How to Show Customer Appreciation.
Customer appreciation is an important yet underestimated and often overlooked element of any successful racing or automotive company. What’s more, there’s never a bad time to show your customers they’re valued, regardless of whether sales are currently up or down.
Business is a two-way street, so it’s worth taking extra time (and in some cases, spending extra money) to improve and maintain your best customer relationships.
The question is, what’s the best way to show your customers the appreciation they deserve?
THE ROI OF CUSTOMER APPRECIATION
First, let’s clarify why customer appreciation is so important for motorsports companies and similar businesses. Like every other investment in your company, you can think of it in terms of ROI (return on investment). For every dollar you spend on customer appreciation, you can expect to make more than a dollar in additional revenue—assuming you spend those dollars wisely.
Much of this value will be generated by prioritizing customer retention. It’s well-established that customer retention is less expensive than customer acquisition—in other words, it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one—and customer appreciation is one of the easiest ways to keep your current customers around. When customers feel valued, and/or earn something by patronizing your establishment, they become more loyal to your brand.
But customer appreciation also has a customer acquisition angle; when customers feel valued, they’re more likely to talk about your brand to their friends, family members, and colleagues.
So how, exactly, are you supposed to show your customers that you appreciate them?
TRANSACTIONAL & SHORT-TERM STRATEGIES
We’ll start with a selection of short-term strategies that can be executed on a per-transaction basis. You can apply these as often as you’d like, but they tend to pay off more if you execute them consistently.
Extra services or complimentary products. You can start by giving away certain products or extra services that show customers you’re willing to go the extra mile. For example, if you’re selling race parts, you could offer free installation (assuming the labor isn’t especially intensive), or you could throw in something small related to the core purchase—like oil filters with a purchase of motor oil. You don’t have to spend much or sacrifice much time; the point is to stand out by offering something your competitors don’t.
Occasional giveaways and premium freebies. You can also occasionally sponsor giveaways or premium upgrades for your customers. Giving a customer their order for free, by surprise, is a great way to become the topic of conversation the next time they gather with colleagues. The trick is to time it right—so you’re not spending too much money on the effort.
Brand swag. Brand swag, the trendier name for promotional merchandise, serves multiple purposes. On the surface, it’s a nice way to show customer appreciation; a T-shirt, mug, calendar, or similarly practical item serves a purpose for your customers, and if given to them for free, can be a highlight of their day. If it has your company logo on it, it’s also going to double as a form of advertising.
Gift baskets. Gift baskets are best reserved for your long-term and major clients—the ones placing orders with your business on a frequent and consistent basis. Consider sending gift baskets to prominent buyers, like racing teams in your area, around the holidays.
Dinners and celebrations. Similarly, you could show appreciation to your best clients by taking them to dinner or celebrating major victories with them—if you work with a specific racing team and their driver wins an important race, invite them out to celebrate (on your dime). It could tremendously increase their loyalty.
Thank-you letters. Don’t overthink your customer appreciation strategy. Sometimes, a simple thank-you letter is all it takes to make a customer feel good (and keep them loyal to your business). Hand-written cards are especially impactful, but an e-card to celebrate their birthday or anniversary with your company can go a long way, too.
These are just some examples. Feel free to experiment with your own customer appreciation ideas.
BIG-PICTURE & LONG-TERM STRATEGIES
On a higher level, you can implement policies, programs, and event coordination to make your best customers feel even more appreciated.
Customer loyalty programs. You’re likely already familiar with customer loyalty programs offered by consumer brands like Starbucks, Amazon, REI, and Apple. What’s stopping you from offering one of your own? Membership programs are easy to set up with the help of a third-party platform, and you’ll have a ton of flexibility with how you reward your customers. For example, you can give certain discounts or freebies based on the number of dollars they spend with you, or have a progression track that unlocks different rewards over time.
Anniversaries. Take the time to recognize anniversaries with your best clients. Depending on the timing, it may also be the perfect opportunity to remind them about maintenance or talk about the latest parts in stock.
Social media spotlights. Some brands have grown in popularity thanks to a “customer spotlight” program they execute on social media. Periodically, they take a photo of a customer, tell their story, and share it on social media to all their fans. This is especially powerful if your customers happen to be known throughout the racing industry; just make sure you get their permission before posting.
Thank-you videos. Thank-you letters are great for expressing appreciation to a single customer, but what if you want to express appreciation to an entire industry? The best way is with a thank-you video that recounts some of your most memorable or favorite experiences with your customers. Get it professionally produced and share it on social media for maximum effect.
Customer appreciation events. You can also host regular customer appreciation events, which vary in scale with your customer base. For all your customers, you could hold a discount day or similar celebration. If you’re focusing on your “best” customers, you could host a private celebration with food and drinks.
The success of your customer appreciation strategy will depend not just on the tactics you use, but also on the nature of your brand and the strength of your overall customer service department. Work to better understand your customers, and experiment with different offers to maximize your results.
Jayson DeMers is the founder and CEO of EmailAnalytics, an app that visualizes email activity to help optimize team productivity. He is also the founder of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing agency. Jayson graduated from the University of Washington in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration, and immediately entered the field of online marketing. Since then, he has authored hundreds of articles as a frequent contributor on publications including Forbes, Inc., The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Search Engine Land.