Gratitude is widely acclaimed a cornerstone to success and happiness in our business and personal lives—but it is far more than just a mindset or mantra. It is an actionable business strategy that strengthens relationships and generates revenue. It even has a name . . .
What is appreciation marketing?
Appreciation marketing is conveying gratitude in an effort to build a personal bond and long-term loyalty with relationships, such as clients, centers of influence, referral sources, and prospects.
The goal of appreciation marketing is to develop loyalty and influence in order to solidify and cultivate business. It is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of marketing; it particularly fits relationship-centric and wealth-based businesses where goodwill, top of mind awareness, and word of mouth are key business drivers. Additionally, the strategy is ideal for professionals working with a clientele sensitive to solicitation and promotion or unmoved by conventional marketing and advertising.
The fact is, some professionals utilize appreciation marketing without thinking of it as such. Perhaps the most familiar and timeless example is the handwritten thank-you note.
Develop a system to convey gratitude
Considering its proven success, it is surprising many are haphazard about expressing appreciation and thus potentially underutilize the full value of their relationships. Fortunately, establishing and managing a system to convey gratitude is relatively easy. With a little planning, it can be an incredibly, if not the most, effective and efficient marketing and business development investment.
Why is showing you are grateful so important? Consider that research shows the primary reason customers leave a provider is a result of perceived indifference. For example, a 2015 study by Spectrum Group found that 58% of high net worth respondents switched financial advisors in their lifetime, and two of the three primary reasons suggest feelings of perceived indifference: the advisor was not proactive in contacting me, and the advisor did not offer me good ideas and advice. If you want to strengthen and grow your business, don't forget about the customers and relationships you already have. Remember, it requires significantly more money, time and effort to acquire new clients verse retaining and cultivating referrals from existing relationships.
The big idea is establishing a system that makes it easy and fun for people to positively think of you often and share your business with others. People are busy; their wealth manager, real estate agent, risk advisor, insurance broker, etc. are not the first thing in their mind, and sharing them is probably close to the last. Not because they don't like or want to, they just don't think about it. Frequently showing your appreciation provides a friendly reminder.
Be effective at getting personal
Businesses obviously care about relationships. However, perception is reality, so if people think you don’t care . . . you don’t. Perhaps the truth is many professionals are merely indiscriminate or ineffective at communicating and showing appreciation, or they don’t yet realize how beneficial it can be.
Losing a client or center of influence due to a competitive disadvantage (i.e. fit, cost or performance) is one thing; losing them because they feel you don’t care enough is a tragedy. People will often be candid about competitive disadvantages, and this is good as it provides an opportunity to address, resolve and learn. But, you don’t care is often a silent death; there is often a bogus reason given or worse silence. Why? Because it [caring] is personal.
Getting personal is the central idea. Loyalty and influence built through a personal connection solidify business and helps turn relationships into advocates. This is why gratitude is an excellent tool for professionals working with high net worth clients, where success is largely about relationships: understanding, serving and utilizing them.
There are many ways to execute an appreciation marketing strategy. What is most important is the tactics are well-received by the recipient, and they make a positive lasting impression. It is a good idea to use multiple methods; I recommend using a mix of "evergreen" (create an everyday presence) and "episodic" (event based or occasional). The various tactics can be roughly categorized into three buckets: Verbal, Activity, and Gift.
Verbal: Say thank you often. Make it part of the company culture.
Activity: Things you do, such as writing a thank you note or a client event or outing.
Gift: The powerhouse of appreciation marketing. Gifts can serve a dual purpose of conveying appreciation and deploying a passive "evergreen" marketing tool. (See: 5 Traits That Turn Gifts for Wealthy Clients Into Powerful Marketing).
Attracting, engaging and cultivating relationships, particularly in the wealth and luxury spaces, is becoming increasingly more challenging as technology and other business forces increasingly commodify services and products. Appreciation marketing is a surefire method to differentiate your brand and nurture long-term relationships to solidify and fuel business.
John Frankot is founder and president of Triple R Media and publisher of LIFE REFINED, a relationship management and content marketing tool designed for wealth and luxury professionals.