Giving Thanks to Prospects & Customers

By: Bryan St. Amant


Surely our customers give us much to be thankful for.  Without them, we wouldn't be in business.  But does it really make sense to reach out and thank our prospects and customers? As marketers, can we justify taking time out from our endless stream of 'buy now' messaging to simply say thanks for your business?

My answer is yes!  That's why this month's wine marketing tip focuses on: Giving Thanks to Prospects & Customers.

Besides being a reasonable way to treat our fellow human beings, taking the time to show appreciation by saying 'thanks' to our customers can help us achieve many of our most important business objectives.

A well-timed thank you note can help turn prospects into buyers and transform first-time buyers into repeat customers...maximizing lifetime revenue.  Using email marketing to extend the hospitality and personal service we offer in our retail establishments reinforces a positive brand image.  And by taking a little time to express our appreciation, we can effectively differentiate our business from the vast majority of companies that compete for our customers' loyalty and attention.

Fortunately with the tools of email marketing, saying thanks is not difficult or expensive to do.

So if you're willing to give it a try, how and when can you add an element of giving thanks to your email marketing mix?  I'm sure you can come up with many unique ideas for your business, but here are a few to get you started:

At Email List Sign-up 
When prospects sign-up for your email list, what do you send them?  Hopefully, the email engine you're using can generate an automatic confirmation message.  So why not use this opportunity to say "thanks for joining our list" and reinforce the benefits of subscribing? 

To take it a step further, think about how you can use your initial thank you message to encourage new prospects to become new buyers.  Do you have a subset of products well suited for first-time buyers or can you offer new prospects a special discount on their initial purchase?  Either way, including an offer for first-time buyers with your thank you email can be profitable for you while building good will with your prospects.

After Initial Purchase 
Do you know when a customer has purchased from you for the very first time? If so, what better time is there to thank them for their business?  Drop a note in their shipment or include a note in the order confirmation...but either way this is the time for a heartfelt "thanks for your business!"  Although you don't want to overshadow your thank you message with sales hype, this could also be a great time to include a coupon promoting reorder.  In this way you can thank your customers for their business while encouraging first-time buyers to become repeat customers.

On Birthdays & Holidays 
Many of the clients we work with ask prospects their birth month as part of the list sign-up process. The purpose?  To enable up a friendly birthday mailing.  While not technically a "thank you," this type of mailing clearly falls into the category of customer do classic holiday greetings. Again, you don't have to turn all of your customer appreciation mailings into direct sales programs, but a special coupon as a birthday gift wouldn't be out of line. 

And even if you don't collect birthday information, consider a simple New Year's greeting thanking prospects for their interest and customers for their business during the past year.  While you're at it, you might invite them to update their email preferences so you can serve them even better in the year to come.

On Membership Anniversary
Another great occasion to thank your email prospects for their interest and loyalty is on the anniversary of their subscription to your mailing list.  Most email engines keep track of the date and time members subscribe, so why not use this information to enhance your customer relationships? 

Subscribers who have been with you a year or more deserve special recognition.  These long-term subscribers can also offer you valuable feedback on your marketing efforts. So in addition to acknowledging their anniversary you might consider asking for input on your email marketing efforts, using a simple survey or response form.

At Volume Purchase Levels
Further along the customer continuum, another great time to thank customers is when they reach certain volume purchase levels, whether it's a case of wine or a trainload of widgets.  In addition to recognizing their special status, consider treating your best customers to a program that offers rewards and incentives to keep them coming back for more.

When Referring New Customers
At the far end of the customer continuum, some customers transcend their status as loyal buyers to become brand advocates, actively recommending your products to colleagues and friends.  Perhaps you're capturing some of this potential with a "tell-a-friend" or customer referral program built into your email campaigns.  If your tracking system shows the source of your referrals, you can also use each new referral as an opportunity to thank your brand advocates and/or reward them with a special coupon or promotion.

The Bottom Line...
Now I realize that customer appreciation and thank you mailings do not take the place of typical sales oriented emails.  Nor should they.  Our primary relationship with customers, and the one they expect, is one of commerce -- delivering goods and service in exchange for payment.

Simply using email marketing to aid customers with your basic commerce relationship is a big step forward.  But once you've made the move to email marketing, why stop at meeting customer expectations when you can use the same tools to exceed them?

Giving thanks and expressing customer appreciation are natural extensions of a robust email marketing program.  When you're ready to take your email marketing to the next level, try adding an element of 'thanksgiving' to your mix and see how rewarding it can be to build your business while treating your customers to the thanks they deserve.