As we plunge headfirst into the holiday season, many of us think seriously about gifts for family and maybe close friends.  And the constant bombardment on radio, TV, newspapers and the web about gifts reminded me that in our professional life we should be thinking about ways to say “thank you” to our customers and valued partners. But this raises two questions for me:

  1. Why only now?  Showing appreciation should happen anytime, not just towards the end of December. After all, you interact with both groups all the time, so why not thank people during the whole year?
  2. Why say something and not do something? We know that “actions speak louder than words” but in a B2B world it feels as though we have many less options to demonstrate appreciation than if we owned a restaurant, or other B2C business, and could provide a free dessert or appetizer to a good customer.

How to Show Appreciation to Loyal B2B Customers Any Time of the Year

1.Teach the person something valuable.  Everyone wants to keep learning so anything you can do to further this basic like goal will be appreciated. Here are some ways:

  • Give a very special book.  Try to determine if they prefer e-books or hard copy so you can give what they prefer – it shows you care in 2 ways!
  • Invite them to a meeting in your company where they can get early insight into your new products or even areas of R&D.
  • Invite them, as your guest, to attend industry conferences where you or someone else from you company can help them get extra value from attending.

2. Help them grow their business.

  1. Refer prospects and make the introduction.
  2. Feature the person in a company newsletter, on a video on your web site or talk about your customer to their customers.
  3. Provide something special to their business and let your contact share the news inside their company.

3. Make a charitable donation in their name.

  • One way is to find out their favorite charity and make a donation in their name.  The challenge is not to make it so small that it appears insignificant or so large as to be perceived as a bribe or other embarrassment.
  • Another way is to decide on a handful of charities and let your customers’ vote on which one they would like to support.  You can make a smallish donation for each vote with the total still becoming significant or you can allocate a fixed amount of money, say $5,000 or $10,000, and apportion it based on the votes of the customers.

4. Provide a unique, once in a lifetime type experience. Here are two examples:

  • Many years ago, when FedEx first started using DC-10’s a number of their customers in our local area were taken on a short flight in one. I had never flown in either a cargo plane or a DC-10. What an experience!
  • A few years ago I read this story about BMW and Mercedes Benz.  While it is about a B2C situation, possibly you can adapt it to your business and customers:
  • The BMW and Mercedes preferred-customer programs represent an effort to strengthen relations directly with customers who can afford any car they want. The initiatives also reflect the tightening race as BMW and Mercedes vie to be the world’s leader in upscale cars.

  • The BMW Excellence Club, which started in July 2012, is currently only offered in Germany and comes automatically when a person buys a 7-Series. The program entitles members to attend exclusive events like skiing with two-time Olympic ski gold medalist Mittermaier, a private golf tournament ahead of the BMW International Open and an evening at silversmith Robbe & Berking hosted by German television celebrity Thomas Gottschalk and catered by Michelin-star chefs.

  • Events, including entrance to Formula One races, art exhibitions and fashion shows, are experiences that “cannot be purchased in this form and are usually only accessible thanks to Mercedes-Benz,” he said, adding that demand for the more than 20 events this year has exceeded capacity.

5. Do something special but appropriate for their and your budgets:

  • Send a personal, hand-written appreciation note with a small “token” gift.
  • Send a note signed by your CEO or the whole Management team
  • Organize a small dinner party for your key accounts in an area so you can also help build their individual networks.

Lesson Learned

Showing your appreciation to loyal customers is good business, fun, and will go a long way to solidifying a relationship.

As I reread this blog, I realized that I had NOT thanked you for reading this blog this year. I guess that makes me the first person to benefit from reading this post!

I hope you have a healthy, prosperous, and happy new year.