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3 Ways To Build Loyalty By Making Clients Feel Appreciated

Business

'Tis always the season to express gratitude. And, to really boost your business in 2017, I suggest showing appreciation 365 days a year. Since day one with Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors, I have made it SOP to hold client events, offer gifts and write thank you notes. These personal expressions may seem basic, but they are a key part of referrals and long-time relationships that make a positive impact on my business.


In my networking days, I learned so much about the power of saying thank you. I built Polka Dots & Rosebuds on this principle and have found gratitude to be worthwhile personally and to the bottom line. If you are just starting out and need to be cost-conscious on your offerings, that's completely fine.

There are many budget-friendly stationery and gifting options and the time to write a thank you note is free. Here's my advice for three ways to make clients feel appreciated:

1. Handwritten thank you notes

Our team sends notes after every initial meeting. We have made it a policy to write notes as soon as we are back at the office, so the potential client feels appreciated from the get-go. Branded stationery, notecards showing your hometown and/or state, and cards representative of your industry are options to consider.

We have an annual dinner to thank clients in our hometown of Lexington, KY. This event is a good way to see clients we may not have worked with in a while and show them we are still thinking about them.

2. Client appreciation events

We were honored at this spring's event when a busy CPA told us he felt it was important to take time out from tax prep to attend the dinner with his wife. We have done several projects for this couple and, through forging a genuine friendship, we hope to do more work as their needs change. During the dinner, our team gives a small gift, often branded, for the attendees. Again, just a small token to keep Polka Dots & Rosebuds at the top of mind, such as a branded notepad.

We have clients in more than 25 states, so it's not possible to see every client at our annual dinner. To thank one of our main referrers, a Greek Housing company based in Tennessee, we host their team every fall at the Kentucky landmark, Keeneland Racecourse. This event has become a fun tradition to which everyone looks forward. In addition to the day at the races with lunch and drinks, we also host a couple of dinners and provide gift baskets for attendees during the weekend.

3. Annual gifting

We send client gifts out once per year. It's appropriate to do so at the beginning of a new year in order to avoid being lost in the sea of holiday gifts. We have found the gourmet apples from Mrs. Prindables to be a welcome gift. Logoed Tervis Tumblers are also a gift that it is useful year-round.

If you have an intern or extra staff, ordering and/or wrapping shipments is a good chore. And, many gifting sites have online services for order arranging that you can set up months in advance.

Here's to making your clients feel appreciated.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.