Every small business owner has asked themselves, “How am I going to stand out from the competition?” This question becomes especially momentous when looking at the pricing and marketing advantages that big businesses have. While it may seem like big corporations hold all the leverage, many small business owners fail to recognize the strengths they encompass. For example, 68% of customers leave a company because they don’t feel appreciated by the organization. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, Wal-mart has 100 million customers per week across their 11,000 stores. With over 400 million customers a month, it is all but impossible for Wal-mart to show genuine appreciation for each consumer.

This presents a huge advantage for small business owners. Three in five Americans would try a new brand or company for a better service experience, while seven in 10 Americans said they are willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. To top it off, the American Express Survey revealed that 80% of Americans agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses. If small companies use this to their advantage, they can differentiate themselves from more massive competition and create and maintain a strong consumer base.

Customer retention refers to the actions that companies use to reduce the number of total consumers lost. The goal is to keep as many customers as possible, which is typically done through customer and brand loyalty incentives. Encompassing customer retention strategies, as well as understanding that retention begins at first contact, allows small businesses to create a more sustainable business model that is key to sustainable growth. According to studies done by Bain & Company, increasing customer retention by 5 percent can increase profits from 25 percent to 95 percent.

While there is proof in the numbers, it may seem impractical to show customer appreciation without breaking the bank. However, it is far more straightforward than it seems. According to studies on Stanford’s website, the price of a gift doesn’t matter for receivers, only for the givers. Thus proving the adage, “its the thought that counts.” Creating a personalized gift can be easy on the pockets, yet memorable for the consumer.

Although each company is different and should employ strategies unique and fitting to their industry and capabilities, there are plenty of customer appreciation ideas that businesses of any income can execute successfully. To help get the creative fires burning, here are a few ideas that can be used to attract new customers or retain existing and loyal clients.

  • Thank You Notes – Customize the letter with the customer’s name and unique information. The genuine appreciation and the handwritten aspect provide a simple touch with which large organizations can’t compete. As a bonus, the customers may also provide free publicity by posting their letter to social media.
  • Baked Goods – This is a great choice for businesses that aren’t familiar enough with customer differences to create sincere messages. They can also be customized for different clients, such as making them gluten free or vegan. Plus, who doesn’t love baked goods?
  • Brand Associated Products – These products can be absolutely anything. First look at the products or services your brand offers. Then determine whether you should go for funny or thoughtful. For example, a company that sells clothing could use photos of customers wearing their items on a yearly calendar.

To sum it all up, here is a quote from Derek Sivers, an American entrepreneur who founded CD Baby:

“The single most important thing is to make people happy. If you are making people happy, as a side effect, they will be happy to open up their wallets and pay you.”