Have you ever tried training a dog to obey some basic commands?
“Sit”, “stay”, “drop”… that kind of thing.
Well, the key to obedience training is to give the dog a reward when it performs a task well. That treat could be food, or a toy, or a pat… whatever motivates the dog. That way, the dog learns what’s good behaviour, and being people-pleasers, they’ll repeat the good behaviour. (Well, most of the time… let’s just say that my west highland terrier can be a little stubborn!)
On the other hand, losing your temper with a dog won’t get you very far at all. They won’t really want to obey you… perhaps through fear, but hopefully I only have people who are nice to animals reading this blog.
I digress… the point is that rewards encourage good, positive behaviour. And we as humans aren’t really that much different.
Yes, both the proverbial sticks and carrots can motivate humans. I for one respond far, far better to carrots and will avoid the stick-strewn path at all costs. But a nice reward? Yes, please!
A “thank you” is a very simple reward to give
The simplest way to show your appreciation of a job done well is to say just two little words: “thank you”.
Saying “thank you” is easy, effortless, and it doesn’t cost you a bean.
However, in my view, these two little words aren’t used anywhere near often in enough in business.
Why bother saying thank you in business?
Why say “thank you” in business when you’ve paid hard-earned money for a product or service? You’re entitled to receive what you’ve paid for, after all!
The reason why it’s worth saying “thank you” is because that product or service has been delivered by a person. A person with feelings, emotions, worries, concerns, dreams, frustrations… in short, a person like you or like me. (And not some kind of work robot.)
The person delivering you the product or service may have had to make personal sacrifices to deliver it on time. Perhaps they’ve been up all night with a sick child. Perhaps they’re supporting a frail relative. Perhaps their boss is a mean ol’ slavedriver. Perhaps their car broke down earlier in the day.
OK, so there may not have been any such sacrifice, but a sincere “thank you” is always appreciated. What’s more, saying a heart-felt “thank you” also encourages future good service delivery from that person. Yes, it’s a bit like rewarding a dog… they’ll be nice to you if you’re nice to them.
The key is to be sincere when saying “thank you”
An insincere thank you is demotivating. For example, I used to have a boss who’d handwrite his instructions for me, and at the end he always wrote “thx”. I always thought that this was rude and slapdash – he can’t really be thankful, if he can’t even be bothered to write “thanks” in full!
Yes, I realise I’m reading waaaaay too much into the “thx”, but the point remains that a “thank you” should be sincere if you want it to have the desired motivational effect. And in my view, there’s no way that’s more sincere than sending a “thank you” card…
Thank you cards? Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned?
Yes, it may be old-fashioned to send business thank you cards but, as the saying goes, “manners maketh man” (or woman). Sending a thank you card is a classy touch that will elevate you far above your competitors.
Here are some extracts from one of my favourite business authors, Paddi Lund, which help to explain why I’m so passionate about thank you cards:
“Politeness is the oil of the wheels of society.
Most people believe that they should be polite to strangers. They know that if they are not, the strangers will not like them and not be polite in return. When strangers are not polite people feel offended and unloved: feelings that make for unhappiness and no one wants to be unhappy.
If it is important to be polite to strangers so that the social interaction we have with them makes for happiness, then surely it must be even more important to be polite to people who are intimates and have much more power to make our life unhappy.
All social graces are learned. If our parents did not educate us in the niceties of social eating, everyone would feel nauseated when at the table in our company.
Social behaviour is something we are taught. It is not instinctive. We learn how to walk gracefully, not to eject gas from our bodies noisily in company and to blow our noses without contaminating those around us. Almost every behaviour we have has been learned and practised. Why not a few more?
Politeness affirms the dignity of the people with whom we communicate.”
Source: ‘Building the Happiness-Centred Business’, Dr. Paddi Lund
In short: I think it’s rude not to say thank you in some form (be it verbally or written), and putting it in writing is a thoughtful, classy way to do it.
I used to hate writing thank you cards as a kid, but now I’m a few years older I realise how nice it is to be appreciated!
After all, when was the last time you received business thank you cards from your suppliers? I bet that you don’t receive many business thank you cards… so when you do receive one (and it’s a nice, sincere, thoughtful one), it gets noticed. Sending thank you cards is an effective way to differentiate your business and elevate it above your competitors.
Best of all, you have many opportunities to send business thank you cards.
What could you send business thank you cards for?
There are numerous opportunities to use thank you cards in business, and I’d encourage you to embrace as many of them as possible.
Some ideas are:
- Thank you for choosing me to work with you (pre-project)
- Thank you for the work (ad-hoc projects)
- Thank you for the ongoing work
- Thank you for a great referral
- Thank you for the meeting/lunch/catch-up/other nice thing
- Thank you for you testimonial.
Crunch your numbers
As with any other marketing tactic, you should crunch your numbers first to make sure that sending business thank you cards is viable. For example, there’s no point sending business thank you cards if your average dollar sale is very low… the cost/benefit analysis simply won’t stack up.
But if you’re in a reasonably high value/high margin business, it’s worth a look.
When it comes to sourcing and sending the cards, I have some more tips for you…
Some design tips for your business thank you cards…
For the thank you card to make an impact, it needs to look great. Use high-quality store-bought cards if you need to. Or better still, get some customised cards designed and printed, with your company details on the reverse.
