How do you thank your customers? Do you send them a special gift during the holidays? Do you thank them with gifts all year long?
In today’s episode, hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks talk about how to thank your customers during the holidays and alternatives if you decide to not send thank you gifts.
Download Our Free eBooks
- Ultimate Guide to Business Credit Cards: The Small Business Owner’s Handbook
- How to Keep Customers Coming Back for More – Customer Retention Strategies
- How to Safeguard Your Small Business from Data Breaches
- 21 Days to Be a More Productive Small Business Owner
- Opportunity Knocks: How to Find—and Pursue—a Business Idea that’s Right for You
- 99 New Small Business Ideas
Submit Your Question
Elizabeth: Alright, Gene.
Gene: Alright, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: We’re going to go right into our question, which is actually a question from me to you. This is something that we’ve been writing about a lot recently on Small Biz Ahead. It’s kind of the time of year to start thinking about this if you haven’t already. How do you, as a small business owner, thank your customers or clients?
Gene: How do I thank them?
Elizabeth: How do you thank them? Do you send them thank you’s this time of year?
Gene: I do not send them thank you’s this time of year. I send them thank you’s all throughout the year is what I do. I got this idea from another client. I’ve been doing this for about-
Elizabeth: Is this an overachiever?
Gene: Is it right? But you know what I do, Elizabeth, is I’ve been doing for years now. Every month in my CRM system in my task list, I schedule a reminder for myself.
Elizabeth: Wait, wait, wait, let’s just reset. What’s a CRM system?
Gene: Oh that’s right, customer relationship management system, which is my database of all my clients and prospects, and all the things that are going on in my business. I set a reminder for myself. The reminder once a month is to pick a client out, which I do. I just send them once a month a Godiva chocolate basket.
Elizabeth: How do you pick them out?
Gene: It’s 25 bucks. I don’t have any criteria. First of all, I keep a note whenever I sent them.
Elizabeth: So you’re not sending it like the same client?
Gene: I don’t resending them again, right. Then I have a list of all my clients, so I know who they are. I’ll go there and I’ll be like, “Okay, I haven’t sent these guys a Godiva.”
Elizabeth: How many clients do you have?
Gene: About 600.
Elizabeth: Okay, so someone might have not gotten a thank you gift from you in like years.
Gene: Yeah, but it’s not like they all talk to each other. These guys don’t get together with each other and drink and talk about The Marks Group, so they don’t know.
Elizabeth: Yeah, but it’s like that time of year. They’re getting gifts from their other vendors.
Gene: Yes and no. I mean, for starters, I don’t think any of my clients … For God’s sake, we’re just providing technology service. Nobody’s walking around saying like, “That Gene Marks, that SOB, I haven’t got a gift from him this year, and I deserve …” I don’t think anybody’s really thinking about. I think it’s the other way around. People are getting a gift from me like in March or April, a basket of Godiva’s. It’s a nice little basket, $25 we spent.
Elizabeth: Yeah, you sent one to me once because I was-
Gene: Yeah, we do that. I’m big into that … In fact, we do so much Godiva sent me this huge Godiva basket just recently as a thank you for being their customer, so they like us.
Elizabeth: How much does that cost you every year?
Gene: It’s 25 bucks each month. That’s like 300 bucks a year.
Elizabeth: You take that out of your marketing budget?
Gene: Yeah, it’s a marketing expense. I tell you something. Every time I send it, somebody will email me, “Hey, Gene, we got your … Thanks very much. It was very nice of you.”
Elizabeth: What if you don’t get a thank you?
Gene: Oh, I don’t … Yeah, that’s fine. That also happens as well.
Elizabeth: You’re not like … ?
Gene: It’s about 50-50 actually where people are-
Elizabeth: You don’t put into your CRM like, “They’re dead to me?”
Gene: Jerk. Send them a nice thing of Godiva’s and I … My biggest fear about sending the chocolates is leaving somebody out. That’s a concern. Then you can-
Elizabeth: Okay, so yeah, so let’s talk about like let’s say you’re … We’re going to say that you’re a business consultant, a consultant say. At the end of the year, you’re like, “Oh, I should thank my clients.” You know that people should really start thinking about this in like August. If they wait until December …
Gene: They always make it to end of the year.
