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Humanize Your Email Marketing With a Well-Timed Thank You

by Karen Talavera  |  
April 13, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why a thank-you process should be a part of your email marketing message stream
  • How saying thanks and sending nonpromotional greetings can humanize your brand

Unless you were raised by wolves in the wild, at some point you learned that it is polite to say thank you. It's not merely proper etiquette; it's just downright considerate and gracious.

Yet, for marketers, saying thank you is about much more than just being polite. If you're in the business of building lasting, loyal customer relationships (and if you're not, please ask why you're bothering to be in business at all), it's an essential practice that pays both monetary and goodwill dividends. Without it, you're at greater risk of customer flight—and you're a sitting duck for the competition.

If you don't already have a thank-you email process in place, it's easy to begin one. I suggest matching the format of your initial thank-you message to the channel via which someone first did business with you, then expanding that process over time.

For example, did someone purchase from you online? If so, email the customer a thank-you message with an offer to revisit or purchase again; ideally, you'd provide a coupon or free gift to entice action soon. Did someone buy in your store or office? Send a thank-you follow-up letter via postal mail. Did customers do business with you at a conference, fair, or tradeshow? Email and mail them an invitation to engage with you at your physical place of business, your online storefront, or both. And keep the follow-ups going.

The thank-you and other conversational greetings (such as birthday, holiday, and anniversary acknowledgments) become a legitimate reason to reach out to and talk to customers and should be different in feel from the ever-present invitation to buy, buy, buy. They make you approachable, grateful, and personal.

Remember, people don't buy from brands; people buy from people. Adding thank-you emails to your marketing illuminates the human side of your brand.

Acknowledging the performance of the action you requested is as important as, if not more important than, asking for it in the first place. Always thank promptly, but also show gratitude when it's expected (such as, at a minimum, at Thanksgiving and on a customer anniversary date) and when not expected (at any other appropriate juncture, when it will surprise and delight).

Here are three suggestions for weaving both expected and unexpected thank-yous, in the spirit of gratitude, into your marketing.

  1. The Immediate Thanks

    As I recommended, an initial thank-you message should match the channel via which communication or a transaction occurred. Make it immediate and consistent in tone, design, and style with your marketing message that prompted the purchase or action.

    Immediate thanks for e-commerce transactions can be sent easily via email, but don't forget social media. If, for example, you're asking customers to enter a sweeps or promotion on Facebook (or give you a thumbs-up there), redirect them to a thank-you page immediately after they take action.

    Also, the greater the purchase or commitment someone makes, the more time, effort, and money you should spend thanking that person. The last time I bought real estate, for example, I received a huge housewarming gift basket, not a lame postcard or text message. Match your thanks, in magnitude, to the action you are thankful for.
  2. The Seasonal Thanks

    After you've sent immediate thank-you emails to acknowledge specific calls to action that prospects or customers took you up on, remember to also thank your customers at regular, natural intervals throughout the year. In the US and in other countries that celebrate a day of Thanksgiving, that one's a given, but go beyond national or religious holidays.

    Are you also thanking your customers on the anniversary of their relationship with you? Of their first purchase? On holidays relevant to them (Mother's Day, Father's Day, New Year's Day, Veterans Day, Grandparents Day)?
  3. The Surprise Thanks

    Of course, we all love a thank-you for no particular reason when we're least expecting it. To start, weave a quarterly or (if you're ambitious) monthly thank-you campaign to reward repeat business and customer loyalty. It could be as simple as a winter/spring/summer/fall program with a special offered during each season. Or, to keep people guessing, make it random, maybe even behaviorally driven.

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Karen Talavera heads Synchronicity Marketing and writes about how to successfully use email, social, and content marketing on the Enlightened Emarketing blog. You can also follow Karen on Twitter (@SyncMarketing) and Facebook for daily tips and links to emerging email and social media marketing trends, facts, and research.

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  • by Ramiro Rodriguez Wed Apr 13, 2011 via web

    As usual....good stuff. I enjoy getting your emails because I know it's something I need to learn.

  • by Pam Alvord Thu Apr 14, 2011 via web

    Great advice, Karen. We have implemented incredibly successful "Thank You" based marketing programs for our clients. Read more at

  • by Cathy Burrell Thu Apr 14, 2011 via web

    A great reminder how the most simple,basic things can lead to ongoing business from loyal customers. Taking time to say thank you to the people who keep you in business should be an everyday thing!

  • by Barrett Rossie Mon Apr 18, 2011 via web

    This is great stuff, thanks Karen and Marketing Profs!

    I would add: One of the best forms of thanks you can give a customer is to solve some intractable problem they face. Your relationship puts you in position to know what the problem is, your expertise puts you in a position to solve it. -

  • by Tony Black Tue Apr 19, 2011 via web

    It's music industry related but Radiohead just did this with a seasonal thank you to everyone who bought the latest album.

    I just received two new songs that were previously unreleased and a lovely message that felt like it came from the band themselves. It also reminded me that my physical copy hadn't arrived yet.

    Good marketing and customer service all round. The big 4 could learn a thing or two...

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