26 Customer appreciation ideas for small businesses that genuinely care

September 17, 2020

customer appreciation ideas

Small businesses shouldn’t wait for Customer Appreciation Day to say ‘thank you’ to their loyal customers. We talked about customer focus previously and how important it is for the growth of any business. There’s no doubt that the customers are the backbone.

Saying ‘thank you’ to your customers can be done in many different ways. However, what matters is that the gesture is done with honest intentions. There are a great deal of customer appreciation examples whose only purpose is to grow sales, and trust me, customers can see through that.

Jump To 

 1. Scented ‘thank you’ cards

 2. Virtual Happy Hours

 3. Shout out on social media

 4. Cross-appreciation for effectiveness

 5. Let them eat cookies!

 6. Treat customers as winners

 7. Customer appreciation funnel

 8. Starbucks coffee – lasting impression

 9. When customer appreciation backfires

 10. Snail mail is better than email

 11. Actions speak louder than words

 12. Who’s up for backyard makeover?

 13. Sending love for their birthday

 14. Yummy snacks make everything better

 15. One chance for a first impression

 16. Here’s your money back!

 17. Listen carefully before you speak

 18. Netflix and chill

 19. Show your altruistic side of business

 20. A little party never hurt nobody

 21. Break the rules

 22. Trick or treat for the adults

 23. The Devil is in the details

 24. Following up after a review

 25. Inviting them to fun events

 26. Make the world a better place 

Creative customer appreciation ideas to express gratitude

While there’s nothing wrong with traditional customer appreciation ideas, we believe that going the extra mile and doing something unique will gain you bonus points with your customers. Of course, you don’t have to buy them cars but a set of winter tyres is not a bad idea as you can see below.

The good thing about these customer appreciation ideas is that you’re not supposed to copy-paste them. Instead, use them for inspiration and come up with ideas that will suit your business model and brand.

Scented ‘thank you’ cards

One thing we have experimented with engaging customer loyalty. We send a handwritten thank you card to each customer that completes 3 transactions.

We also spray them with a scent that smells like freshly cut grass. This engages the strongest sense we have: the sense of smell.

Right now, we have approx 200,500 customers, and we are measuring the impact on these efforts, however, it’s still too early to tell. If we see it has a lasting impact we are going to figure out a way to scale it, possibly with one of the services that send out handwritten cards.

Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal

Virtual Client Appreciation Happy Hours

We have had a lot of success with hosting Virtual Client Appreciation Happy Hours during the pandemic. It has been a win-win to show our clients some love, while also supporting local businesses during these challenging times. We have done one with a local brewery and one with a local distillery. I ordered the drinks in advance and scheduled a Zoom Happy Hour with some clients. 

A day or two prior, my team and I personally deliver the drinks to the client’s homes. For the Happy Hour, we have one of the owners of the establishment do a presentation on the history of their business, some of their techniques when brewing/distilling, and even a virtual tour of their facilities. It has been very well received and we look forward to doing more!

Todd Bryant, Partner/Financial Planner at Signature Wealth Advisors

Give them a shout out on social media

Quoted retweets and sharing the experiences of your consumers through social media channels can be the perfect way to show consumers you are taking the time to read what they are saying, and really appreciating their input. 

It allows consumers to feel a real part of your community and make them invested in your business because you are taking the time to interact and comment and their personal experiences and adventures with you, your product, or your service.

Adam Korbl, Founder & CEO of iFax

Cross-appreciation for maximum effectiveness

Everybody sends holiday gift baskets and game tickets, but we take it to another level.  We appreciate our customers by doing something that we call cross-appreciation. 

For example, one of our clients is a well-known tire shop in Toronto. During the wintertime, instead of sending a holiday gift basket, we offer our top clients free winter tires. The tire shop appreciates us giving them business and offers us a huge discount while the other clients appreciate our concern for the safety of them and their family. 

But it doesn’t just stop at winter tires, we do the same thing every 1 – 2 months. Sometimes offering clients free exotic car rentals, to weekend resort stays. Using our own client’s services to appreciate other clients has benefited us greatly.

