I think a lot of companies might focus too much on getting new customers instead of showing their appreciation for their existing customers. I don't want to be that kind of company. I want my existing customers to know they're appreciated.
My "customers" at this point aren't actually real customers. Since my product is in such a rudimentary state, I don't have paying customers. I just have five people who each separately help me understand their business needs and help me make sure my software meets those needs. Without them, I wouldn't be able to build my product, so their participation is crucial.
How can I say "thank you" to these people other than literally saying "thank you" (which I already do, profusely)? Giving them cash would feel patronizing. Sending them a fruit basket or something would feel a little cheesy. A gift card might be nice. I don't know.
What's worked for you guys in the past? I'm not afraid of spending money but I'd like to keep it under $50 per "customer" if I can.
The best way of saying thanks, is to say it. Over the years I have had my free share of Mugs, mousepads, usb drives, and even t-shirts. To me its all cheesy. Handwritten note is great, but nothing more valuable than picking up the phone, giving them a call, telling them you value their business and are always eager to hear how you could improve.
CUSTOMERS LOVE THAT!!!! and the best part is the feedback they provide is very valuable, and the rapport you build cements the relationship. If i remember correctly you are building a SAAS application for salons? If your salons are local, pay them a visit, they LOVE THAT ALSO!. Dont be a pest, dont bug them when they are busy.
Bdays and holidays are appropriate times for gifts. Rather than going with a T-shirt with your company name on it, (which to me is lame and i wipe my ass with Ebay and google shirts), maybe buy something more personal. If your client likes cigars, get them a lighter, if they have kids get them a movie pass. The sales tactic we use is that our company has these tickets, and id like you to have them.
But bottom line, your cheapest and best approaches are: visits, hand written cards and phone calls.
In my experience, a handwritten thank you note and t-shirt works wonders.
It's going to cost you about $15 after you factor in shipping, but it's well worth it for the customer loyalty it produces. Not to mention that if they actually like your services, they will be extremely excited to represent your brand while wearing a comfortable tshirt.
Jason, the best way for you to show these 'customers' your appreciation is to respond quickly to their suggestions and feature requests. This converts them from customers to advocates - that's the key to word-of-mouth advertising - and word-of-mouth advertising is the key to success.
What you want to do is to create a great relationship with your supporters (who are not even customers yet), and that's one of the pillars of a referralble company.
If you have $17.13 to spare on Amazon, you should get a copy of "The Referral Engine" by John Jantsch. He describes a lot of great examples of how companies say thank you to their customers - one of my favorites is sending hand written notes).
Sending a hand written note (or postcard) will show them you care about them, since you took the time to sit down and write something personal. I don't know how many supporters you have, but the total cost should be realitively low and the return will be great.
Hope this helps
PS: You can also take a look at http://referralenginebook.com/ for some additional content on the book. BTW, I'm not affiliated to the book, John Jantsch, or the publishing company. I'm just a happy reader/customer who's referring the book (goes to show that John knows what he's talking about!)
Well, what would you prefer Jason?
We send t-shirts with our product logo (they are high quality and doesn't look like promotional stuff). There is no website name, or company name or any other that kind of crap, also product's category is kind of cool and niche, this might not work as expected if you are selling Outlook 2010 :) or a twitter client.
People also love exclusivity, so if you can print a new tshirt just for your clients and make it obvious from the t-shirt's design they'll love it.
In your case, I would not do monetary compensation, for the reasons that you already mentioned. In addition to letting them know how much appreciate them, I would also recommend them to others. Yes, you may run the risk of receiving a smaller chunk of their time (assuming that they get additional business), but I happen to think it's a good way to reward others that have helped you in the past.