In honor of Valentine’s Day show your customers some love. The goal is to say thank you in an unexpected way and we have a list of 100 options to help you. [BTW, here's our #BloggerLove Contest to celebrate our readers. Enter a blog post with one of these 125 free blog titles by February 28th, 2011 to win.]
Celebrating your customers doesn’t mean renaming your regular end of season clearance. That doesn’t count since it’s part of your on-going promotional calendar that you need to achieve your budget goals. To be effective, your special actions must be in line with your marketing strategy and not just another name for customer service.
To help you keep the customer love going all year long, here are 100 ways to show your customers you truly appreciate them and their business. To this end, put yourself in your customers’ shoes to see how they view your efforts. Here’s how to hug your customer. (To be clear, we’re talking figuratively not literally about hugging your customers.)
Don’t forget to thank them. It’s just old-fashioned good manners.
- Thank customers via email. Send customers a tailored email.
- Send customers thank you letters. With the increase in online communications, this note will stand out in any mailbox, personal or corporate.
- Handwrite your thank you notes. This is a very special gesture, reminiscent of special occasions like weddings. Here’s an unexpected example from United. (Yes you read that correctly!)
- Send customers a postcard of thanks. Use another physical communication alternative.
- Include thank you note in your package. This works well for online and catalog purchases.
- Tweet your thanks. This implies you know your customers’ Twitter handle.
- Offer your thanks on Facebook.
- Send your thanks in mobile alerts. For this option, you need your customer’s mobile number and permission to contact them. Bear in mind for some customers there may be a cost for this option.
Make an offer they can’t refuse. (Note: All offers and/or coupons should be time limited and not valid with any other offer.)
- Give delayed store coupon. Offer customers an in-store promotion that’s not valid until a future period such as the next month.
- Provide coupon for future purchase after an online purchase. Your goal is to get customers to shop online again.
- Offer store coupon after an online purchase. Goal is to get shoppers to buy at retail.
- Present retail customers with a coupon valid for online offer. Goal is to get buyers to shop online.
- Give a “Buy one, Get one free” for retail shoppers. In essence, this is a half price offer. Direct marketers have found based on years of testing that this works better. Test it yourself to determine if your results vary. Be careful to limit the items on this offer to high margin product to protect your profits. (For math phobics, here’s some easy-to-understand information for assessing your costs.)
- Offer “Buy one, Get one free” for online shoppers. This is a traffic driver to either encourage purchasing or reducing inventory. Alternatively, it can be used to reward loyalty.
- Provide “Buy one, Get one free” for catalog shoppers. This is a classic offer for this distribution channel.
- Offer “Buy one, Get one-half price”. Here’s another classic direct marketing offer.
- Send former customers mobile coupon. You must have permission to contact your customer and their mobile number.
- Make mobile offer based on location based check-in via Foursquare or similar platform.
- Offer promotions on targeted mobile app. Reach targeted smartphone users. (Here’s mobile data to help with your marketing strategy.
- Provide customers offers via Twitter. Bear in mind that using Twitter makes this offer available to a broader audience. It can be viewed as pushing your promotions, not special thanks.
- Include a special offer in RSS feed. This limits your offer to those customers subscribed to your feeds. Caveat – since you don’t know who subscribes to your feed, the offer can be redeemed by anyone.
Give your customers bragging rights with their 15 seconds of fame.
- Spotlight customers in your store or office. Use a special bulletin board.
- Highlight customers on your website. Create a virtual bulletin board. For example, Oreos highlights one customer on their Facebook page.
- Dedicate an area of your blog to your customers’ work or opinions. Include a photograph of your customer or their creations related to your business.
- Feature customers in your regular emailings. This can be a good way to get customers to open your emails.
- Tweet photos of your customers or their projects. Here’s a good way to expand your reach.
- Highlight customers in your catalogs. Show your love for your customers in your own promotional materials that help sell your product.
- Feature customers in magazine column as PR or branded content. Use customers stories to expand your content creations.
- Create video of your customers. Let your customers use their own words to express themselves.
- Incorporate customer questions or input into your video. This can be posted on your site or on YouTube. Sesame Street did a great job of this by asking customers for questions that they answered in the video.
- Use customer photos in your advertising. Advertising on Flickr often include a variety of customer photos.
- Showcase customers’ work in your promotional campaign. This is great for showing prospects that it’s not just experts who make the projects.
- Interview customers on your website. Add content and show customer perspective that other prospects trust.
- Gather customer input on video. Create a video using customer input. Focus on your offering or an issue of importance to your target market.
