programs must begin with the end in mind. In other words, the company must identify the outcome or behavior(s) they wish to influence with a sincere thank you program. The underlying success of any customer appreciation program hinges on creating an authentic customer experience, meaning that the appreciation gesture is received as an appropriate acknowledgement. Ignore it at your peril. Customer retention must be your highest priority, followed by customer win-back programs.

Customer retention starts with a company culture that recognizes the fact that customers should be acknowledged, thanked, and recognized for their loyalty. One of the most effective strategies you can implement is a well designed customer appreciation program, which may include an appreciation event, but is an ongoing effort that can be triggered by a multitude of customer buying cycle criteria.

As you consider how to implement a customer appreciation program, consider these tips:

• Start with the outcome in mind and make the appreciation program a funded component of your marketing plan. Establish goals, metrics, and the behavior you want to influence.
• Show genuine gratitude with a personalized message. Nothing beats a personalized handwritten note from the CEO, with an optional exclusive gift enclosed. We have mailed more than 300,000 handwritten cards for clients, with a personalized note from the top executive. It works!
• Your customer appreciation program can be as simple as a handshake and nothing else. But, it has to be a disciplined effort for true effectiveness. Does your program make the customer feel truly special in an appropriate way? We all like to be acknowledged and appreciated for what we do on this planet. Let your best customers know that you appreciate their choice to do business with you!
• If you are rewarding loyalty, choose a low cost, high perceived value gift. A discount on your services is not a gift, it's a sale. A customer appreciation sale is different than a bona fide thank you. The gift does not need to be outrageous.
• A "free gift with purchase" can be used for a public "customer appreciation event" as could early access to a sale or, even better, a private sale (or special event) exclusively for those you wish to acknowledge. Lots of great examples all around you!
Your customer appreciation efforts should not be a thinly disguised retail merchandising program designed to stimulate sales. Yes, it’s a great reason to extend a private offer to people you want to thank. Your mission is to cement a relationship and influence the lifetime value of that relationship, correct?

The customer appreciation program you put in place must be:
• Easy to implement
• Easy to measure and monitor
• Timely and appropriate in terms of any gifts or awards
• Relatively low cost to fulfill
• High perceived value
• Relevant
• Fun – everyone should feel good as a result!
I have prepared a special report exclusively for Marketing Advisor readers. If you send me an email with 'customer appreciation report' in the subject line, I'll share 17 ways you can show appreciation to your best customers - without breaking your bank account.

In the field of influence and persuasion, keep in mind that the words please and thank you are very powerful. Remember, as marketers, your primary goal is, ultimately, to achieve maximum compliance with your request. You are always moving your prospect to that next step in their buying process whether you are reinforcing a brand identity or extending a direct response offer. If you are unsure about the next step in your own customer appreciation efforts, please pick up the phone and let’s have a conversation.

Thank you for reading!

---Source: Bob Martel is a marketing consultant, direct marketing copywriter, and author of the book “How to Create All of the Business You Can Handle.” Subscribe to his monthly newsletter: Marketing With Ease. Reach him at (508) 481-8383 or by email at to request your free copy of 34 Reasons to Write A Sales Letter to Your Best Customers.

Melissa Data

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