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Thank your clients

Obviously, your clients are extremely important to the ongoing success of your small business.  Their purchases are the fuel that keeps your business going.  Although some of your clients will cause you untold grief, the majority will make few demands on your time.

In some small businesses that I’ve worked with, the majority of their support team’s time is spent on “high-maintenance” clients.  As a result, their remaining clients are largely ignored.  It is unlikely the high-maintenance clients are the most profitable.

The Pareto Principle will apply in your business.  This states that 20% of your clients will absorb 80% of your time.  These will be your “high-maintenance” clients.  This means that unless you make a conscious decision to do otherwise, your best (most profitable) 80% of clients will only get 20% of your time.

If this is the case in your business, your best clients are probably thinking you aren’t very interested in them and that you are taking their repeat purchases for granted.  When your clients are feeling this way, your competitors have an opportunity to persuade them to switch supplier.  You may have already experienced this but not been able to pinpoint the reason.  The reality is that your ex-clients won’t share (with you) the real reason they are switching to a competitor.

A feeling of being taken for granted by a supplier drives many more buyers to switch suppliers than being charged higher prices.  Small business owners should take this on-board and find as many ways as possible to express their appreciation to their best clients, thanking them for their continued loyalty.

This expression of thanks need not be a grand expensive gesture.  Small and simple actions will work just as well.  In some markets, expensive gestures may be interpreted as having linked obligations (no more than a bribe in return for more orders).  Keep your gestures consistent with the client’s value to you.

Here are some simple ways you can demonstrate to your best clients how much you appreciate them.  None of this is difficult but it does require a little bit of thought and consideration.

  1. Offer special “one-off” incentives.  Free shipping, next day delivery, a free upgrade and 10% off vouchers are great ideas.  Being unpredictable is probably the secret of generating goodwill from your clients.  Occasionally, and unexpectedly, offer your best clients a special incentive.  The best incentives are those encouraging your client to make additional purchases.  They can take any form – free shipping on next purchase, discounts off their next purchase, next-day delivery, free upgrade etc.  These must be available only to existing clients otherwise the impact is lost.
  2. Send them a message of thanks.  Each “one-off” incentive should be accompanied by a letter of thanks to your client.  In fact, a simple unexpected message of thanks without an associated special offer will be well received by your clients.  They want to know you are thinking about them, looking out for opportunities to help them and valuing their business.
  3. Give them a small gift.  This step needs to be taken carefully.  In some sectors, your clients may be under instruction not to accept any gifts or offers of hospitality.  Do your research and avoid all actions that will embarrass your clients.  If you do decide to give them a small gift, it needs to be modestly priced – a diary, pen, bottle of wine or book are ideal in most cases.
  4. Invite them to a lunch or an event.  Offer them an invitation to an event you are organising – this could be the launch of your new product or a celebration of (say) 5 years in business.  An invitation to lunch or dinner at which they can meet your other senior employees can be very attractive.  The main rule at these events is “no selling, in any form”.  Make it clear there are no obligations on your client if they accept your invitation.  State clearly the invite is an acknowledgement of their purchasing history, their value and importance to your business.
  5. Offer an eBook or a multi-part e-course that would normally be charged for.  If you have small products that you would normally charge for, eBooks are a great example, simply offer them free-of-charge to your best clients.  It doesn’t have to be an eBook.  You can do this with any easily delivered items.  A multi-part e-course works well.  You deliver it via email and automate the delivery of each part through a low-cost autoresponder.  Each email is a good reminder of your business and its products/services.  You are not selling, simply recognising and acknowledging the value of having them on your client list.
  6. Invite them to a sporting event or to the theatre.  If you are selling “big ticket” items then you might consider offering them something more substantial than a diary or pen.  Invite them to a sporting event – either individually or as part of a group hospitality event.  For non-sporty types, there are other options, such as theatre tickets.  In fact, you don’t need to attend.  Provide them with 2 tickets, so they can take their partner.  Explain it is a “thank you” for their past business.  Avoid linking it to future potential purchases.
  7. Give them a sales lead or information about their marketplace.  This is probably the hardest to deliver but it will have a huge impact on your client if you can pull it off.  All the earlier suggestions involve you taking an action that is fully under your control.  Imagine how your client will respond if you were to telephone them and offer a real sales opportunity.  I guarantee it will lock your business into their subconscious – they will never forget you.  You will permanently stand out and differentiate yourself from your competition.

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