Elizabeth: They’re like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do something.” Let me tell you about an event I went to the other night that I thought was great. It was for a real estate broker. He has a bunch of people working for him. He’s got like four other agents. He’s got a marketing person. He’s got a coordinator. He has a stager that goes around and stages the houses. He has a harvest festival every year, which I think is so brilliant. Because this time of year, let’s say it’s in early November, it’s not as busy. People aren’t going to a lot of holiday parties. He invites all of his clients. They all come. He rents out a bar. You have to bring canned goods, which get donated. Then everyone gets a glass that says the name of his real estate group on it. You have an open bar for a couple hours. He gets sandwiches and that type of stuff. Then he has a raffle. He gets a Chromebook, Beats headphones … He really goes all out for this.
Gene: Great, that’s very cool. You go to this?
Elizabeth: I go to this, yeah. He invites not only his clients, but also people that have referred business to him. Of course, those people are going to continue to refer business to him.
Gene: Sure. You know, I find though in this day and age, Elizabeth, you have those kinds of parties. There are people that enjoy going to that. Then there are people that don’t.
Elizabeth: Like you.
Gene: Like me, like yeah, I mean I have to get off my sofa and go to this guy’s party. I’m never going to do that. I know there are other people like me. Even if we’re not sitting on the sofas, I know a lot of people like, “Listen, this guy’s having a party. It’s a Thursday. I coach my kid’s soccer team then.” Or, “I want to be with my family, ” or you know.
Elizabeth: What do you think is a better alternative?
Gene: It really depends on your client base. I think you should definitely try something out every year. In the end, I think it should be something that you enjoy doing. If this guy enjoys being the host of a party …
Elizabeth: Well, yeah, he’s a real estate agent. He loves to talk to people and be the center of attention.
Gene: So he’s into that. He’s like, “Hey listen, I’m going to throw this party. It’s great. Please come on. It’s all on the house, so whatever. This is a thank you. If you don’t want to, that’s fine as well, but I enjoy doing it.” There’s nothing wrong with being selfish when it comes to giving out gifts and tying it into what you want to be. I know the holiday season is approaching, but it does not have to be a holiday thing. In fact, I encourage clients that if they’re going to send gifts or thank you’s to their customers, don’t make it over the holiday because there’s so much noise in the … Everybody’s getting gifts during the holidays. If you get a gift from somebody, again in March or in May, that like totally stands out.
Elizabeth: Indelible, yeah.
Gene: It really does. In the end, I really do believe that the biggest thank you that you’ll ever get from a client or a customer is when they pay your bill you know? A lot of people, and I know I feel this way as well, I’m like, “You don’t have to thank me for being your customer. You don’t have to send me gifts. Just do what I’m hiring you to do. That makes my life easier and gets the job done. Then that’s all. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that.”
I do, having said that, I do like to send stuff out once a month. Now, I have other clients that do other things that are somewhat similar. I mean, they do focus on the holidays. They send out the Christmas cards, the holiday cards saying thank you. Sometimes people do like to send out little trinkets or giveaways or whatever. That’s also fine. It really depends on what you enjoy doing.
Elizabeth: Now, when you think about sending out a thank you to your clients, customers, whatever you call your people …
Gene: Yep, clients.
Elizabeth: Do you ever think about sending them something from another small business? Is that important to you?
Gene: No, that doesn’t really …
Gene: You’re right, that doesn’t really do it to me. The best gifts that I have gotten from other small businesses or-
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, I can’t believe I forgot to ask you this. What are they?
Gene: There is one. I forget the name of the service. It’s slipping right now, but it’s a monthly club. Oh, it’s called Amazing Clubs, that’s what it’s called. You can Google it. We’ll put it in the show notes, Amazing Clubs.
Elizabeth: Yeah, Amazing Clubs.
Gene: Yeah, and there’s other services just like it, but I know these guys because a few of my clients that use it. The gift that they will send me … Usually, it’s because I’ve referred them some job or something of significance. Amazing Clubs is a monthly gift. You can do like three, six or even 12 months. You can pick chocolates, wine, depending on where you are, candies, flowers-
Elizabeth: I would not recommend sending wine to people.
Gene: Well, it depends. Some people like it.
Elizabeth: If you know the person really well.
Gene: Yeah, if you know the person.
Elizabeth: You’re not …
Elizabeth: It’s yeah.
Gene: Yeah, sending somebody alcohol. Plus it’s a little bit complicated where they live.
Elizabeth: If you want to send wine to me or Gene, like we will be all for that.
Gene: Yeah, I prefer Franzia in a big box, okay, so I can get more for the-
Elizabeth: Oh, I like that Bota Box.
Gene: Yes, I like that as well. I had a couple guys, they did get me wine because they know I guzzle it. It’s kind of cool because for like three months in a row, I’m getting a new bottle of wine sent to me. I was like, “Oh, that was very nice of them that to me.”
