Nationally, customer appreciation day is technically on May 21 every year. But here’s the beauty of an unofficial holiday like Customer Appreciation Day: you never have to wait.
Customers, after all, do need to feel appreciated. Consider that 82% of companies agree that keeping customers happy is cheaper than acquiring new ones. Or that 56% of customers report sticking to a brand to whom they feel loyal.
It’s not just in some niches. Any company that sells directly to customers needs to keep customer churn rates low and customer loyalty high.
Enter the Day of Appreciation.
For customers, there’s nothing like an unexpected bonus just because of the loyalty they’ve shown to you. And because there’s actually some deep psychology behind this, you might be surprised at how effective a day like customer appreciation can be. Here’s how to squeeze the most out of it.
What is Customer Appreciation Day?
The official customer appreciation day is defined as the Third Friday in May. In May of 2022, the day falls on May 20th.
There’s no official set of rules for Customer Appreciation Day. You’re free to use it in the way you see fit. In fact, the rules are so loose that you don’t have to feel tied to any particular day, either.
It might be a good idea to take advantage of customer appreciation hashtags on social media during the day, sure. Companies have had success boosting their online presence with the following:
If you want the short version of this post, you can wait until the day arrives, create a social media post with a few of those tags, offer a discount on your products, and call it a day. But you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more with this day if you understand it on a deeper level.
The Psychology Behind Customer Appreciation Day
Let’s zoom out a second. If you sell a good, worthwhile product for a fair price, then you might wonder why customers need appreciation. After all, aren’t you just a good company offering fair deals to anyone who needs what you’re selling?
That’s true. If a customer buys from you, they shouldn’t feel scammed or ripped off. Instead, they’re getting a good product at an affordable price.
So why should you appreciate customers who are more than happy to give you their money in exchange for a great deal?
For starters, customers form the foundation of any brand. As Kevin Kelly once said in his blog post, 1,000 True Fans:
To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.
Not every customer is going to be someone who just buys from you. Some customers will be more loyal than that. They’ll tell their friends about you. They’ll sign up for your newsletters. They’ll talk about you on social media. They’ll comment on your blog posts, leave positive reviews, and watch your puppy while you’re away.
Okay, maybe not that last one. But you get the point: there is nothing more valuable in business than a good and truly loyal customer.
That’s why you want to appreciate them. But there’s still another element to why this is such a good idea.
The Influential Factor of Reciprocity
A customer appreciation event is indeed all about the customers. Thanking them for what they do, what they bought, and the loyalty they’ve shown your brand.
But something even more powerful may be at work when you decide to show your appreciation: reciprocity.
It’s one of the chief tenants in Robert Cialdini’s seminal book on buyer psychology, Influence.
In Influence, Cialdini shows example after example of companies and movements who created tremendous interest in their products or services by giving something away first. We human beings seem wired to want to repay favors. This creates a “vacuum” situation in which a person is more willing to take action on buying something, simply because they’ve gotten something of value from you first.
According to the Harvard Business Review, Cialdini explained it this way: “People will help if they owe you for something you did in the past to advance their goals. That’s the rule of reciprocity.”
Cialdini also says not to wave it off and say “no big deal” when people thank you. Instead, Cialdini recommends reinforcing the sense that you’re both in this together.
What does this have to do with customer appreciation day?
Enhancing customer loyalty. You can use this day not only to show your customers that you appreciate them, but to extend that feeling of partnership. That feeling of “we’re in this together.” That they’re on Team Your-Brand, and they’re not ditching it for anyone else.
Dominate Customer Appreciation Day by Giving Customers What They Care About
Now, you know the powerful reasons why customer appreciation day can be such a reinforcing way to encourage brand loyalty. But let’s not stop there.
To give customers something that will drive that loyalty, you’re going to want to pay attention to the gifts they most care about.
After all, people love Santa Claus because he gives them what they want—not coal.
To give your customers what they want, we’ll have to look at what some of the statistics say. There’s a chance that your individual industries will vary, so take these suggestions with a grain of salt. However, there’s a good chance you may get some ideas just by browsing what customers enjoy.
Lower prices. If you’re rewarding customers who have already purchased from you, then you know that they like what you sell. The only thing you can do from there is lower the price. According to 64% of respondents, their highest priority is simply lower prices. No frills, no gimmicky giveaways for something they already own. They want to pay less for the stuff they like. That’s it. Don’t overthink it!
Exclusivity. 63% of respondents reported that it’s best when a company shows its appreciation with discounts for loyal customers. That sounds an awful lot like the first answer. But here’s the difference: loyal customers. Your loyal customers want that sense of exclusivity. So consider not only providing lower prices with a special Customer Appreciation Day discount. Go beyond that. Think about how you can reach out to an exclusive group of customers—say, those who are subscribed to your newsletter—with offers just for them.
Free stuff. Are you sensing a theme here? Customers get nickeled and dimed all year long; they’re on the hunt for low prices and great deals. And it’s hard to argue with a deal like something for free. You don’t have to send out a bunch of gifts, however. You can incorporate deals like “buy one, get one free,” or even simply offer a free additional gift or discount code when someone purchases from you on Customer Appreciation Day. This is a great way to make the most out of the day, since you can get additional attention from word-of-mouth advertising. McDonald’s, for example, is willing to offer free food for people who sign up for their app. Why? Because they know if people are on their app, they’re more likely to buy from McDonald’s in the future.
