Emoticon Thinking – Find Free (or almost free) Ways To Reward Your Customers

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Recently the Sacramento Municipal Utility District attempted to motivate customers by simply charting their progress against twenty neighbors with similar usage history.  If you did good you got a smiley face and if you did poorly you got a frowney face.  Folks who got the report cut usage by 2% more than those who didn’t and folks who got a frowney face complained. (more here)

Simple, free emoticons appeared to increase the success of the test.

What kind of emoticon thinking can your small business bring to the table?  Inexpensive or free ideas that increase customer loyalty or motivate purchasing behavior? 

If you have more time than money, there are web tools that might make sense in helping you build community rewards into your mix.  For example Twitter lets you interact with customers. You simply sign up for a free account (I recommend using your first name and your company name so it is kind of personal) and then invite folks to follow you.  Key thing to remember, make sure your ‘tweets’ are worth listening too… and that anybody you mention actually wants the shout out. (If they have a twitter account, they do).

As you build a following there are plenty of things for you to tweet about:

  • announce when you have donated to a local event and encourage attendance

  • congratulate a customer on reaching a fitness goal

  • cheer for your local school or little league team

  • offer quick discounts and special offers

There are other web resources that can also fill this role – Facebook and Myspace being prime examples.  Get folks to become friends of your store.  You can integrate the twitter feed and also let folks comment on products and services they found at your store.  Pics of the latest prom hair styles, favorite bouquets, pics from customers showing off their new furniture or pets.  Even a live webcam showing in store events (or if you are a puppy day care – all those adorable puppies).

But emoticon thinking can go well beyond basic electronic communication.  What kind of thank you can you add to your customer interaction that will improve their image of you?  Chocolate mints seem to small a token?  Research shows that if you leave each person a mint at the end of a meal your wait staff’s tips increase.  Leave double and they increase more. 

Add a quick massage to the end of the haircut?  Works for SportsClips and only adds minutes onto the transaction. 

Candy dish at the dry cleaners? I love butterscotch hard candies and Greenwood Cleaners keeps me supplied.

The point is – if your offering the best price you can, have the right product mix and friendly sales staff – then finding the inexpensive extra that makes you a bit different from the rest can create customer loyalty and build sales over the long haul.

Fred Schlegel is a marketer and writer at frogblog.biz

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