Big Ideas for Small Businesses Who Want to Make Customers Feel Special

by Swipely Team on June, 11 2013 in Marketing


We've written before about treating customers like VIPs, but until recently we hadn't really seen such an outpouring of appreciation in its more creative forms.

For example, we recently visited a small business in Portland, Maine, Coffee By Design, who keeps a handmade scrapbook of their best customers.

On the individual pages, they're asked funny questions like what their favorite Gene Wilder movie is, what their nickname in highschool was, the name of their pet and other fun questions, like their favorite brand of socks.

Want to get to know your best customers? Scrapbook them!

Or, perhaps you have an in-house artist? Someone who may, perhaps, enjoy drawing your customers? No, your business isn't an amusement park, but who doesn't like to be amused?

That scrapbook reminded us of another local coffee shop way down in Austin, Texas, where the weekly whiteboard is likely to feature a dry-erase portrait of a VIP regular and her favorite drink, like The Dorothy.

And it reminded us of the big fella walking into his favorite Boston bar, the bar where everybody knows your name, and they all shout his together, “Norm!”

And the Hardcore Sweet chicken-and-waffle mustache man of Torrington, Connecticut. These Main Street Marketplace vendors converted a passer-by, non-sweet-eater into a royal regular with their proprietary blend of savory treats, good humor, and fond attention.

Can you imagine if all local Mom and Pop shops could express their appreciation so creatively?

So what if you don’t have a whiteboard wizard or  scrapbooking savant on staff ? Or Sam and Woody behind the bar? What if you don’t make customized cupcakes for cripe’s sake?

More Creative Ideas for Making Customers Feel Special

How can you let your best customers know that you appreciate their patronage, make them feel welcome, and give them a place to belong and be part of the in-crowd?

Well, for starters, tell them. Know their name and thank them by it.

You can name a drink or a sandwich or a booth after them. You can sing for their birthday or send a postcard. Or not. But in your every act and very demeanor, let them know you are grateful. Be sincere and authentically interested in them and their journey. You’re part of their pit stop crew; only you know how you can send them back into the race refreshed and ready for a few more laps.

We all know about rewards cards and loyalty cards and punch cards and rebate cards and discounted gift cards. What about card cards? Write one or two a week. Five lines or less. Leave it with the hostess or at the register to hand-deliver the next time they visit. Maybe let the card itself serve as a free ticket to something tasty. Or not. You can let the value of your thanks stand alone.

That’s all well and good and makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside, for sure; but, you might ask, what about more concrete ways to show your love and maybe even monetize theirs?

You may not have a cupcake maker, but you probably have a picture taker and a Facebooker, or twenty, among your staff. Have them create a Facebook group for your VIP customers, like the one at Woods Hall Craft Shop in Madeline Island, Wisconsin, or Ebisu Japanese Restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. And, yes, we’re taking it as a foregone conclusion that you already have a Facebook page.

Let the kids sort out how to run the group, add new members, publish photos, and work out all the kinks with each other. Then invite customers to join. Treat that group as an extension of the community, a place to belong, a place to meet like-minded shoppers or diners, and a place to access:

  • promotions,

  • seasonal menu tastings,

  • vendor events,

  • early-bird specials,

  • private openings,

  • trunk shows,

  • pre-screenings,

  • exclusive events,

  • limited-edition offers,

  • friends and family deals, and

  • other creative get-togethers. Tell us in the comments below some of your all-time best meet-ups.

Not only does this approach get them in the door more, it gets them talking about you and with you more; and, what’s more, it’s highly trackable. You’ll know when they offer feedback on improvements or new opportunities because you’ll ask. And you’ll act on it. You’re just that kind of business.

Learn more about how to leverage a Facebook group and whether it should be private or public.

Also, among your Facebookers, you may have a few aficionados of Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram, or the latest social media channel du jour. Not just on your staff, but in this extended community you’ve been so carefully cultivating. Give them a tag to own for you. Usually that’s the # sign followed by the name of your business or a short slogan. They add that to their tweet or post when they publish a photo or a kind comment from your shop.

Have somebody in-house watch those channels every other day or three and reward all mentions with some social love. A quick thanks, a follow, a share; those are all it takes to cement the bond and begin reaching into that ever-important friends of friends network, like word of mouth manna.

 With an attitude of gratitude and clever tactics like these, you can treat even new customers and walk-ins like royalty and turn them into loyal VIP clients and proud brand advocates, just like the muffin man of Torrington.

And if we haven't mentioned it yet, Swipely's payment processing system is built on a foundation of customer loyalty, so if you don't already know who your most loyal customers are -- you will!

Use data to work smarter, not harder, with Swipely

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