A Little Customer Appreciation can go a Long Way: How to turn your patrons into fans

Having loads of regular small business customers is good. Do you know what’s even better? Showering them with so much customer appreciation that they morph from regulars into fanatics.

So much of what keeps a customer coming back time and again is less about the product or service you’re selling and more about how you make them feel. You might make the best cup of coffee in town, but if you thrust it at them with an attitude, they’ll settle for the mediocre coffee down the street.

It’s vital to build positive, lasting relationships with your customers. And that doesn’t always mean offering deep discounts or extravagant sales to do it. Instead, build a customer rewards program that provides added value and breeds loyalty.

Here are five tips to get your started on your customer appreciation journey:

1. Start a loyalty program.

You know the sort — buy nine candles, get the tenth one free; spend $100 on dinner and get a free appetizer during your next visit. But you can get even more creative than that, offering special freebies and upgrades for certain milestones or celebrations, such as a customer’s birthday or an annual “Customer Appreciation Week.” A good loyalty program will make your customers feel important and keep them coming back through the doors.

2. Upgrade them.

In addition to the official loyalty program, make it a habit to offer occasional upgrades. If you run a spa and it’s a slow day, throw in an extra 15 minutes on that scheduled massage or upgrade a customer’s basic pedicure to something a little fancier. Look for ways to surprise your customers by turning a typical experience into something special.

3. Offer a little goodie.

We all like a treat once in a while, right? If you own a bakery, hand out samples of a new recipe. If you run a bookstore, let a child pick out a free bookmark to go along with his new book. You are the pet store owner who always has a bowl of free dog treats at the checkout counter. It doesn’t cost you much, but it generates goodwill.

4. Give your (financial) support.

Be the local business that sponsors the elementary school carnival to raise money for the PTA. Gather your employees together to create a team for the annual cancer run to benefit a program at the nearby hospital. Your customers are generous with their support of your small business, and you can be generous in return by supporting the causes that matter most to them.

(After you do all that wonderful supporting, don’t forget to share the experience on social media. Cause marketing creates a bond between you and your customers; click here for more tips on how to incorporate it into your small business marketing.)

5. And finally, thank them.

Saying “thank you” sounds pretty basic, but it often gets lost in the shuffle. Take a few moments to send a handwritten thank you note after a customer makes a large purchase. Give a shout-out to your most loyal customers on your social media channels with a “Fan of the Week” award. When you feel grateful, make a point of saying it.

Remember that being a successful small business owner doesn’t mean you have to be a cheesy salesperson. Most often, your success depends more on the relationships you build and the way you treat your customers.

Want more (free) advice like this? Then click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we focus on you and your small business goals. Think of it as a little goodie from me to you!

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