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The best way to thank customers and friends for their business is with a letter.

No, no, no – don’t give me, “Oh yea, I called them and thanked them.” Nope – no, a call is not the same! You see with a phone call, after you’ve hung up the phone you cease to exist.

But a letter, ahhh… that’s different. You took the time – your valuable time – to write to them, and it shows. You composed your thoughts and actually put them down on a piece of paper, imagine that! Then you found an envelope and a stamp (no small feat around my own office) married them and put the whole deal in the mail. What courage. What fortitude. What substance…

What a nice thing to do! Now your customer has a personal letter of thanks sitting on his desk right in front of him. Unlike your phone call, that little piece of goodwill can sit on his desk for quite a while.

If it’s a nice letter, he’ll think, “Hey, what a nice letter this is! Wow – they really are grateful for my business. I’ll go back there!” People like to be appreciated, and what better way than to send a personal note of thanks. A letter is an excellent vehicle to express your personal appreciation. Can you think of a better one? No, me neither.

A “thank you” letter also works hard as a great marketing tool. When you thank someone for a referral – they say “Wow, they really appreciated that referral, what nice folks! We’ll keep our mind open and try to refer some more customers to them!”

I know in our own business practice we send Cross Pens to clients – personalized with their name on it – to thank them for referring us to other clients. Keep in mind the pens are enclosed to draw their attention to the nice letter we send. But, that’s another article&ldots; In fact, it’s an article titled, “The most valuable letter you can write!” If can be found in my book, Uncommon Marketing Techniques.

Here’s a funny story about a pen, and a writer, Mia Gieger, at the Philadelphia Business Journal. She wrote a wonderful story about me, our firm, and the “How-To” books we publish to help entrepreneurs and small business owners. After the story was published I sent her a Cross Pen with her name on it – I thought it made a nice “thank you” gift.

I feel if you send a gift to someone before a story is written about you, it’s a bribe. But if you send it afterward, it can only be referred to as a nice “thank you” gift – unless of course you send a boat or something else really large. But I didn’t – it was a pen. Mia’s editor intercepted her gift, and sent it back with a terse note saying their writers aren’t allowed to accept gifts, however small. So now I had a Cross Pen with Mia’s name engraved on it. Hummmm… She was great. And the story she authored about us was so wonderful… Here’s the bottom line: I really didn’t care if she knew who the pen was from, I just wanted her to have something that was nice, that she would enjoy, because she was such a great person. I thought the gift was fun – and very appropriate for a fellow scribbler like myself. While most of my own writing is on a computer, I still enjoy my collection of pens. Er… both of them.

So I took the pen out of its box, slipped it unceremoniously into a padded envelope and sent it to her with no return address. I wrote a short handwritten note on a lined sheet of paper that said it was nice meeting her, and she must have left this in my office (even though our entire interview was on the phone). Then I didn’t sign it legibly. I’m sure she had no idea where the pen came from. It must have driven her crazy – but in a nice way. I hope she’s still enjoying it. Shhhh… don’t tell her it was from me; I still haven’t.

Since this is a marketing article, let’s talk about getting business: the best promotional campaign is to send personal letters to your top 100 prospects. A “Thank You” letter can also be used as part of your best marketing campaign, too: send thank you letters to your top 100 customers. If you’re in a big business environment – send 1,000 thank you letters.

Here’s the trick: even if you mail a million letters, keep it personal: don’t put an address FIM bar on your letterhead – spend the extra nickel to make it really look personal. Make it look so personal the recipient thinks he or she is the only one receiving it. A thank you letter. A very simple, very nice campaign, eh?

Think about it. When is the last time you received a letter thanking you for your business? It’s been that long, huh? Yes, this campaign WILL bring you more business. And build loyalty. And – if you’re into key words: increase branding. And if you’re into acronyms, it’s a good part of CRM.

But, those buzz words don’t do that much for me, being in direct marketing and all. In the dm field, um, direct marketing field, we’ve always needed to create pieces and programs and puzzle parts that will bring in customers and orders – and reorders. If we do them right, we build loyalty into every piece of mail we send, in every package the customer opens, in every piece of copy we write, and in every customer policy we set — and customers come back naturally. And stay with us for life. Just ask L.L. Bean. I’ve been their customer for 30 years.

So, do you need some other ways to say thanks? How about a card? What? Whatzat? You say you send a card to people at Christmas. Surprisingly: Christmas is not the best time to send a card. In fact, if you’re sending a card at Christmas here’s some bad news: yours is just one of the pack. Pick another holiday: July 4th, Memorial Day, or Halloween even. Your card will stand out and be appreciated.

I personally like to send customers a card with the change of time to Daylight Savings Time… and back. You can hand write “This is a reminder to set your clock back…” as a personal note on the bottom and send the card as a reminder. Everyone will like that – and you’ll be the only card in their mail that day, I guarantee it. Or, Feb. 29th. Or Ground Hog’s day. First day of spring, or the first day of any of the seasons.
Actually, for about $4 in postage you can send cards to a client on every major holiday, or about once a month. It’s a nice campaign!

While gifts on occasion make good “Thank You’s,” there are other ways to thank people. Here’s a few of my favorite ways and they’re almost all free.

10. Under Promise and Over deliver. Do just a little bit more, write it up with your regular bill and say “no charge” in small print. It’ll get noticed.

9. Work hard, and bill fairly. I don’t think it’s necessary to under bill – just be fair! People appreciate fair.

8. Pay your bills promptly. Especially in the small business arena, vendors notice!

7. Bring jobs in on time. And on budget.

6. Call people back promptly. Even if it’s just to acknowledge you’ve received their call and you’ll get back to them in depth at a later time.

5. Thank customers for their order – each time. Ever go into a retail store and the salesperson acts like they’re doing you a favor? How rude. If you’re a retailer, kindly remember we really could have gone somewhere else.

Here’s another story. I ran a direct-selling ad campaign in a prominent magazine in the pet industry. For 6 years I was in every issue, and you know I never, ever got a thank you note from the publisher, or the salesperson. One day a catalog house took out a full page ad in the magazine that blasted our smaller ad out – using a product similar to ours as their loss leader to get pet owners names for their catalog. Our ad which was only only marginally profitable before, drew even less response – so I dropped out. After a few issues of testing, the cataloger withdrew their ad, and despite the publisher’s phone calls I never went back in. In the 6 previous years, all he had to do was send me a note that said, “Thanks for the business, we appreciate it.”

4. Face people and smile when you say thanks. Let them know it’s not an afterthought, and you are taking the extra 5 seconds to look them in the eye and say it face to face.

3. Say “Thanks! Thank you very much!” in letters and correspondence. and “I appreciate it.” And mean it. Your customers really could go somewhere else, too.

2. Books make nice gifts. I’ve written two books that make great gi&ldots; OK, just kidding. Although… A low key “thank you” gift such as a book is nice.

1. Still my favorite: A simple letter saying thanks. It’s inexpensive to create and shows your appreciation. It’s my number one way to thank someone. Surprisingly, it’s the best way to get more business, AND build loyalty to you and your firm. And retain customers. Yes, all from a simple letter. Don’t forget – it really is a privilege to have customers do business with your firm, too. They all could go somewhere else. Don’t ever forget what other firms call your best customers: Prospects.

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This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by Jeff Dobkin on 3/1/2005

Jeff Dobkin is the author of How To Market a Product for Under $500 and Uncommon Marketing Techniques He is also a speaker, writes response-driven sales letters, engaging web content, persuasive catalog copy; and exceptional direct mail packages. He also is a marketing analyst for direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Visit him online at
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