Giveaways and contests. 45% of respondents enjoyed this method of customer appreciation. And it makes sense. Giveaways are just another way of saying “free.” And contests represent the chance of winning a big-ticket item. You can’t give every customer a prize worthy of The Price is Right, after all. But if you create the opportunity for them to win one? That’s a different story. Walmart, for example, routinely offers $1,000 prizes for people who fill out its online grocery surveys. According to the link above, 45% of customers appreciate giveaways and contests for Customer Appreciation Day.
Unique events. Although this one clocks in last on the list—just 24% of respondents prefer this—it’s another idea to put in the pipeline. Webinars, live events, networking events: it’s all a new way to generate excitement over being associated with your brand.
This is a straightforward list. But keep in mind that if you’re waiting until the next Customer Appreciation Day, you can do a little more to generate some excitement. Yes, it’s important to give your loyal customers deals they actually care about.
But if you want to really stir up some buzz, there are more creative ways to express your gratitude to your customers.
Fun Ideas You Can Immediately Use for Customer Appreciation Day
Lowering customer’s prices is always a good idea if you want to give your products a quick shot in the arm. But let’s think about some other ways you can catch loyal customers off guard with some unexpected generosity:
Pay a customer’s bill. For a customer with an outstanding bill, there are few things as memorable as logging in to checking an account and seeing that there’s no remaining balance. Talk about a fast way to buy a customer’s loyalty: forgiving a customer bill is an unexpected and rare gift that people aren’t used to seeing out of companies like yours. Don’t forget to advertise a campaign like this, reminding customers on social media that you’re doing something like paying off 10 customer bills that day. You’d be surprised how much excitement this can generate.
Upgrade their account or subscription for free. Look through your list for customers who have been around for over a year. Award a few unsuspecting customers upgrades for free. Draft a nice email that tells them they don’t owe you anything else. If you follow through with a similar social media campaign, you’ll show even first-time customers what kind of company you are.
Send a handwritten note. In this digital age, anything that’s handwritten and shows physical evidence of your existence is—dare we say it?—a bit unusual. A handwritten note from a specific person at your company is going a step above and beyond. In his book The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk notes that it’s not “the money that makes these efforts shocking and awesome, it’s the care and creativity involved.” A handwritten note certainly qualifies. It doesn’t take a lot of money. But the personal touch behind it can go a long way.
Run a customer profile. If you have a blog or a newsletter, it can be rewarding for some customers to feel like they’re having their day in the sun. You can create a story about them and run a customer profile. Not only does this serve as a nice case study in loyalty for other customers, but it will demonstrate to your entire list that you’re thinking about customers in a personal way.
Drop a gift at an unexpected time. What if you’re B2B, not B2C? Consider dropping a gift at an unexpected time to catch someone off-guard. For example, if you work remotely, a well-timed fruit basket of appreciation can be a tangible gift that people don’t expect.
Donate to a customer’s favorite charity. You may want to vet some of these charities beforehand to make sure they’re appropriate for business donations. However, it can be a great idea to donate to a customer’s favorite charity. Not only does it express customer appreciation, but does a little bit of good in the world, too.
Tell them who you are. Let’s take a look at a form response from Zappos. To most customers, a form letter usually means that they’re not appreciated. But this form letter was so personal—including specific names and attempts at jokes—that it’s easy to forget it’s a form letter.
Find a way to incorporate this into your customer appreciation efforts. Can you drop the “corporate newsletter” for a day and talk about who you are, and which customers you appreciate? Can you send out an email blast that thanks customers directly? If so, whose name will you put on it? Will you crack a joke?
It’s a small gesture, but it can go a long way with customers who are used to more formal corporate correspondence.
Host a virtual happy hour. You don’t have to exactly become the kind of wining-and-dining business that you saw in Mad Men. A virtual happy hour is just as appreciated, and inviting a few customers to attend one is a great way to get to know them on a more personal level.
Even better: launch your virtual happy hour event in conjunction with another item on this list, like a contest. You’ll invigorate the event with all sorts of buzz and excitement. And as long as your focus is on giving customers the appreciation they need—consider offering discount codes to every attendee—your customers will be glad you did it.
Reach out on a customer’s birthday. If you have the kind of company that asks for birthday information, there’s a lot you can do with that information. Some social media, for example, may have a balloon graphic when you log in on your birthday. It’s a nice little gesture.
But you can always do more, too. Consider creating exclusive discounts for customers on their birthday. Or you might wait until customer birthdays to drop some of those unexpected gifts you were planning on. The point: go above and beyond for a customer on their birthday. In real life, they remember the friends who remember their birthdays, too. Be the company that acts the most like a friend.
Offer something free—that has nothing to do with your product or service. Sometimes, customers can see through the efforts. They know that you’re only rewarding discounts on certain events because you want to make more sales. They’ll use the discounts, sure. But there’s still that tinge of “corporate customer appreciation” that you can’t quite shake off.
To get rid of that, consider offering something unique. Purchase something from a different company, for example, and give them out for free. This erases any idea that you’re doing this to build buzz around your own product, and shows that it really is just about customer appreciation.
Get Customers Who Love You By Loving Them First
Deep down, customers are just like anyone else. We all want to know we’re loved, or at the very least appreciated. When we give our business to a brand, it wouldn’t hurt to know that our loyalty is getting noticed.
By using Customer Appreciation Day to its fullest potential, you can use the powerful laws behind reciprocity to generate interest in your company. You’ll also boost your reputation and customer loyalty in the process. But remember not to make it all about dollars and cents. Sometimes, it’s just about thanking the people who have gotten your business where it is.