Image grabadonut via flickr
This time of year, in particular, people turn their thoughts towards saying thanks to their most important personal and business relationships. Traditional gifts such as gourmet food baskets, flowers and iPads go a long way towards this goal, but their as a few other significant ways to reward your community that may just last a little longer than that bar of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark.
Now the word community gets bantered around a lot these days, but for the small business I consider the collaboration universe of your prospects, customers, suppliers, staff, advisors, partners and, in some cases, competitors to make up the community.
Below are five ways to reward that community.
I can’t tell you how far saying thanks goes. Many people do things, such as refer your business, because they know you can help, but it’s sure nice to know that you appreciate the gesture. This is a great place for me to, once again, promote the idea of hand written notes. Don’t reserve this for external folks either, tell your staff, your internal team, thank you and don’t save those words for the annual company Holiday lunch, tell them when they’ve done something well. Pick up the phone and leave messages of appreciation on routine basis.
I think one of the best things you can do for folks is share your knowledge and help them gain a new skills and tool sets. This can certainly come in the form of hosting or presenting training, but it can also be in form of books or a subscription to a tutorial service like Lynda.com. We bought the entire Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network a copy of Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology because I think it’s a great book for anyone that needs to create presentations. If you have a special expertise, even if it’s not strictly related to your core business, share it with others as a way to say we care.
One of the ways to show your community that they matter to you is to make sure they have information that others may not. Sure, you can take this as far as creating closed door membership portals or you can simply tell your newsletter list or customer list something that’s coming up before you announce it to the world. Bring your community members into your product development, strategic planning and marketing meetings by some process that allows them to weigh in and give you feedback and insight. These types of gestures help your community feel much more connected and often turn them into some of your biggest evangelists.
Recognizing the achievements of others is a great thing to do in the big picture of life. Doing so in business returns rewards that keep the cycle of giving and receiving primed and working. This certainly includes your staff, but keeping tabs on you clients, partners and advisors via Google Alerts or some other form of social network monitoring and making a point of recognizing accomplishments is a powerful thing. This can be a simple as a birthday card, retweet, or clipping a newspaper article and sending it along with note.
One of the biggest thrills I get these days is when I can make something happen for someone in my community. This past year I’ve been able to refer business to people, introduce a budding author to my publisher, and connect several bloggers and speakers with clients that could engage their services. Opening doors to opportunities and creating introductions for a team of strategic partners is one of the greatest ways I know to reward your community and build your business. The fact that this works to benefit both parties in the introduction is a tremendous benefit.
The beauty of everything I’ve mentioned in this post is that if it’s done out of trust, mutual respect and the knowledge that your rewarding behavior is the best way for you to help your clients then you’ll never fear you’re giving is too much or that it’s not reciprocated in some manner – and that’s the best gift you can give to yourself.