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Guest Column: The Value Of Saying Thanks

The value of saying thanks


June 19, 2008
By Marc Gordon

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As young children we were
constantly reminded by our parents to be polite and have proper
manners.  This was especially true when we received a gift. I have
vivid memories of my parents reminding my brother and I to say “thank
you.”

marcgordonAs young children we were constantly reminded by our parents to be polite and have proper manners. This was especially true when we received a gift. I have vivid memories of my parents reminding my brother and I to say “thank you.”

Oddly enough, I now find myself mentioning the same thing to my three-year-old daughter. As we grow older saying thank you becomes automatic when someone gives us a gift. For occasions such as weddings and special occasions, we will even go so far as to write thank-you letters.

But for some reason, this social standard of politeness seems to all but disappear when it comes to business. Business owners and companies of all sizes will work tirelessly and invest a great deal of time and resources to attract new customers. And yet once they have them, little if any effort is put into saying “thank you.”

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I am bombarded with offers in the mail, on television, and in the newspaper from companies willing to hand me free stuff if I give them my business. Banks offering mp3 players, plane tickets, travel points, and even cash. Health clubs offering free months, bicycles, and gym bags. Phone companies offering free phones, free Internet access and free movies.

The list goes on and on. The problem is, is that there is always one condition: “For new accounts only,” “For first time customers only,” “For new activations only.”

So what does this mean to someone like you? What if you already have a bank account, a cellphone plan, and belong to a health club? Are you not entitled to something that says your business is appreciated?

To me, it looks like these companies reward everything but loyalty. Someone who has never had any previously dealings with one of these companies will get rewarded for making an initial purchase or commitment. But those customers who have been giving their business for months or years get nothing.

This policy of thanking new customers but ignoring current ones is not limited to large corporations. Small businesses are generally worse. Many small businesses will not offer a “thank-you” promotion for new customers or current ones.

Many of my clients who run small businesses will tell me how they are not in the business of giving out free stuff. Or, that they lack the ability to keep track of who buys from them. Both of these are poor excuses that clearly demonstrate a lack of commitment to growing their companies.

The fact is that attracting new clients should be the number 1 goal of any business. And the most economical way of doing that is through word of mouth. Simply put, if a small investment is made in making sure your current customers understand how much you appreciate their business, they will be more likely to remain customers for life. In turn there will be a greater chance of them telling their friends and family of their positive experiences with you. And that will lead to new customers.

So how do you say thanks without breaking the bank? Every industry is different. Corporate clients that spend thousands of dollars a year with a specific company will have different expectation than someone who eats at the same restaurant once a week. As such, the gifts will be significantly different.  The truth is that people are not looking at the value of the gift itself. The fact that you are acknowledging them as valued customers is enough. While the corporate client might appreciate a free round of golf, the restaurant patron would be equally grateful for a free dessert.

Regardless of what industry you are in, there is always a way to say thank you. Be creative and thoughtful. You don’t have to necessarily spend money. The possibilities are endless, but the results will always be the same.

Customers who feel valued and appreciated will continue to do business with you.

When decided on what the value of a gift or promotion should be, I like to use these two guidelines: first, not everyone needs to receive a gift of the same value. If depends on how much they spend.  Second, look at the purchasing history of the client.

Figure out how much profit you make from them. Ask yourself what that’s really worth to you. Remember, it is far more economical to keep customers than to attract new ones.


Marc Gordon is a professional speaker and the owner of Fourword Marketing, a branding and marketing firm located in Thornhill, Ont. Fourword specializes in helping businesses create a brand identity and developing effective marketing campaigns.


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