Safeer Qureshi, CEO of SPG Media

Let them eat cookies!

At Studio Simpatico (a design studio in NYC), we primarily engage our clients in company rebrand or website redesign projects. During the course of the project, we’ll engage with numerous stakeholders within the organization. When a project wraps up, to express our thanks, we’ll often send a batch of Insomnia Cookies so everyone can enjoy the gift. (If you’re unfamiliar, Insomnia Cookies are quintessentially New York, and infinitely more delicious and less expensive than a boring fruit basket.) As a bonus, we’ve heard that oftentimes the delivery will lead to an ad hoc cookie consumption extravaganza and brand/website launch celebration!

Tamara Olson and Sinan Imre, Co-Founders of Studio Simpatico

Treat customers as winners

I aim to make my clients feel like winners. So I found a vendor who can create copies of Olympic medals with my clients’ names and faces.

In 2019, for each client who worked with me 6 months or more, I create such a personalized gold-plated medal and sent it to their address.

Their surprise and gratitude are extraordinary. Those moments are the deep reason why I am in business.

Abdulaziz M Alhamdan, M.Sc., Positioning Expert at StoryBonding.com

Customer appreciation funnel

Clarafy UX works with high-value clients that we absolutely love, so we have built a funnel just for customer appreciation.

Once a client signs up with us we immediately send them a handwritten ‘thank you’ note with a small gift. We repeat the process every month the client works with us, and through the holiday season for 5 years after our clients complete their contracts.

This simple strategy has helped us retain and re-contract with almost every client we have ever worked with.

Clara Fairbanks, Lead Designer at Clarafy UX UI

Starbucks coffee to leave a lasting impression

One way to express appreciation for my clients is mailing a handwritten thank you note with a small Starbucks gift card. In a world of the digital age, we often forget how to make a meaningful and personable connection with our clients. 

For me, I often do not see agents in person. They book appointments on my website, give access to homes for photographs and everything is delivered digitally. With this, I felt like I was easily forgotten because I never got to make an impression so I started mailing handwritten thank you cards and have had an overwhelmingly positive response and in doing this it has allowed me to grow my business.

Ashley Askew, Owner of Shutter Club

When customer appreciation backfires

I have to be honest, customer appreciation almost backfired on me. 

In the initial days of my business, I tried giving a courtesy call to the parents who referred me to their friends and relatives, only to come across as needy and borderline pushy. They misconstrued my courtesy as a nudge to enrol their kid again, and needless to say, that never happened. 

But I get it that customer appreciation is an important part of any enterprise, and even after its initial debacle, I now do it more discreetly and strategically. I give exceptional service during the time of a student’s stay with me, thinking in my mind that outstanding work in itself is the deepest kind of appreciation and a gesture of gratitude to anyone.

Shipra Batra, Founder of Shipra’s SAT and Creative Writing classes

Snail mail is better than email

We are a small retail jewelry business with a store and online website. We set up an automated system that sends out postcards to our customers two weeks after they place an order with us. We thank them for becoming a customer and the owner and his wife sign it. 

We do this because people these days are bombarded with emails and sending a postcard gets it right in front of them and shows that we are going the extra mile to thank them. We have received a ton of positive feedback from customers that they were very surprised to receive something like this from a company.

Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art 

Personal handwritten thank you notes showed our customers that we cared enough and appreciated their business to take the time. Appreciation comes in all forms and where budgets can be tight for a business you need to be creative. We sent personal thank you notes from the most relevant staff member to thank our customers. Our customers said it was a novelty and a nice surprise to receive something in the post rather than a bulk sent thank you email.

Shayne Sherman, CEO of Techloris

Actions speak louder than words

To show our appreciation for our loyal customers, we have used this moment to give back to the community on their behalf. At our company, we have long maintained a charitable program whereby we donate 15% of our profits to non-profit groups. It’s the right thing to do, and it has the effect of showing our customers that we value their loyalty, care about our community and are focused on much more than the bottom line. It also has the effect of creating increased customer loyalty, especially among those customers that are community-minded. 

