Of the many ways businesses communicate – with advertising, promotions, social media, events and online giveaways – they sometimes overlook the simplest yet most effective form of expression: Saying ‘Thank You' to the many people who are an extended family for an entrepreneur or retailer; the men and women, customers, vendors, distributors and mentors alike who give a brand its humanity and loyalty.
I write these words from experience, and I continue to hand-write cards of appreciation, because gratitude is a personalized statement of acknowledgment towards someone you respect or admire.
It is also, by virtue of having put pen to paper, a tangible example – a keepsake – that illustrates an investment of time and deliberation. Or: Anyone can send an email or an instant message, which has no permanence and no influence, but not enough executives practice this other form of communications.
Again, I know of what write because, in my role as the Founder of Dave's Pet Food and Dave's Soda and Pet Food City, I understand the importance of earning and maintaining the trust of consumers, as well as the assistance of the diverse array of professionals I have the pleasure of meeting throughout the country.
My advice to executives is, therefore, very straightforward: By all means, make a habit of letter writing, but also think of this custom as a metaphor for building long-term relationships with consumers and champions of your individual businesses. Indeed, these cards (or similar gestures of tribute) are one way to create customer love; they are proof that you take nothing – and no one – for granted.
Remember, too, that the emphasis is on love, not “likes” or “followers.” For, love is the culmination of a never-ending courtship; it demonstrates patience, by both parties, to have something of value. And yes, customers love certain companies because of what those businesses value, such as: Integrity, decency, kindness, quality and support for their respective communities.
In fact, my love for this subject is the inspiration behind my book, Creating Customer Love: Make Your Customers Love You So Much They'll Never Go Anyplace Else!
The book is a primer about core rules of leadership and a business memoir, of sorts, where readers can learn how and why customer love is essential. It is also the result of having the privilege to serve on the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association Board of Directors, representing independent retailers alongside Vice Presidents of Marketing for Home Depot, Walgreens and Target.
Giving Customers a Voice and Cause for Celebration: Honoring Your Audience
The theme of this discussion should be clear: Personalize your business by celebrating your customers, so you may stand up – and apart from – the competition.
Prove yourself, in words and deeds, by the sincerity of your statements and the power of actions. Make your product or service something to behold and admire – and never sacrifice those principles for the false allure of quick profits.
Again, I have a distinct perspective about these matters because I love pets, and my customers are the custodians of their canine companions and feline friends. Meaning: There is no room for anything but excellence in my work because the merely acceptable is unacceptable.
Notice, also, that these suggestions do not require expensive sales and marketing campaigns. They do not involve huge budgets and a surplus of staff.
Instead, they demand commitment and fidelity. They inspire us with love, which is wonderful to give and beautiful to receive. That is the secret every independent retailer should know, and the not-so-secret advice I have for all executives.
Create customer love!
Dave Ratner is the Founder of Dave's Pet Food and Dave's Soda and Pet Food City. He is also a member of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association Board of Directors, representing independent retailers alongside Vice Presidents of Marketing for Home Depot, Walgreens and Target.