Holiday time is thank you time in the business world. My desk has a stack of holiday thank you cards. Our lunch room still has some of chocolate covered pretzels, cheese popcorn, candied cherries, and other delectable thank you gifts that vendors sent to us. And my inbox is full of emails from vendors expressing their gratitude for my business.

I welcome the sentiments, but I wonder: Why now? Why once a year? Most businesses that choose to thank their clients do so once a year around the holidays. Shouldn’t we be grateful the other 11 months of the year? Shouldn’t say “thank you” more often?

Of course, the answer is “yes.” I preach gratitude not just because it’s the nice thing to do, but also because it’s a lucrative thing to do. The more you say “thank you,” the more you retain clients. The more you say “thank you,” the more referrals you get. The more you say “thank you,” the more you profit.

Does that mean you have to send a box of fancy fruit to your clients every winter, spring, summer and fall? I’m OK with that, especially if I’m your client (I’m partial to those fancy pears). But there are plenty of less expensive, highly effective ways to show your appreciation for your clients.

With digital technologies such as email and social media, you can connect with clients frequently and inexpensively. An annual written thank you note and a gift can still be part of your gratitude package, but email and social media touches can supplement those traditional thank yous. In fact, you do not need to say “thank you directly to a client” in order to show appreciation for them.

Here are some examples:

Celebrate your clients’ achievements on social media. On our Facebook and Twitter feeds we repost items clients have posted, share a noteworthy email newsletter they produced or spread the word about a special event.

Share case studies on your web site and in your emails that trumpet the relationship with clients. When you share a case study, you trumpet not just your own success, but also your client’s. When we publish case studies, we always reach out to the client to say we’ve shared the story and to express thanks for the business.

Seek feedback from your clients, act on the feedback, and thank those who gave it to you. We periodically include customer feedback surveys with our email newsletters. The mere act of seeking feedback tells your clients, “We value your opinion.” After we process results, we share the results with clients and describe how we plan to act on the feedback. And when an individual clients gives us especially high or low marks on a survey, we respond directly to thank the client or to address the concerns.

A box of holiday treats and a thank you note are nice gestures, but you should develop plans to show appreciation the other 11 months of the year.

How do you show appreciation for your clients? Please post your comments and ideas below…

This post first ran in St. Louis Small Business Monthly for which Tom Ruwitch writes a marketing column. 

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