Rebecca White, CEO of Prana Brush

Who’s up for some backyard makeover?

We like to offer our customers value as regularly as we’re able. Many times this is in the free content we produce, but we also have specials that offer discounts and other bonuses. These are all standard things, though.

Last year we hosted a contest for our customers to get a full backyard makeover with an entertainment area, fire pit, etc. We plan to do this again once it gets a little bit later in fall. It was very popular last year.

Dan Bailey, President of WikiLawn

Sending love for their birthday

My number one customer appreciation idea for a small business is to give your customers a surprise phone call on their birthday.

Imagine your customer’s surprise when they hear from you without you trying to sell them anything. Instead, you are simply calling to wish them a happy birthday!

Many of the people we help are ages 50-85 years old, lonely, and they may not even get a birthday call of card from anyone. Our phone call may be the only phone call they get that day from someone who cares about them.

Customers love knowing you REALLY care about them. A happy customer is also more likely to give you referrals and additional business in the future. These referrals often end up being our highest converting leads!

Randy VanderVaate, President and Owner of Funeral Funds

Yummy snacks make everything better

We create and send homemade Snack Packs to our customers and vendors, but not during the traditional holiday season. We share when the gesture is more impactful. The client may be experiencing an internal win with a new contract, a tough time with an unforeseen weather event, long hours, loss of a key leader, etc. 

The snack pack features brownies, fudge, candied pecans and jerky – a little something for everyone. Nothing is store-bought. We want our customers to know that we think about them outside of the workday and that they are appreciated.

Leanne E. King, CEO & President of SeeKing HR

There’s only one chance to leave a lasting first impression

When helping our clients create high-touch experiences for their customers, we always start with creating an exceptional onboarding. You only get one chance at a first impression, right?

As a simple example, in working with private health clubs, they’re often fighting an uphill battle as many consumers are sceptical and untrusting of gyms’ billing practices. To help overcome this, we like to create a personalized, caring experience in the first interaction.

When a prospect walks into the club, we get the staff to immediately engage the individual and find out their goals. If the person is interested in losing weight, for example, then they’ll offer a free low-calorie smoothie from the cafe. This simple act creates a bond with the prospect and sets the expectation that the club is here to listen and help them with their personal needs and goals.

Joe Kerns, Co-Founder of MAJiK Marketing

Here’s your money back!

I thank my loyal customers by returning money to them. When they internally refer colleagues and themselves are repeat customers, I give them a regular corporate/organizational discount. When they externally refer others to me, I extend that same discount to the new customers on their first order. 

This lets me show how much I value my regular customers. I return their loyalty with my gratitude and the best possible service, on an ongoing basis. It also gives their referrals a chance to benefit from the same reciprocally beneficial relationship. Win–win!

Adam Goulston, Owner of Tsujiru

Listen carefully before you speak

On my safaris, I engage with guests and find out what they like and what other destinations they would like to travel to. I then will, during the offseason, put together some specials that would appeal to my guests and market it to them via a personalised email campaign. These specials are catered specifically to the conversations we had, everything down to the kind of linen they like. 

Not only does that offer more business for me, but it caters for my guests’ needs and shows them that their needs are cared about and those casual conversations are remembered. I think it always comes down to those small things that make a big impact and make them a customer for life.

Shaun Taylor, Owner of Moriti Safaris

Netflix and chill

As businesses, we need to show our appreciation to our customers. We need to show them that our brand really cares for them and that we value the loyalty and business that they give us. 

And as for my dating company, a way for us to show our appreciation to our customers is giving them year-long subscriptions to media service providers like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. And

they can even choose which subscription they want to avail of. This is a way for us to let our customers enjoy themselves by watching movies with their families and friends. Plus of course, they’d always tell their family and friends that our brand gave them the subscription so it also serves as a marketing campaign for our company.

