Showing Subscribers You Appreciate Them

The Benefits of Random Acts of Appreciation

It doesn’t take much for a business to make me happy—and loyal. A free oatmeal coupon from McDonalds will definitely lure me in this week. Comped iced teas at my favorite pizza restaurant—though not a surprise anymore—is still one reason I keep coming back. The Kennedy Center sends me free gifts—greeting cards, a calendar perhaps—once in a while for being a member. Nothing great, but I use them and it does cement my feeling that I’m getting extra value.

Through last week’s post on the 2011 Email Evolution Conference, I came to the site eMarketing & Commerce (eM+C). That led me to blogger Margie Chiu, executive vice president of strategic services for Wunderman in New York. She wrote an article at the end of last year about appreciating your customers. “…will performing random acts of appreciation for your customers make a difference?” she asked. “Absolutely.”

She pointed to a study in AMA’s Journal of Marketing—titled The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing—led by Robert W. Palmatier, associate professor of marketing at the University of Washington. His executive study states:
“Overall, this research shows that gratitude appears to enhance [Relationship Marketing (RM)] performance in three main ways:
1. Customers engage in positive gratitude-based behaviors to satisfy their feelings of obligation in response to RM-induced feelings of gratitude;
2. Increased levels of customer trust due to gratitude increase customer commitment and thus enhance relational performance; and
3. Gratitude promotes the development of relationships by initiating reciprocation cycles, which may have long-term positive effects on customer behaviors.

Chiu has three rules of her own when it comes to random acts of appreciation:
1. “It comes out of the blue. The element of surprise creates impact.”
Again, ever get comped something unexpectedly at a restaurant, or your auto mechanic tells you that he threw in new windshield wipers at no charge, or your cable company gives you two free months of HBO? Feels good.
2. “It’s about them, not you. A discount or free item is always appreciated, but it should be something your customers really want, not something you need to promote or unload.”
Laura Enock, publisher at, had this suggestion for a company welcoming new subscribers to their newsletter: “Set up [your welcome series of emails] as a ‘course’, with information that builds on itself and imparts valuable knowledge on the topic and you’ve given them something free for signing up….”
Wrote Judy Doherty of Food and Health Communications: “What we did was to create an annual ‘must have it’ premium that they have to sign up for—and it is delivered by the trigger of them joining our list. When they join, they get the email with the premium.”
3. “Focus on your best customers. Sounds like common sense, right? Maybe not. For example, if the surprise is a product discount and there’s little to no cost for you to distribute it, you may be inclined to make it available to every customer. In this case, resist the urge. If everyone is special, then no one is.” These are also the people who may become your evangelists. So keeping them special makes good business sense.

Let’s add one more:
4. Your motives are perceived as being old-fashioned good. From that Relationship Marketing report: “:…if the customer perceives that the benefit was provided at the discretion of the seller, with a benevolent motive, or with some risk to the seller, the customer feels more grateful and is more likely to reciprocate.”


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    Margie C.

    Thank you Ronn for the shout out. I’m a huge believer in the power of “surprise and delight.” We’ve all personally experienced the amazing feeling of an unexpected gesture of generosity. To scale this takes a lot of effort on a marketer’s behalf, but it’s worth it.


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