Customer Reference, Marketing Musings
One of the first and most important values we learn in life is gratitude. It’s not by chance our parents reminded us to say “thank you” for even the simplest gifts when we were children: an apple, a small toy, or even to pet someone’s more-than-welcoming puppy. Today, we experience gratitude in our personal and working lives every day, and it even seems obvious to say that gratitude is a value that will never go out of style. But has the attitude toward appreciation changed over time? And if so, how has this change affected our customers?
JD Rucker, author of the blog Flowtown, believes that, “Mass production, improved transportation, instant communication channels, and increased competition slowly degraded business over the past decades, culminating in recent years with a completely impersonal business style that lacks humanity.” Most of us can identify with this change through our experiences in the role of the customer. Fortunately, times are changing, as gratitude is beginning to re-emerge in our fast-paced, virtual lifestyles, allowing the opportunity for customer appreciation to re-enter everyday business practices.
In his new book, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk explains how businesses are reinstating the value of gratitude by using social media to re-engage with customers. This change is turning forced social behaviors to ashes because we can no longer rely on stale codes of conduct to express our appreciation. Projectline’s Book Club discussed The Thank You Economy on May 24 and came to the same conclusion: social media is a “must-have” to express appreciation and appreciation is a “must-have” for Customer Reference programs! It’s that simple.
So how can we apply this “Mom and Pop” approach to appreciation to a Customer Reference program? First, consider the program’s key stakeholders—the people the program absolutely cannot function without. Generally, these are your customers and sales force. First and foremost, it is critical to express appreciation to customers who are willing to act as references for your business. Whether sending a gift basket or an appreciative tweet, thanking these customers for the time and energy they put forth on your behalf is essential. (P.S. Don’t be surprised if karma acts in your favor! We often find that appreciated customers will give more and last longer as a reference.)
Less obvious, but very important, are the stakeholders of Customer Reference programs: the “middle men”—the sales force responsible for the customers you are working with in reference activities. These individuals take time away from their own initiatives to support your program. Although these stakeholders do rely on customer references for their own activities, thanking those who support your program goes a long way. If your company uses an internal social media platform, try giving people kudos online in front of their peers! A hand-written note or personal call to say “Thanks!” can also do the trick.
As Anika put it, start at the heart. If you can remember to take a moment to share your appreciation with people who support your efforts, you will not only create happy, returning customers, but a strong Customer Reference program in the process.