- Interview customers on your blog. For example, Lion’s Brand highlight’s a customer’s project with some background on how they made the item.
Reward your customers—Gift it to me. Customers always want to get something special, especially if it’s free.
- Give email registratants a reward for signing up. This doesn’t mean sending them more of your promotional emails! Instead offer them something that they want such as a whitepaper or a coupon.
- Offer prospects something special for downloading information from your website. This is particularly useful for business-to-business offers.
- Present people who check-in with special. Give customers a special reason to check-in. It’s important to bear in mind that this is a new action that you need to get prospects to do.
- Offer a reward to prospects that scan your QR code or allow you to swipe their information. This can apply to getting someone’s information at a tradeshow or a snapshot of a QR code.
- Reward sharing mobile phone information. Remember your goal is to build your mobile house file.
- Offer shoppers a gift for buying a specific item. Make the item and gift relevant. Alternatively, give every customer an item.
- Give away free e-books. Share the knowledge with prospects, customers and the public. Create useful content that prospects and customers want.
- Provide free whitepapers. This tends to be used for business-to-business sales. While it’s older option, it’s still useful.
- Offer free e-cards. This is a good way to get customers to extend their time on your site and get new prospects on to it.
- Give away free downloadable game. Can be used on a computer, iPad or smartphone. (Of course, you can include advertising, branding or have paid upgrades to a fuller version.) The give away should stand on its own.
- Download ringtone. Many people want to personalize their mobile’s sound so they can recognize it. Offer a variety of options that relate to your offering. Think special ringtones such as television or movie character voices.
- Provide free computer wallpaper. The functionality must be useful for your audience but can include advertising and/or showcase your offering.
- Give away free MP3s. This is a good way to get prospects to test your music or other audio. It can’t be just a commercial for your company. That’s not special!
- Offer free mobile app. While lots of mobile apps are introduced regularly, it’s important to get prospects to download yours and use it. Therefore make sure that it relates to your product offering and supports a useful function.
- Give away free video, either DVD or download. Make it useable not a business promotion. Think in terms of training or entertainment.
- Have a raffle for customers. Give them tickets with a chance to win some merchandise or a gift card. It’s useful for getting customers to register for an email list.
- Let them test your wares. For example, give people a tastes in your stores. Trader Joe has counters dedicated to cooking treats for shoppers.
- Surprise customers with special, unexpected treat in their package. This is a good way to get them to test new products.
- Host a live clinic to help customers use your product. Be a resource for customers. It’s particularly good for craft, electronics and software.
- Provide free related service. It can be useful for a drugstore, pet store or animal clinic. Dermatologists often give free cancer screenings to new patients.
- Give free mini-classes. Everyone likes to expand their knowledge especially when it comes to activities that they’re passionate about. This is a great way to entice new users.
- Offer another service for free. Entice customers during slow periods. You don’t want to hurt sales during your prime usage. For example, a car wash may give a special polish.
- Celebrate the day. Offer customers something special that’s out of the ordinary. Again the idea is to drive traffic during your slow periods.
- Use your store or office to have a reading book reading or special speaker. Build a real-life community around your customers. Do this off hours so that you’re not interrupting work or business.
- Host a book club. It can be on a subject related to your business or just a benefit for your customers. The goal is to get people into your store and to have a positive experience. Knitty City, a Manhattan knitting store, has a monthly book club not related to yarn.
- Provide online real-time forums. Think in terms of free training or a talk to reach a wider audience.
- Put out treats for shoppers. Think broadly. It can be a bowl of candy near your cash register or on a table. Also, don’t overlook their four legged friends who like treats or even water in the hot weather.
- Deliver orders for free. Expand your reach. This only delights if it’s not something that you do regularly. Think bookstore. This is a great way to expand your offering.
- Offer free shipping and handling. Since this has become such a required part of online marketing, it doesn’t apply for most online retailers. It works for retailers such as department stores and other local business like dry cleaners. Before you offer this, make sure that it makes sense financially.
Let’s party! The quickest way to a customer’s heart is often via the stomach.
- Throw a party for your customers. Knitty City has cake and discounts to celebrate its birthday.
- Join us for coffee. Open early with coffee and breakfast treats to give a group a special time to shop.
- Need a coffee break? Put out coffee and cookies to lure customers in. Banks often do this to make using the bank a social event.
- Offer them a drink. Get customers in to relax after work. This can be an unusual treat for service organizations. Wine shops often have tastings to get customers in.
