By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
A woman walks into your shop. She’s a little unsure about where to begin and cruises the store a moment before approaching one of your sales staff. “I want to buy a gun for protection,” she says. “Bob over at the Fishing Emporium said you were an expert at helping women find the right gun.”
At this point your highly trained sales staff determines the woman’s firearms needs, sells her a quality firearm and holster and recommends a training class.
You may think this transaction is over; your customer has left your store with the best advice and firearm, but there’s one more item of business that needs to be done — the thank-you letter. It may not seem very important, but the thank-you letter is an incredibly valuable tool that pays off with untold dividends.
The basic reason for writing a thank-you letter is to make the person who receives it feel good. Most people never take the time or make the effort to send a letter. Today, we fax, email or phone messages that are quickly read and tossed aside. All of these methods are better than not saying thank you at all, but a written thank-you note packs more of a wallop and adds a personal, one-on-one touch.
A letter is a permanent record of your appreciation. The recipient knows it took you some time to write it. They realize you made the effort to find the stationery and a stamp, and get it into the mail. When someone receives a thank-you note, it sits on their desk for a while, making a lasting impression about how much you appreciate their actions. A thank-you letter doesn’t fade quickly from the recipient’s mind like a phone call or email. A letter has time to sink in and may even be reread. Some people go so far as to post the letter on a wall or bulletin board. Think of the potential impact that could make.
“Dear Customer …”
The first order of business is to have stationery printed with your store’s logo, address and phone number prominently displayed — it will definitely come in handy. Most likely, you already have such stationery. It can be as plain or fancy as you like, but remember, this letter is an advertising tool that will go into your customer’s home, so make sure it makes the right impression.
In the transaction outlined above, the first person to receive a thank-you letter is your new customer. A letter to your customer lets her know how much you appreciate her business. This woman may have broken through many social barriers and personal fears to follow through on her plan to purchase a firearm. She walked into a traditionally male arena and asked for your help. Let her know you appreciate this and will continue to help further her shooting goals in any way possible.
A well-thought-out thank-you letter is a
high-impact advertising tool. It costs you a very small
amount of time and money, but the good will and
future business it generates are priceless.
If you have a shooting range and offer basic handgun classes, this is a great opportunity to remind her about them. If your customer came in to purchase a deer rifle, mention in your letter you just stocked some new deer-hunting books and videos.
You’ve used your letter to thank your new customer and remind her about the great products and services you offer. Now you may want to sweeten the pot. How about offering a little more incentive to return to your store in the form of a discount on her next purchase? This could be a small percentage off her next firearm or accessory purchase, or a free small item. Just make sure it encourages your customer to return to your store. Adding a discount ensures that, until the offer is redeemed, the letter you write will be posted on a refrigerator or stuck to a bulletin board where your customer sees it often and thinks of your store. This is great advertising, and it doesn’t cost you much.
“Dear Colleague …”
In the past, we’ve encouraged you to network with other businesses in your community to help establish a referral base. In our earlier scenario, the customer mentions “Bob at the Fishing Emporium” highly recommended your store. You must always recognize this type of recommendation with a thank-you letter.
This thank-you letter is so important because “Bob” has not only sent business your way, but he has put his own reputation on the line. It’s the ultimate show of trust. If a customer receives poor service from you after receiving referral from a colleague she trusts, she may begin to doubt the person who gave her the original recommendation. “Bob” has faith you will perform exceptionally well and this type of trust deserved written recognition.
Word of mouth is the most effective and least costly form of advertising available to small businesses. By sending a thank-you letter to anyone who refers a customer to you, you’ve not only shown your appreciation — but you’ve made a statement about the way you do business. You’ve made the recipient feel good about recommending you and, hopefully, they’ll feel good about referring business to you again. And again.
A Thank-You Gift?
If you really want to boost your referrals, consider sending a thank-you gift along with your letter to a fellow business owner. Make it something useful that provides your colleague with a constant reminder of you and your business. Quality is important here, so don’t go for a cheap plastic pen or decal. A good quality multi-tool or pocketknife is a great thank-you gift. If you want to make sure your thank-you gift becomes a cherished memento, have it engraved with the recipient’s name. He’ll think of you and your store every time he uses it.
If you own a firing range, consider a gift certificate for free range-time and gun rental. This has added value, as your colleague will come to your range, enjoy its many amenities and be able to enthusiastically describe them to the customers he refers to you.
A well-thought-out thank-you letter is a high-impact advertising tool. It costs you a very small amount of time and money, but the good will and future business it generates are priceless.
Editor’s Note: Originally published in the May 2000 issue, this article has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. Have a successful thank you story to tell? Let the SI team know: email@example.com.