Sonya Schwartz, Founder of Her Norm

Show your altruistic side of business

We sent handmade masks from a local company to our customers with a thank you note for their support during these challenging times. I hand-signed each one and wrote personal letters to our oldest customers to show our gratitude. The ‘thank you’ note let our customers know that we are going 100% paperless, offering a rewards program for them, and that we now donate $1 every time you purchase, to one of our charities that you select.

Zeshan Jeewanjee, CEO of One Day Event

A little party never hurt nobody

Our office, Parkside Lane, is a co-working space for some of the best event companies here in town. Every year we bring in roughly 50 event planners for a Pamper the Planner event at the office. Music from a DJ or band helps them relax as they are treated to a Mimosa & Bloody Mary Bar, a manicure, makeup, a masseuse and catered appetizers. Pictures and video

are taken for their social media during the event. Moreover, when they leave, a goodie bag with all our information and small gifts is handed out. It’s one of our favourite events.

Dave Forman, Pour Masters Bartending Services

Break the rules

An unpopular tip that will go miles toward cementing customer loyalty and even advocacy for a small business is occasionally bending the rules for good customers. A reasonable degree of latitude for regular patrons; staying open an extra few minutes if they should come running in at night’s end in an emergency, or some other similar extension of out of the ordinary leeway, can show an appreciation for the money that customer spends, make them feel special and valued and spur them to continue to patronize the company.

Haris Bacic, Co-founder of Pricelisto.com

Trick or treat for the adults

My niece, a realtor who launched her own company a few years ago in Greenville, South Carolina, started a great annual tradition for customer appreciation: Halloween Open House. 

The weather is still mild enough to hold the event outside, and she goes all out: hay bales, spider webs, pumpkins to take home, treat-or-treat bags, hot dogs, snow cones, kids’ activity area. It’s clever customer service as her staff mans the booths, and she gets to touch base with clients to thank them again for their business, myself included, staying on their radar for their repeat business and their word-of-mouth recommendations leading to new business.

Karen Condor, Insurance and Real Estate Specialist at USInsuranceAgents.com

The Devil is in the details

We offer customer service depending on customer needs. Us, designers/owners , make deliveries to clients home, write dedicated notes, help them at the store, consequently have a special relationship with many of them. We know about their lives and they know about us, ultimately we become friends. Also, from time to time we host events at the store for customers, so we can connect and get to know them more. We genuinely enjoy all of this. Most of our successful customer relationships are born because of our personalized service.

Bianca and Paola Muns, Co-Founders of  MUNS

Following up after a review

I like to follow up with a personal email or note to everyone that leaves a review on the site. It’s a way to connect and build a rapport with your client base so that they know another human is directly affected by your feedback and kind words. It’s time-consuming, but so, so worth it.

Emily McNabb Butler, Owner of The Good Hippie

Inviting them to fun events

One thing that is always appreciated and more so now than ever before, is making a charitable donation on behalf of your customer. Not only is this an awesome gesture to your own customers, but you are also helping out people who are making this world a better place. Some organizations run on donations and if your company has the ability to help, then why not?

Your customers’ dollars are going twice as far with their purchase of goods or services from you and a portion of that money being allocated to a good cause. They are able to get what they want and help who they want without much thought. This is simply the best of both worlds and your customers will be more than happy to return again.

Edwin Rubio, VP of Sales for VaporEmpire.com

Making the world a better place for everyone

One way for small businesses to show their appreciation to customers is through organizing meetups. GoShare has launched its on-demand delivery service in over 30 markets nationwide, and we are currently expanding to many other cities across the United States. 

When we launch a new market, we love to express our gratitude to customers and contractors by inviting them to events where we are able to connect with them in person. In 2019, we were able to post a series of community meetups at Nascar events, bringing contractors and early supporters of our business onto the track to meet drivers and see the cars up close. By creating new relationships and developing existing ones with customers, small businesses can greatly improve customer retention and enhance their brand affinity.

Shaun Savage,  CEO and Founder of GoShare

Conclusion

Whenever you run out of customer appreciation ideas turn to this article and remember that there’s no such thing as a bad ‘thank you’. Your customers will appreciate even the smallest gestures.

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