Article by Cheryl Conner; An entrepreneur, Author and communications expert Full Bio
Several of the PR disasters I’ve examined most recently could have been solved or prevented with a single principle: gratitude. When companies lose gratitude for their customers, the holy grail of customer loyalty they seek runs away. What’s gone wrong? When did companies lose sight of the realization that their customers are precious jewels, and without these relationships they’d have no cause to exist? According to strategy advisor Mark Bonchek, Shift Thinking, we’ve been putting the cart in front of the horse. In an HBR post he points out that as leaders and marketers we’ll go to any length to secure loyalty through sweepstakes, coupons, promotions and emails. But we fail to recognize a fundamental principle.
Loyalty needs to be reciprocal. But marketers just “don’t get it.” A study by Kitewheel shows three-quarters of consumers believe loyalty programs are ways for brands to show their loyalty to consumers. But two-thirds of marketers view loyalty programs as a way for consumers to demonstrate their loyalty to brands. It’s a complete disconnect. Low prices and coupons may drive more transactions, for example, but they do nothing for loyalty. Furthermore, the companies who press hardest to get their customers into an upsell or a new two-year contract (are you listening, AT&T and Verizon?) are not helping the loyalty factor at all.
Go for gratitude first, and loyalty will follow. The emotional response that is most likely to drive loyal behavior, according to Boncheck, is gratitude. By its definition, gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and an expression of that feeling through an overt and appropriate act. It is a reciprocal act by its very nature that can serve as the basis of a relationship beyond the transactional sale.
Branding expert Bardi Toto Drake, author of “The Power of Asking” has used gratitude as the core of her marketing brand. When she began to use gratitude instead of “bragging and selling” her visibility advanced many-fold she reports, landing her on national television networks, television shows and social media (which of course has advanced her selling traction as well).
Toto provides the following five mechanisms for expressing gratitude that have been most beneficial to her and that she recommends most highly to others, as follows:
- YouTube. Share videos on various social networking sites that “speak” to your interests and principles, while also commenting to express your appreciation of their content and their value to you.
- Twitter. Twitter provides the ideal opportunity to show gratitude for someone’s remark by retweeting it. Retweets provide great information for your own network while also recognizing someone’s contribution to your own immediate sphere. “A retweet is a recognition of someone’s value to you. That’s a form of thanks,” Toto says. Tweeting someone’s photo/article/blog post or informative essay is a way to show gratitude for the fact they’ve said something you find interesting, and you’re recognizing it publicly. Make sure to give public recognition via #FollowFriday (or #ff) as well. By giving a shout out, you are showing someone you are grateful and suggesting that your own followers can learn from them as well. You can comment on an update, a news story or just about anything else to show your gratitude to a follower. Tell people “hey, I appreciate you putting that up.” Media and businesses have promoted “likes” on Facebook so much that Toto says the mechanism has become over saturated. “It only takes a second to comment and goes much further,” she says.
- Facebook Live. You can comment and share someone’s Facebook Live video, Toto says. “I have made a Facebook Live video sharing a business, book review as well as a testimony about another person or business while tagging them in the Facebook Live Video,” she suggests.
- LinkedIn. The very best way to express gratitude on LinkedIn is to recommend someone, congratulate them on their job anniversary or endorse them for a particular skill. “It takes less than five minutes to do this, and adds weight and credibility to their profile,” she says. “If a connection performs a great service for you (your mechanic, your advisor, or your real estate agent), write them a recommendation.”
- Instagram. Reposting pictures, sharing, liking, using # hashtags to acknowledge a company and following others on Instagram is a way to show gratitude for the information someone else has shared. Toto believes Instagram will surpass Facebook in 2017, partly because pictures “are worth a thousand words” and provide quick-read eye candy to readers that advance both B2B or B2C sales.
Toto Drake offers additional ways to brand through acts of gratitude at her Gratitude Webinar. It is important, of course, to be sure that acts of gratitude are provided as a token of genuine appreciation and not as a bid for an expected quid pro quo exchange. “Remember, you are working to build a relationship, not just to win a bit of business,” says business consultant Curtis Hale. But the data is clear: to create a stronger brand and to inspire customer loyalty, brands should extend gratitude to their customers before expecting revenue and loyalty commitment returns.
Information about Cheryl Snapp Conner’s Content University program to help businesses and executives tell their stories better is available here.