It’s amazing how far a simple “thank you” can go. Research shows that customers spend more, employees accomplish more, and vendors are more likely to pay on time, if they’re thanked regularly.
“We're living in what I like to call the ‘Thank You Economy,’ because only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way -- and do it authentically -- are going to have a prayer of competing,” says social media expert and author of the book The Thank You Economy Gary Vaynerchuk in a recent Entrepreneur.com column. “I care a great deal about the bottom line, but I care about my customers even more. That's always been my competitive advantage,” Vaynerchuck says.
How exactly can you harness the power of appreciation? Here are 10 ways to thank your customers, employees and vendors this Thanksgiving -- and all year.
1. Be specific.
Focus your gratitude on what the employee or vendor actually did. Rather than saying, “Thanks for your good work,” it would be more effective to say something like, “Thanks for staying late last night to close that deal; your dedication will really help the company grow.” Use a similar strategy with vendors: Recognize them when they go above and beyond what’s expected.
Why it’s important: A focused “thank you” will be more meaningful and thus increase employees’ motivation and productivity. A recent poll by TJinsite, a division of TimeJobs.com, found that more than 35 percent of respondents consider lack of recognition of their work the biggest hindrance to productivity.
2. Make it personal.
Connecting your appreciation with the recipient’s personal life can make your message more resonant. If you show gratitude with a gift, Joey Faucette, author of Work Positive in a Negative World, suggests relating it to life beyond the business walls. For instance, if a vendor recently had a baby, give her a baby book in which she can add pictures and notes about the little one. Or if an employee's mother recently died of breast cancer, make a donation to Race for the Cure in her name.
Why it’s important: Faucette says such intimacy breaks the ice in an emotional, not just a professional, way, “which is the game-changing pathway to greater profits.”
3. Take it old school.
When was the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note? In the era of Facebook and text messaging, it’s likely been quite some time. Don’t underestimate the impact of sending a note through snail mail.
Why it’s important: Taking the time to write a thoughtful note indicates a deeper level of appreciation than simply dashing off a short email or text. Because the hand-written letter is pretty much a lost art, the extra effort will not go unnoticed and may make customers more inclined to give you repeat business.
4. Be authentic.
If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Your customers and employees will know right away if a “thank you” is genuine or not. Similarly, don’t dole out gratitude when it’s not deserved. If you go around thanking everyone for every tiny thing, it won’t mean much when it’s actually warranted.
Why it’s important: “If I or my employees had come off as phonies or schmoozers, my company would not be what it is today,” Vaynerchuk says. “You cannot underestimate people's ability to spot a soulless, bureaucratic tactic a million miles away. Engagement has to be heartfelt, or it won't work.”
5. Add some real value.
Host a customer appreciation day with deep discounts and giveaways for your loyal fans. Offer free shipping on all online orders. Give your employees small incentives for going above and beyond, like a gift certificate for a night at the movies or a small monetary bonus.
Why it’s important: Sometimes words aren’t enough. It’s gestures such as these that in the long run can help boost your bottom line. If your customers feel that you go out of your way to reward them, they’re more likely to choose you over your less-appreciative competition.
6. Don't forget the little guy.
It’s easy to remember to recognize the people you work with directly everyday. But it’s also important to give thanks to the often-overlooked crew that helps your business run smoothly. Leave a thank you note for the trash collector, give the mailman a gift certificate to a local restaurant, or get a dozen cupcakes for the UPS guy.
Why it’s important: Most people don’t thank these hard-working people. So, a little effort will make you stand out and can go a long way toward getting great service from these folks.
7. Refer business to your vendors and partners.
There may be no better way to thank your vendors than by sending more business their way. While such a direct referral is always appreciated, you also could go a step further and host a party for all your vendors and partners. Invite your suppliers, accountant, lawyer, investors and anyone else you do business with.
Why it’s important: If you throw a party, you will not only be thanking your vendors with a great time, but you’ll also be giving everyone a chance to network and connect with new clients.
8. Think outside the box.
If you want to get the attention of vendors and clients, send a distinctive thank-you gift. Consider geographic-specific gifts -- if you’re based in Wisconsin, for example, send a selection of high-quality cheeses. Peruse Etsy for handmade or vintage items that say thanks in a unique, memorable way. Or create a personalized golf towel, wine glass or other item using a service such as RedEnvelope.com.
Why it’s important: Because some people receive hundreds of gifts throughout the year, you need to send a thank-you gift people will remember when it’s time to pull out their wallets.
9. Thank your complaining customers.
Complaining customers are going out of their way to tell you why they’re dissatisfied. This generally means they still want to do business with you, assuming you’re able to fix the problem. When a customer complains, thank them first for their business, then explain how you will make things right and offer an exclusive coupon to be used on a future visit.
Why it’s important: Most unhappy customers don’t bother to complain, but simply take their business elsewhere. So every complaint should be seen as an opportunity to improve relationships and win repeat business.
10. Give social media shout-outs.
Give social media shout-outs. Thank customers by posting a coupon or secret code word on Facebook that gives your fans an exclusive deal. Mention a loyal customer on Twitter to publicly show your gratitude. Or perhaps even profile one of your best clients on your company blog, explaining why you appreciate them so much.
Why it’s important: Some of your most loyal customers and brand advocates are your online fans, so you should show how much you value them in the social media sphere where they interact most with you and your business.