Gratitude: Business Strategy or Common Courtesy?

Did you recently post and share a Facebook thread in which you listed three things for which you are thankful? If you did, you actually participated in a Facebook study conducted to determine what tops most Americans’ gratitude list. What Facebook’s data-science team found is quite interesting: gratitude varies among men and women and by geographical location. 

Not surprisingly, participants were most thankful for “friends, family, and health.”  Right behind the big three were having a job, living with a roof over their heads, life, and music. But that’s where the commonalities ended. Men, for instance, were most grateful for their wife, sobriety, recovery, peace, and football; contrastingly, women had husband and children, boyfriend and babies, pets, wine, and a comfy bed at the top of their list. 

The dichotomies are even more interesting when you look at gratitude per U.S. states. Consider the following: Oregonians are most thankful for yoga; Texans and Arizonians appreciate rain; people in Illinois are grateful for their in-laws; Oklahomans are thankful for their work ethic; Utahans and Idahoans gave thanks for their Heavenly Father;and Californians included YouTube when counting their blessings.

What’s not mentioned on any of these lists, however, are the branded products that we use every day. Not a single mention of our Smartphones and MP3 players, trendy clothing, cars, or food. Regardless of this lack of brand appreciation, gratitude is a compelling reason for customers to assign loyalty to brands and, ultimately, refer friends and family. 

Gratitude is a key psychological driver that’s related to our innate need for recognition and reciprocity from our connections. In fact, numerous studies suggest that one of the top five drivers of human behavior and thought is feeling appreciated—mainly, the idea that if we are good to others, they in turn will be good to us. And while this certainly applies to our relationships with friends, family, and professional associates, it also applies to our relationships with brands.  

When customers are recognized for doing business with a brand—via thank-you note, gift, or monetary reward—they tend to reciprocate with greater loyalty and referrals. Recognition and gratitude, in any form, can generate a positive, warm feeling about the brand giving it, which in turn can lead to a healthier bottom line. Even something as simple as a thank-you card can have a big impact. Hex, the company that makes stylish covers for iPads, actually sends handwritten thank-you notes to customers. More than 13,000 handwritten thank-you notes later, Hex has become a thriving business in the digital accessories space.  

System Pavers, an outdoor living company based in California, also has been rewarding customers for years with $500 for every referral they make who becomes a paid customer. This simple act has helped build long-lasting and rewarding relationships with customers.

“When we reward our customers with a meaningful gift, we don’t just receive thank you letters from them, we also receive more repeat business,” says Ila Barot-Oldakowski, director of marketing for System Pavers. “We also notice that their satisfaction with our service to them and their enthusiasm for our products go up, as well. It’s truly a win-win business strategy.” 

Because this program has been so successful at securing lifetime value among some of System Pavers’ best customers, the company now has a new program in place called Refer 5. When customers refer five new customers that result in completed jobs, they’re eligible for a $10,000 refund on their own project on top of the $500 cash. Barot-Oldakowski believes System Pavers’ reward program—which is based on showing gratitude to customers—is a key reason the company is the leading paving stones outdoor living system in the country.  

Small tokens of appreciation for a customer’s business work for building loyalty and referrals in retail, as well. Consumers who receive free gifts with purchases show their appreciation by assigning more loyalty than they would have otherwise. Consider the following Harris Interactive poll findings: Nearly 90% of consumers receiving free gifts with purchase from an online retailer said that they were “somewhat likely” to buy more frequently from that same retailer after receiving a gift. In addition, 65% of those same shoppers receiving free gifts said that they were somewhat likely to tell others about their reward. 

Whether your organization is B2B or B2C, rewarding customers for their business is a sound strategy for increasing sales, referrals, and loyalty—all results that you can be grateful for years to come.

Jeanette McMurtry, principal of e4marketing, is an authority on psychology-based marketing, speaking at business events worldwide. She is a Back by Popular Demand trainer, speaker, and course instructor for the DMA.

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