Main personal virtues: honesty, gratefulness, character. Core business values: commitment, integrity, ability of giving appraisals (according to the Aspen Institute). It seems like saying thank you is at the point where human virtues and business best practices join hands.

Business people are often too busy to remember about the thanking activity. Or they resume to the occasional Facebook greetings or holiday blog posts their employees do. But this is quite myopic, as "thank you" in business means more than etiquette. For value-based leadership, courtesy towards employees, partners and customers is a vital path to success. And ladies and gentlemen, I may interrupt this program to bring you an important announcement: saying thank you is perfectly scalable.  

As a small business, you need to enforce relationship with the small group of initial customers and shareholders so that they would become your brand ambassadors on the long run. The precious word “thanks” is what keeps channels open. It makes people feel valued, feeds their engagement and brings new flows of referrals, thus increases ROI for your business. Q. E. D!

Your takeaway: nothing is free, but a simple “thank you” can pay a lot. Here are some affordable ways to say thank you in a business manner.

Pair each of your requests with a “thank you” message

Do like Starbucks does: once you have a bill to give, put in on a tray together with a “Thank you a latte” greeting card. Time doesn’t have to pass, say thank you as it happens. A frequent situation where you demand people’s time and attention is when running an online customer survey. Set a “Thank you for filling in our survey” message to display on their screen for a few seconds or send a thank you email - these will surely make a positive impression. Thank instantly after setting an appointment, with every completed transaction and for each customer review you get. It takes just a moment and makes people feel happy to help.

Say thank you in person

Nothing compares with the power of magic that personal interaction holds. As often as possible, express your gratitude in a few kind words and a handshake. Give credit for any materials you replicate (in blog posts for example) and return favors. Set yourself a reminder for personal thanks and don’t let more than 48 hours pass from the event you are thanking for.

Remember to give thanks at occasions to people and communities who contributed to your success but don’t leave aside the ones who stood in your way at some point – friends or foes, all can turn into potential partners in future.

Complaining customers aren’t particularly those who you’d like to thank to, but do it. With the gratitude message can also come a question like: how do you think I can do better next time? And it’s two birds with one stone, you receive feedback and you increase loyalty with difficult customers.

Reward loyalty

Prove your courtesy towards customers who bring you good referrals or use your service for a long time. You can give them the opportunity to receive free materials from your merchandise or to have discounts when they return. This way, they are likely to become brand evangelists for your business on the long term.

There’s a certain distinction between saying thank you and giving customer incentives. The latter are part of the regular business model of cooperation for mutual profit. Incentives are meant to boost sales, while rewards are less targeted and help build the business image as a whole. It’s better to give loyalty coupons rather than discounts for immediate sales. In the economy of recession, people are inclined to do one time buying of what’s on sale regardless of brand. This is why you should strive to make them return and be aware of who’s thanking them and what for.

Organize events and tours

Everybody enjoys these. You can make it a corporate event for your employees and partners or an extended reward program for your loyal customers. Take for example the Moranduzzo Christmas ornaments factory, where I spent a wonderful day with my colleagues and their kids touring the halls with puppets being manufactured, all in reward for an article I had previously written about them. It cost them nothing, but the effect was grand.

For your employees, it’s always recommendable to express recognition to their effort in support of the organizational goals. If possible, have dinner with them occasionally in small groups. My own company does that and I may say it’s great. Having this lighthearted time really keeps our team bonded. It also opens the opportunity of giving non-formal feedback, both upwards and downwards.

Empathize

ImageDon’t be afraid to show warmth in every message you deliver but stay professional with grace. While too much of a casual tone might not do, the personal touch is something that shouldn’t be missing. Instead of using the standard templates of business thank you letters on Google, write them on your own or at most with the help of a professional (if writing is not your cup of tea).

A great idea is go beyond boundaries at times – what about taking collective photos with your employees and shareholders? Share them on your social media networks, so that everybody can see how cool your company is.

Send thank you cards, emails or phone messages

Well, direct interaction is certainly preferable over a Facebook message. E-thank-you is not so personal and maybe lacks in that “power of magic”, but it’s better than nothing. And it’s also a time-saving method. In your thank you message, highlight the reason you are reaching out and the specific actions you are grateful for.

Small gifts

Put your creativity at work and be quirky. Don’t overdo generosity, keep the expression of gratitude proportioned with the action that’s praised. You can give small useful objects as well as certificates of appreciation that your partners can display in their stores or offices.

 Which is your favorite way of saying thank you? Share your thoughts below!


Image: Keith Bell/Shutterstock