Pay good attention to the design on the front, and ask if it’s something you’d want to display in your home or office.
I’ve seen some terrible thank you cards: two particular ones stick in my mind:
- The first one had just the business’ logo on the front (very large) with the words “thank you” underneath. It was quite ugly.
- The second card had just the business owner’s photo on the front. While I like the business owner, I didn’t really want to look at a photograph of him every day.
Let’s just say I appreciated the gesture from these business owners, but these particular cards were filed in my bin rather than pinned up on my noticeboard…
I’d suggest you get a good graphic designer to make something reasonably stylish for you.
If, like me, you need your cards to be multi-purpose, then keep the wording on the front a simple “thank you”. (And the inside blank, so you can write whatever you need to say.)
If you can afford to have multiple thank you cards for different purposes, that’s cool. You might consider:
- Thank you for your business (or: Thank you for your valued business)
- Thank you for your referral
- Thank you for shopping with us
- … and you can get a message printed inside, too.
Be sure to handwrite at least some of the thank you card
For the thank you card to have maximum impact, it is vital that you handwrite the inside… or at least some of it, e.g. the recipient’s name and your signature.
(If the entire card is pre-printed, it is lacking in sincerity… remember, the whole point of the thank you is relationship building, and that needs the personal touch in this instance.)
Personally I handwrite the entire message… yes, my handwriting is scrawly and ugly, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the personal touch and the effort that’s gone into it that counts.
Save time with business thank you card scripts
Do you find yourself writing similarly worded thank you cards time and time again?
Make a note of your most common scripts, and refer to them. It’ll save lots of head scratching “what shall I write” moments.
Why you need to be careful when selecting envelopes for thank you cards
Envelope choice isn’t something that most business owners stop to think about, but you can influence the recipient’s perception of the card before they even open it.
Do not use the same kind of envelope that you send your invoices or statements in: the recipient will recognise these, and their emotional bank balance will go into the negative end of the scale before they’ve even seen what’s inside. This is not the impact you want!
Instead, choose an envelope that’s a different colour, or maybe even a different size.
For example, I send my official business correspondence (i.e. the boring stuff) in plain white envelopes that are DLE sized (to fit A4 paper folded into three). But my business thank you card envelopes are C6 size (to fit a card that folds to A6 size), and they’re usually cream coloured or maybe silver. And the address is handwritten.
The standout envelope means that there’s a bit of anticipation building before the recipient even opens the card.
Consider putting some goodies inside the thank you card
An additional way to build anticipation before the recipient opens the card is to put some goodies inside. That will make the envelope bulky, so it’ll be even more obvious that this envelope contains something nice and fun – and that it’s not an invoice!
Make sure that the goodies you enclose add to your brand’s message and match the quality of your product or service.
For example, my thank you cards generally contain high quality Swiss chocolates. That’s a nod to my Swiss heritage, but it also reinforces the quality of what I do.
Thus each card sends me a few dollars to send… and I can think of no other way to deliver such a “wow” factor for such a small amount of money and effort.
My approach to business thank you cards is one of the key reasons why I enjoy a high rate of repeat business, as well as oodles of quality referrals. In keeping with The Leaky Bathtub Marketing Principle, I work hard to ensure that my customers feel valued, so they keep coming back for more.
In fact, I frequently receive a “thank you for the thank you card” email or phone message from the recipient, simply because they’re so impressed… and really, it’s such a small gesture!
Sending business thank you cards promptly and consistently is important
If you decide that sending business thank you cards could work for you, there are two final factors to consider: promptness and consistency.
- Promptness: You should send the thank you card as soon as possible after the event in order for it to be perceived as being sincere (and not an afterthought). Note that if you’re sending thank you cards to your customers thanking them for their business, the most appropriate time to say thank you is immediately after the customer has made their payment. The thank you is more sincere that way.
- Consistency: You need a system in place to ensure that you send out the cards consistently, month after month. If you send cards some months, but not others, your customers will wonder why. They may think that if you’re not sending business thank you cards any more (a) you no longer value them, or (b) your standards have slipped and your product or service is no longer up to scratch.
I must admit that it is the promptness and consistency factors that I struggle with the most in my business… when it gets busy, it’s a juggling act. Balls get dropped, but that’s no excuse. This particular aspect of my customer retention programme is important, and I need to make time for it, no matter how busy I am.
After all, I always make time to walk my (not-very-obedient) dog, so it’s easy to combine a trip to the mailbox with a dog walk.
My New Year resolution for next year? To be more prompt and more consistent with sending business thank you cards… maybe I could train my dog to remind me?! 😉
- Saying “thank you” is a simple way to show your appreciation and encourage/reward good behaviour in business.
- People like to feel appreciated.
- Thank-yous must be sincere in order for them to have the desired effect.
- Sending thank you cards is a classy way to say thank you.
- There are numerous opportunities to say “thank you” in business.
- Crunch your numbers to make sure that this marketing tactic is viable for your business.
- It’s worth paying attention to the design of your business thank you cards.
- Handwrite at least some of the thank you card message.
- If you send a lot of thank you cards, write out scripts for the most common message types that you can refer back to.
- Choose nice envelopes for your thank you cards, so it doesn’t look like an invoice!
- For an even bigger “wow” factor, put some goodies inside the thank you card.
- Send the thank you cards promptly and consistently.
- Sending thank you cards can help with your customer retention rates and referral rates.