The fine art of schmoozing your best customers can seriously bolster your bottom line. But get it wrong and you risk looking like a complete schmuck.
No matter what industry you’re in, gift giving can be a tricky area to navigate, however there are a few rules you should follow, says Julia Bickerstaff, owner of The Business Bakery.
Identify who’s hungry
Firstly, identify your best customers by considering which are the most ‘hungry’, Bickerstaff says.
“By hungry, we mean, those customers that will pay the right price for what you do, and keep coming back. If you look through your database of customers, it’s pretty easy to make up a list of the customers that value what you offer,” she says.
Avoid looking like a schmuck with your corporate gift-giving by ditching the company logos and other blatant self-promotion.
“Also, save embarrassment for your customer by not being too extravagant with your gift. And consider the timing of your giving. Give a gift after an event, as opposed to trying to pre-empt a purchase.”
Reward your best customers by implementing small, personal acts that feel random to your customers, Bickerstaff says.
This can create far stronger results than doing something that looks like it fell straight out of a customer relationship management system, she says.
Sending a beautifully wrapped book that reminded you of a conversation you’d had with your customer, or some other small token of appreciation can do wonders for your ongoing working relationship, she says.
Make it personal
Marika Lewis, director of Marketing Mindset Mentor, agrees that a personal, customised approach is the best way to go.
“Unexpected gifts show you genuinely care about the relationship with them, and that you understand them. It’s pointless sending a beautiful bottle of wine if they don’t drink alcohol. While the sentiment will still be appreciated, it won’t create the wow factor for them,” she says.
Although, if you know your customer is planning a trip overseas, purchasing them a Lonely Planet guide to that location could be a nice idea, she says.
It’s the thought that counts
Simone Novello helps business owners form strategic alliances, and is a big advocate of creating strong relationships with her customers.
The founder of PartnerUp says that over the years, she’s sent the head of a major frequent flyer loyalty program Darrell Lea’s famous liquorice box after he mentioned his father was a huge fan, and took banking clients on a girl’s spa day. She’s also taken clients on an Italian speed boat and created a VIP Willy Wonka-style chocolate factory experience.
“It doesn’t always have to cost the earth – sometimes it truly is the thought that counts, and the return on investment from appropriate and thoughtful schmoozing is huge.”
Get the timing right
Cate Burton adds that timing is paramount. The founder of Australian manufacturer of pure beeswax candles, Queen B, Burton does her corporate thanking on Valentine’s Day, which gives her the space to thank her customers at a time when others aren’t. A commissioned, artisan-made candleholder and candles are delivered to her 50 best customers anonymously, addressed ‘from your secret admirer’.
“Most businesses don’t align themselves with being a heart-driven business, so Valentine’s Day is free territory, and by doing a gift that’s completely original, every single recipient will remember who it’s from in 10 years.
A loyalty program is another great way to reward customers.
Online wine retailer Vinomofo rewards its best customers via a VIP program, with a loyalty program in development. Co-founder, Andre Eikmeier, says it reserves special wine deals, and sometimes free shipping for VIPs.
“We’ve always invested in our existing customers by giving them a more special experience, and empowering them to tell their friends.
“We’re focused on what really makes someone feel special. Things like pre-release of deals that might sell out and unlocking sections of the site with hidden content and deals. We’re also introducing a lot of gamification, which is in tune with human motivators – rewards, challenges, levelling up, Easter eggs and lots of other awesome stuff.”
First impressions count
Real estate firm director Angelo Lofitis doesn’t know if the next person to walk through the door will be his best customer this month, so has worked hard to create a memorable first impression.
The Sydney director of Century 21 Synergy has installed a beer fridge in the real estate reception area, inviting all to help themselves.
You’re not selling anything tangible, so you need to focus on what you’ll be measured on, and that’s service, he says.
Making sure everyone feels welcome is paramount, he says.
“When you look at things from this perspective, it really makes sense to create a space like we have. As far as I know, no other real estate office has run with a similar concept, so thankfully, we still stand out for the right reasons.”