Studies repeatedly show that customers want to be rewarded for their loyalty, and those rewards just make them more loyal to the business. A study by Manta and BIA/Kelsey, Achieving Big Customer Loyalty in a Small Business World,” found that 64% of businesses with a customer loyalty program in place report it has been been effective– it makes more money than it costs to maintain.

There are other benefits too. Customers that feel appreciated are far more likely to talk positively about your company and recommend it to their friends. And rewarding your customers incentivizes them to make additional purchases. That Manta report also found that repeat customers spend 67% more on a purchase than a new customer does. More than 60% of small business owners in the study say they generate the majority of their annual revenue from repeat customers.

Loyalty programs and rewards points have become the standard in many industries, like airlines, hotels and restaurants, even fitness centers. But as a small business owner, you have the flexibility (and lack of bureaucracy) to take the road less traveled and reward your best customers in clever, unusual ways. Doing things differently than big companies will both engender your customers’ loyalty and give your business more cachet.

Here are five clever ways to reward your customers:

Partner up.

Team up with other, complimentary businesses to offer gifts or reciprocal discounts.  An example might be a sports clothing and accessory shop that offers a discounted membership at the local gym when a customer spends above a certain threshold. Or it could be a coffee shop that teams up with a bakery or chocolatier to offer a discount on a purchase, which also pair nicely with a cup of coffee.  The partnership will be good for both businesses, incentivizing sales and giving customers of both shops a reason to try the other’s products.

Hang out with them.

Whether you’re a local business or you have a national presence—virtually or in reality—try to meet with your customers every month. If you can, every time you’re traveling (or one of your managers is traveling), look up customers that live in the area and offer to buy them a coffee.

Hold a preview event.

Create an event around a new product, a new service offering, even just an update to your software and invite your best customers to preview it and have a first crack at ordering it.  You want this event to feel special and exclusive, so make the ambiance and refreshments elegant and make sure there’s ample time and room for customers to mingle with both one another, you and your staff, and to learn about the new offering.

Offer your best customers your best service.

For small businesses especially, sometimes a few heavy-hitting customers make up a large portion of the business’ revenue. But even if you have several very loyal and consistent customers you want to make sure you keep, offer them preferential service terms.  That doesn’t just mean a good price. You could waive minimum order quantity or certain service fees, you might give them a lower interest rate for financing a large purchase or provide an after-hours service call to them. A great deal for certain customers may mean more hand-holding to help them understand how to make full use of your products and services. And sometimes, yeah, you give them a discount on the price of a large order.

Write a thank you note.

Yes, a real, hand-written note on a pretty card that uses your customer’s name and references recent purchases and the name of their business. Hand-written notes are so rare now they’re special, so writing a specific, personal note to a great customer is a meaningful way to let them know how much they are appreciated.   

These are just a few ways to reach out to your customers to show your appreciation.  What are some ways you’ve went above and beyond to wow and delight your loyal customers?  Let us know over on Facebook and be sure to give us a ‘Like’ while you’re there!