How to Plan a Customer Appreciation Day

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Not many people are aware that National Customer Appreciation Day is April 18. Customers are the lifeblood of business, so it only makes sense to periodically take the time to show shoppers, clients, purchasers and patrons how much they mean to your company. A customer appreciation day is a great way to show customers that you care about them, which should hopefully incentivize them to continue patronizing your business over the competition.

Why Show Gratitude to Customers

Customer retention programs often cost money or at the very least cut into profits by offering discounts on products. This leads some owners and executives to wonder why they should bother hosting a customer appreciation day at all. But studies show that it pays to maintain a devoted customer base. In fact, loyal customers spend 66% more at a business than non-loyal customers.

Furthermore, 68% of customers are willing to change brands because of a "perceived indifference" on the part of the companies, meaning they felt the company didn't care if they shopped there or not. And customer appreciation celebrations are a great way to prove to your clients that you do care about their business. Additionally, these promotions can also help bring visibility to your business, provide you with an inexpensive PR campaign, attract positive reviews of your company, boost sales and help expand your customer base.

Scheduling a Customer Appreciation Day

You can choose to use National Customer Appreciation Day as a good excuse to host your celebration, but it's important to consider what will work best for your company. If you operate an accounting firm, for example, your employees may still be pretty busy on April 18 as federal income tax returns are generally due on April 15. On the other hand, if you make a living selling handmade furniture on Etsy, April might be a perfect time to help promote your shop.

Many retail stores might find mid-April a good time to host a marketing promotion like this because sales have slumped after the busy holiday season. On the other hand, though, they may wish to schedule the event just before the holiday season picks up as this can remind shoppers that the company cares for their needs, that it offers items they enjoy and that the store carries items they might want to give as gifts. Even better, if the shop offers great deals, it might even encourage shoppers to kickstart their holiday shopping early.

Also remember that you don't have to limit yourself to a single customer appreciation day. You can have many throughout the year or you can celebrate with a whole week or even a whole month of promotions. Alternatively, you can show your gratitude to customers on their birthdays, essentially giving each loyal shopper their own special celebration. Consider what kind of promotions you'd like to offer and what your goals are when deciding on the length and schedule for your customer appreciation event.

Promote Your Event in Advance

Whenever you end up scheduling your customer appreciation day, it's important to make sure your employees and customers are aware it's going to happen ahead of time. Encourage your sales clerks to tell shoppers about the event. Write about the big day in your email newsletter or promote it on the homepage of your website or app. Remember that the whole point of a customer appreciation day is to show your shoppers and clients that you are grateful for their continued loyalty and support of your business, and shoppers need to know about the event in order for you to effectively thank them.

This is especially important if you're only having the celebration last one day since you don't want customers to feel like they missed a great opportunity. In fact, if you offer some amazing deals or giveaways and fail to promote the celebration, you may end up making some shoppers feel like you failed to notify them on purpose so you didn't have to give as many discounts or promotional items. This could end up creating bad feelings towards your company, completely negating the entire point of the promotion to begin with.

How Much to Spend

The budget for a customer appreciation event will vary from company to company. If you own a luxury car company, your customers are probably very wealthy and each of their individual purchases brings you a lot of profit. This means you'd need to spend a lot of money to ensure your clients are impressed with your efforts and feel it was worth their time to even come to the event. A good promotion, therefore, might include a massive, classy party with expensive goodie bags or a big door prize.

On the other hand, if you own a nail salon that offers $20 manicures and pedicures, you obviously won't have a budget anywhere near that high. Instead, you might just promote the event on your website and through email newsletters, which will cost you nothing. And the event itself could consist of giving $10 manicures and pedicures with a glass of wine. You'd lose a little profit this way and end up spending up to $100 on some inexpensive wine, but the event wouldn't cost very much and would hopefully ensure your clients keep returning year after year.

As you can see, the budget can vary drastically depending on what your business sells, the size of your company and your clients. If you aren't sure what kind of promotions your customers may appreciate, you can always ask some or all of your most loyal shoppers to fill out a survey to give you an idea of what they would like to see at an event like this before you start making plans.

