Many customers walk into stores expecting to be treated well. While they may get smiles and a greeting at a big-box store, there’s an advantage to being a small business. A mom and pop store has the advantage of offering a customer experience that will knock their socks off. Not literally, though. It’s not fun to run around collecting socks that are caught in the rafters or between ceiling tiles.

Customer experience can make or break a store. After learning the tricks of providing excellent customer service, a small business stands an even better chance of gathering and keeping customers (which is a difficult task in today’s competitive market). To gain an even greater advantage, showing customers that you love them will catch everyone’s attention.

Just how does a store show customer appreciation?

Whether you’re a lumber yard, pharmacy, retail or hardware store, your business can show customers that you appreciate them. Customer appreciation is the frosting on the cake. It’s an added touch that makes a business unique, and makes the customer feel like part of the company. What better way is there to create loyal customers than to make them feel appreciated?

Here are 5 low-cost, meaningful ways to show how much you really enjoy your customers.

1. Write a Letter2

Do you remember the days when we received mail? I mean real mail, not junk and shredder food? It made us feel important whenever someone scribbled our address on an envelope. This warm and fuzzy feeling appeals to customers just as much as it does to you.

Writing a letter on the computer is a good start, and a handwritten note adds a personal touch that is fun to receive in the mail. Either way, tell your customer you enjoy their company, love hearing from them, and thank them for their loyalty.

An added bonus: hand-writing the addresses onto the envelope will prompt your customers to look inside.

Cost: About $10 or less for a ream of paper.

2. Provide a Surprise2

A personal gift stands out. If you’re looking for a way to wow your customers, providing a little surprise will really catch their attention. A small business has a major advantage: they can learn about their customers and regulars in a personal way.

This learning process includes finding out a little bit about your customers’ lives. While you get to know them, write down their hobbies or interests. This makes it easy to offer them a gift card to their favorite café, or some paintbrushes for an artist. If they are having a baby, gift them with some toys. If they’re making a chicken coop, give them a new hammer and nails. Maybe provide a sandwich party at your store for someone’s anniversary. Offer a unique discount, coupon, a free product or service.

Appeal to their sense of humanity and make them smile. Offering useful gifts to the people who generate the most traffic in your store really shows them how much they mean to you. Giving one or two gifts monthly will really keep customers talking about your business. If you’re marketing online on Facebook or on a website, you can ask whoever receives a gift to post one paragraph on your site.

Send a personalized, handwritten message with a gift card inside. Paladin has done this in the past, giving our clients a free coffee. Your long-time, loyal customers will appreciate the thought! Imagine receiving a special gift from your local store. It’s thrilling, really. It’s even better if that gift is something of practical value.

Cost: $25 – $50 per month1

3. Create a Wall of Fame2

Everyone likes feeling special or particularly helpful. One way to appeal to your customers is to highlight your best and most common visitors. One way to do this is to create a wall of fame. Use a wall or space above your cash register to host the “customer of the month.”

If you want to get really fancy, include them in your monthly newsletter or on your website. “Spotlighting individual customers and sharing their story will lend a sense of solidarity between other customers and your brand, because they’ll relate to your spotlight customers’ stories.1” The more spotlight, the better!

Make your customers feel honored by showing them off.

Cost: $5

4. Memorize Names

To really make an impression, memorize the names of your regular customers. Shari’s does this as both a customer and employee incentive. The more customers an employee memorizes and gets to know, the more of a bonus they receive. Not only is this good for your employees and business, but it will bring a smile to your customers’ faces.

Do you get coffee every morning at a café or restaurant? If so, then they’ve probably memorized your name and favorite drink. I know a man who walks into a place in Downtown Bend and is known by nearly all the staff. They all know that an “extra hot, extra chai tea latte” is the drink for this customer, and they say his name every time. What does this do? It makes him feel particularly liked – and it gets the employees a lot of business.

Cost: Free

5. Make a Call1

If you like making phone calls, then this is a great way to show customer appreciation. A personal thank you (without any sales pitches!) is one way to brighten someone’s day. If you’re one of the business owners or managers, then they will feel even more appreciated.

An added bonus to this one: “ask for suggestions on how you can improve your company.” When you get their opinion, they feel like part of the store itself. Most of the time, you’ll get information that is invaluable and can be put to very good use. This is a win-win scenario for both customers and business owners.

Cost: Free

Appreciate Those Customers!

No matter what kind of business, customers want to feel appreciated. The personal touch of showing this appreciation can turn your store into the desirable, fun place to spend time. By offering gifts, kind words, and a smile to your customers, you can help them feel like part of the company itself. This loyalty comes from a sense of relationship – which is always important. What better way is there to create a loyal customer than to make them feel like they really matter?

If you have anything to add to this list, feel free to start a conversation in the comments. To get more tips on how to attract customers to your store and market your small business, subscribe below!

1Inspired by 5 Ways To Show Customer Appreciation Without Breaking The Bank, 2Top Five Unique Customer Appreciation Ideas