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Top customer appreciation ideas for small businesses

Customer appreciation ideas: entrepreneur helping a customer in his store

Key takeaways

  • Strengthening relationships with current customers can complement your new customer acquisition strategies 
  • Rewards and personal thank you gifts are a few ways business owners can improve customer retention
  • Customer appreciation ideas require work upfront, but they pay off in customer loyalty over time 

Small businesses put so much effort into acquiring new customers that it’s easy to overlook the power of maintaining current customers. In fact, it costs five times more to attract new leads than it does to retain existing ones.

Providing a positive customer experience is a vital driver of customer loyalty. The more you can improve each individual experience from beginning to end, the more likely your customers will come back—and even promote organic word-of-mouth marketing that further fuels your business.

To retain your base, try implementing a variety of customer appreciation ideas that can help you build trust with your current clients and attract new customers

What is customer appreciation? 

Customer appreciation requires more than a “thank you” for using your service or buying your product. It’s about making the customer feel heard, seen, and appreciated over time. Certainly, you want the basics covered, such as cashiers trained to greet and thank customers as they hand over a receipt. But creating a truly positive customer experience means going the extra mile to build long-term trust. 

Top customer appreciation ideas 

Customer appreciation ideas: Business owner talking to a customer

Ready to thank your customers for choosing your business? Use these customer appreciation ideas as a springboard to get started. You know your customers best, so make sure your chosen loyalty efforts align with what matters most to them. 

Hold a Customer Appreciation Day 

Father and daughter buying something from a store

April 18 is National Customer Appreciation Day, but you can apply this customer appreciation idea to any day (or days) you choose. You can even schedule a Customer Appreciation Week

As a marketing strategy, Customer Appreciation Day is a great way to get more foot traffic into a brick-and-mortar business during a slow time. Moreover, a Customer Appreciation Day doesn’t need to be tied to a sale on your product or service; it can be an in-person event with drinks, giveaways, small gifts, music, or other goodies

If you do host a Customer Appreciation Day, make sure to publicize it well over social media in advance so that you get good turnout. You can also share a special discount code for anyone to use at the event. Once the day arrives, be sure to take pictures of the fun so you can share online recaps of the event (and even use it as marketing collateral for your next event). 

Wish loyal customers a happy birthday 

A small postcard or email is a nice touch to let people know you’re thinking about them on their special day. Make sure to use the customer’s name to make it feel more personal, and even consider including a discount or free gift or service.

You can also take it one step further by using a phone service to deliver pre-recorded messages from your team. With the right customer relationship management (CRM) system in place, you can store this unique birthday message and resend it annually. 

Give them the first chance to review new products 

If you’re rolling out new products, turn to your current clients to provide feedback. Existing customers are your superfans and possible early adopters, so getting them on board before a new product release can give you great momentum. 

Better yet, send free products or host a soft launch with your existing customers who are already familiar with your brand. Giving them a chance to test free products (along with exclusive swag like water bottles) can help deepen the customer relationship—and it will also yield useful feedback about what your core base likes and wants to see next from your brand. 

Brent Wesley, owner and founder of Akron Honey, a honey company based in Akron, Ohio, has built a brand on being a good neighbor and aligning his business closely with his biggest fans. When he’s trying something new, Wesley invites his most fervent supporters—who call themselves “honeyloves”—to try it out. “Everyone just has a party and eats our stuff, and they’re able to tell us, face to face: ‘Yo, I love this. Or yo, you got to change this, or, hey, the time you posted this thing online, I want to see more of that,’” he said.


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Offer gift card drawings for returning customers 

If someone already likes your product or service, giving them an extra incentive to keep doing business with you is a no-brainer. Gift card drawings for your service or other businesses in your local area encourage people to shop local. You can even support the community with your gift card drawing by entering people when they make a donation to a charity of your choice. This method gets your customers on board with your bigger philanthropic vision as a company. 

If you don’t want to offer gift cards, use a gift basket to share some of your other products. You could also gather a collection of goodies from local businesses to highlight what they have to offer. Raffling off the winners makes for a great client appreciation event that also allows you to partner up with non-competitive businesses and create a greater sense of community. 

Create a loyalty program 

Loyalty programs are another way to thank customers for doing business with you. It involves rewarding customers when they return to do business with you. There are many benefits you can offer with loyalty programs, including: 

  • A free gift for signing up for the program 
  • A coupon or discount code after the customer spends a certain dollar amount (for example, earn $5 in rewards for every $50 spent) 
  • A complimentary customer appreciation gift for someone who purchases a certain service or product (for example, a free travel-size lotion with a spa manicure and pedicure appointment)
  • A free upgrade that applies after a certain number of visits 
  • Special swag for people who cross a spending threshold per year 

Send a thank you card 

In the digital age, thank you cards are often overlooked, but a handwritten note provides a personal touch. Especially for businesses where customers may only visit a couple times a year, like a dentist’s office or an oil change shop, you can make a big impression by sending out handwritten notes. Consider including a coupon in your thank you card to encourage repeat business. 

Here’s an example of what you can say in your thank you note: 

“Hi Jan! Thanks so much for stopping by our dental office! We hope we were able to deliver the level of care and service that our practice is so well known for. See you for your next checkup!”

Share a shout-out on social media 

Go the extra mile and show your customers that you care with a shout-out on social media. For example, a local gym might highlight a member who recently completed their first 5K or passed their personal best record for weightlifting. A veterinarian could share a picture of one of their favorite pet patients. You can also ask your customers to tag you on social media, and when they do, reshare those posts for extra recognition.

A shoutout is a small way to show customers that your small business values them as people. Just be sure you have a customer’s permission to share any information or photos.

Create recurring customers for long-term business success 

Customer appreciation ideas are simple, cost-effective ways to show people that they are valued customers. To get the most out of your customer appreciation plan, brainstorm strategies to strengthen the customer relationship in person and on social media through offerings like a loyalty club. From perks and special discounts to a formal rewards program, you canand shouldshow your clients that you care about them. 

To increase your loyal following, consider these four referral program ideas to accelerate business growth.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.