Low-Budget Thank Yous

If you don't have much money for a customer appreciation promotion, you don't have to toss the whole idea out the window. Instead, you just have to be gracious in a more personal way.

One way you can do this is by giving shoutouts to your biggest clients on social media, but always use your best discretion when doing this though. A handmade furniture business, for example, probably wouldn't go wrong by thanking a hotel that bought a lot of their inventory. But if the company thanked an individual that was using it to furnish an apartment his spouse didn't know about, this could end up backfiring big time. If you do use social media, be sure to use a unique hashtag to highlight your customer appreciation efforts.

If you have customer addresses, you might instead consider sending out handwritten thank you cards. While a card isn't a major financial investment, in our digital age, people often attach quite a lot of sentimentality and gratitude to a handwritten letter. Remember that a little thankfulness can go a long way as long as it seems sincere.

Tips for Thank You Letters

Whether you thank your customers on social media, via email or through the mail though, keep the following things in mind:

  • Never be generic. Address your customers by name and include specific details such as what they purchase or the name of family members who often shop with them. The important thing is that the customer feels remembered.

  • Have associates write the message. One of the best ways to ensure your message isn't generic is by having the salesperson or other associate who works with the client most frequently write the message. This person should be familiar with the customer and should be able to create something more personal as a result.

  • Only send thanks to your best customers. While you obviously appreciate everyone who spends money at your company, thank you notes should be reserved for the big spenders or frequent shoppers that keep you afloat. Not only will this save your associates time, but will also make sure that your customers feel special. After all, someone who comes in every day might feel great getting a handwritten card from your company, but if they find out a friend who has shopped with you once got one, it will instantly lose its meaning.

  • Consider offering coupons. While this isn't entirely necessary, it can help further incentivize shoppers to return to your store.

  • Go big with a gift. On a similar note, if your top customers spend enough at your business to make it worthwhile, you can even consider mailing them a gift basket filled with thoughtful items or another considerate gift.

Consider Personalizing Discounts

There's nothing wrong with offering a big customer appreciation day where everything is 25% off, especially if you're the kind of business, like a copy shop, with a wide variety of customers who tend to buy similar goods or services. But, if you really want to make your most loyal customers feel special, you might want to consider offering more personalized discounts. For example, you could send an email to your top 10% of customers and offer them 25% off and then offer 15% off to the rest of your clients. This will make your top shoppers feel that you are dedicated to their happiness.

Alternatively, you may even consider a BOGO (buy-one-get-one) or even a free giveaway to regular customers based on what they regularly purchase. For example, if you run a bakery and have certain clients come in every morning to bring pastries to work, offer these select customers a free dozen donuts or a BOGO deal on a box of donuts.

You may also try offering an upgrade to your customer's existing products or services. Just make sure this isn't something your client will have to unsubscribe to later or that could cause frustration and bad feelings.

Offer Branded Promo Items

Ordering promotional hats, bracelets, pens keychains, etc. is easier and cheaper than ever these days. You can thank your customers and promote your business by giving away a branded item with each purchase during your customer appreciation week. People always enjoy getting something extra, even if it's something as simple as a pen, and whenever they use it, they'll remember that your company demonstrates gratefulness for customers. With any luck, this will provide all the incentive they need to keep coming back and spending money at your business.

Also, don't underestimate the value of branded balloons or candies if your customers frequently bring their children in. If people feel like their kids are welcome in your establishment, they'll be a lot more likely to visit when they have to run errands with the youngsters at their side.

Make It a Celebration

While most customer appreciation events are scheduled during company hours, if you really want to celebrate, consider hosting a party for your customers. For a kid-friendly, inexpensive affair, offer non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, balloons and good music. For a more upscale event, invest in some good lighting, rent a dance floor and provide some cocktails or champagne — you might even consider offering free dinner depending on your budget. Be sure to offer impressive prizes or great giveaways to truly make your customers feel celebrated.