Elizabeth: This is from a customer?
Gene: It was a customer, I referred him. It was actually a partner of ours and we referred him a big job, and so he sent … Yeah, it was cool. I don’t know, it cost him 50 bucks to send me whatever. It’s not like these wines are winning international awards. But then every month, it’s cool. Then like two months later, I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s right. That was nice of him to send the …” Then another month later, I’m getting another bottle. I liked Amazing Clubs. I think that’s pretty cool.
Elizabeth: Amazing Clubs.
Gene: Yeah, the gift that keeps on giving.
Elizabeth: The best gift I’ve ever gotten, we actually get … Our vendors send gifts to The Hartford or-
Gene: Is that allowed? Are you allowed to get ? Isn’t there like a …? Because bigger companies have policies about getting gifts. For example, if you work in a small business, if your purchasing manager is getting extravagant gifts sent to him or her by your vendors or suppliers-
Elizabeth: Your purchasing manager, how big is this business with a purchasing manager?
Gene: Well, when I say purchasing, if you’re an existing company and you’ve got 10, 20, 30, 40 people in a business-
Elizabeth: Do you have a purchasing manager?
Gene: Okay, I don’t in mine, but well a lot of companies who are in the manufacturing or distribution …
Elizabeth: Yeah, yeah, you’re right.
Gene: Maybe it’s not a full-time, maybe it’s the controller takes or has … somebody does purchasing for a company if you’ve got inventory. It’s actually very serious. If you start seeing that the person who’s in charge of buying materials for your company or products for your company that you’re using is getting some kind of extravagant gifts from your suppliers, that’s a cause for concern.
Elizabeth: So that’s something to think about when you’re putting together your employee handbook.
Gene: It is.
Elizabeth: That’s definitely you need to think about that. As far as getting gifts, like my Mom worked for the State of Connecticut. She wasn’t allowed to get any gifts over a certain amount. I just want to talk about a few of the gifts we’ve gotten at The Hartford because-
Gene: Yeah, you got Godiva chocolates from me.
Elizabeth: I got Godiva chocolates-
Gene: Fantastic, yeah.
Elizabeth: … from The Marks Group.
Gene: Right, always remember that.
Elizabeth: Which I think we got-
Gene: By the way, if you play your cards right, there might another basket for you this year, now that we’re talking about it.
Elizabeth: I think I only got one chocolate. Then I shared them with the group, and then like-
Gene: Oh, that stinks.
Elizabeth: But the best gift I ever got is one of our vendors sent us socks. Everyone loves … You’re looking at me like this is crazy.
Gene: That’s the stupidest gift I’ve ever heard is everybody got socks.
Elizabeth: Everybody got socks, and it says the name of the business on them. They’re really comfortable socks. They’re really cute. Everyone that worked here at the time and got the socks still wears them, and we still talk about that, and that was years ago.
Gene: Any of my partners or suppliers or vendors that are listening to me right now, and you as well, don’t send me socks, okay? I don’t need any socks.
Elizabeth: Do you not like socks?
Gene: I do. I’ll go to Target and buy some socks. You don’t have to send me socks.
Elizabeth: You don’t want socks that say Small Biz Ahead Podcast on them?
Gene: No, right, yeah, that’d be fantastic. Boy that would attract some attention. I also like when it’s gifts … I’m also big into charities as well, which I also think is nice.
Elizabeth: Yeah, that’s a really good one.
Gene: I just think it’s a nice … I mean, it depends on to who you’re giving.
Elizabeth: George Costanza style?
Gene: Well, I figure the Human-
Elizabeth: The Human Fund.
Gene: There’s the Human Fund. But there is something very classy about doing that, sending or giving a donation or charity in a person’s name. No person is ever going to complain to you cause they didn’t get a gift because then they’d look like a total jerk for-
Gene: But it’s a nice thing to do.
Elizabeth: Business owners out there, we want to know … If you send your clients or customers a thank you …
Gene: Give us some gift ideas.
Elizabeth: Give us some gift ideas. Clearly, Gene is like …
Elizabeth: He’s just like Godiva chocolates. He is not stopping on that.
Gene: No, it works. It works. People like it.
Elizabeth: Anyway, if you could please comment. Let us know what you get. We’re going to put some ideas in the show notes. If you’re thinking about like, “Hey, what should I do?” I mean, even just a card is really nice.
Gene: Well, yeah, of course. Around the holiday season, that’s also.
Elizabeth: We’ll put some ideas in the show notes for you. Thanks for tuning into another episode of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast. We’ll be back in a couple days.
Gene: Look forward to it.