- Bring the kids. Offer special activities for children, such as a special class, or even just babysitting.
- Honor your BFFs. Get customers to bring their friends in with a special offer. Make it a “Girls Day” promotion.
- Buy one, send a gift to friend. This is another spin on the Buy one, Get one free offer.
- 72. Host movie night. For example, Lion’s Brand Studio shows a movie with a knitting scene, the last Thursday of the month.
- Throw a pajamas party for kids. Invite kids to your store for an evening party.
- Take the party to your customers. Throw a party at a customer’s home like an old fashioned Tupperware party.
- Help them get there. Think about providing transportation to help customers get to your location. This can be great for non-drivers or older patrons. For example, Flying Fingers has a yarnmobile that picks up customers in New York City and drives them to their suburban location. The brightly decorated van gets lots of attention.
- Offer special services for targeted audiences. Use slow times to target select groups of customers.
- Make them feel special. Take advantage of a velvet rope promotion for a special segment of your customers.
Celebrate important occasions with your customers. This includes their birthday, their anniversary, graduation or even the anniversary of their shopping at your establishment.
- Send birthday email. Remember you can just collect the month or month and day of a customer’s birthday. Be sensitive to the fact that women won’t want to reveal their age.
- Recognize your customers’ birthdays with a birthday card. This isn’t an opportunity for promotion but rather it’s about your customers.
- Add your birthday wishes for customers on Facebook.
- Highlight your customer’s birthdays on your website. Make customers feel special by mentioning them.
- Create a special birthday recognition board in your store or office. It’s a great reason to ask for additional personal information to build your customer files.
- Send customers a special promotion for their birthday. A lot of retailers offer special birthday promotions for the day, week or month of your birthday.
- Send email reminder of for important occasions. This is a great idea for forgetful husbands and grandparents.
- Text customers to remind them about birthdays and anniversary. Remember you need permission to use this channel.
- Call to remind customers about special dates like birthdays and anniversaries. This is good for florist and related products. Be careful that you’re not leaving a message on a family phone number.
- Send customers anniversary cards. Note this applies to personal anniversaries and those related to shopping with your organization.
Make a donation. These suggestions are a win-win. You support a good cause and increase the likelihood customers will shop from you. (Here’s more information on how charity influences buyer behavior via Cone Inc.)
- Donate a portion of sales to charity. Let customers know that you will donate a portion of your sales up to a certain limit.
- Provide place for charity to meet. This can be very useful, especially since groups can have trouble finding meeting places.
- Get involved in a charity cause. Knitters often do this in the form of red scarves, chemo caps and afghans.
- Offer customers a discount for making a donation. This is another spin on matching donations.
- Provide a location to donate items. This can be very helpful for a not-for-profit that has limited physical presence.
- Give leftovers to charity. This is a good idea for food shops and restaurants for food related goods that have an expiration date.
- Be green! Recycle products that you sell such as plastic bags, ink cartridges and batteries. Customers like to patronize shops that are green.
- Allow a not-for-profit (NFP) to promote their programs in your shop window. For example, Zabars in New York has a promotion for the JCC in its neighborhood. (Here’s some examples of NFPs promoted in shop windows.)
- Put flyers for not-for-profits in your shopping bags. This cost effectively helps to distribute information for an NFP.
- Insert flyers for a not-for-profit in your packages. Another distribution method.
- Offer not-for-profit “Take ones” near your cash register. Get customers’ attention by placing flyers for a NFP at the checkout.
- Promote a not-for-profit on your shopping bag. Here’s another way to support a NFP. (Here’s more information on shopping bags.)
- Give a not-for-profit product for a raffle. Show your support for an organization while getting some publicity for your store.
Remember, your goal is to delight your customers by showing that you care. It’s not just another promotion conduit. Regardless of which of these options you choose, assess the impact on your business. This includes a wide variety of options such as improved customer good will, incremental sales, and additional press visibility. As with any marketing initiative, it’s important to test a variety of alternatives to see which one(s) perform best. To keep your customers delighted, consider using an assortment of options through out the year.
Are there any other ways that you can suggest to “hug” your customer that aren’t on this list? If so, please include them in the comment section below.
P.S. Since love is in the air, please join us for #BloggerLove Month. Enter our We ♥ Bloggers Contest with a chance to win Chris Brogan and Julian Smith’s Trust Agents. Just write a blog post using one of these 125 Free Blog Titles.
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If you liked this list, check out 111 Ways to get your marketing on track.
Photo credit: Schipulites via Flickr