Dumb Things Small Businesses Do
#6: Ingratitude

chihuahua dressed as a turkey

So instead of the obligatory Thanksgiving post where we talk about gratitude (don’t get me wrong, I think gratitude is awesome), I’m going to assume you know enough to stop for a second and remember how much amazing stuff is in your life. How many fantastic people, how much material abundance (even when it doesn’t feel that way), how much freedom.

Instead, today we’re going to talk about a dumb mistake that lots of businesses make. Big businesses are actually dumber than small ones on this topic, but if you think I was going to pass up the chance to use this photo, you’re nuts.

Anyway, most big businesses are too inflexible to turn this around. But you’re small and maneuverable, which is why you’re going to clean up.

The Easiest Way to Make Money

Even in the midst of all this financial panic and freefall, there is a nice big pot of delicious money sitting on the table for you.

No painful mountains to climb, no spiteful deities to appease, no hefty entrance fee to pay.

That pot of money is held by the customers who already trust you and know that you’re cool. They would like to give you some more money. But they need a little bit of help to do that.

Let Them Know They’re Appreciated

Customers drift away because they don’t think you love them. They don’t hear you saying how grateful you are for their business, and they don’t hear that they’re valued and cared for.

So many businesses think “marketing” is the same thing as “lead generation.” In other words, that marketing equals chasing down strangers so you can wrestle them through a conversion process and turn them into customers.

Lead gen and conversion are expensive. They’re either costing you time, money, or most likely, both.

Lead gen and conversion are important. But if you want to make life a lot easier and more enjoyable, set aside some of that time, money and attention and put it into existing customers.

Existing customers already know you’ve got good things to offer. They’ve demonstrated that they’ll pay for what you provide. But they need to know you appreciated their business last time.

Keep Making Yourself Useful

One of the smartest things you can do is to consistently and systematically put yourself in front of customers. Not to keep hammering them with requests for business, but to offer a hand of friendship and support.

If you can call your existing customers up regularly to ask how they’re doing and if they need anything, that’s great. But most businesses can’t scale that kind of individual attention. Instead, create a warm, personal-feeling communication system that reminds customers of why they bought from you in the first place.

My free e-class on email marketing walks you through all the basics on how to create this kind of communication. And you can use the same steps for blogs and paper newsletters as well.

In fact, a paper newsletter, while obviously more expensive to send, is also very likely to gain you better response and put more dollars into your pocket. Could you create a quarterly snail-mail newsletter for customers, with email editions to fill in the gaps?

Don’t let your perfectionism kill you on this one. Make it simple, print it up on your photocopier or at Kinko’s, and get it out there. Unless you’re a graphic designer, your newsletter doesn’t need to win design awards. It needs to communicate with your customers.

Ask for Their Business

No, you don’t want to pound your customers (or prospects, for that matter) with nonstop messages to buy-buy-buy.

But don’t neglect to make the offer, either. You never know when any given customer is going to be in the perfect place to buy from you.

Keep wrapping up your stuff in attractive offers. You might offer a special free gift to existing customers when they buy from you. (Special free gifts don’t have to be expensive, but, please, they can’t be lame.) Think about how you can wrap your expertise in interesting new boxes and ribbons. Offer those up regularly.

When you do make an offer, don’t mumble. Be incredibly clear about what you want them to do, how you want them to do it, and what they’re going to get out of it.

If you think you’re being overly specific, you probably have it about right.

Ask for Referrals

Make your newsletter content irresistible, then invite your customers to forward it to their friends. Let customers know that their friends are your very favorite source of new business. Give a nice, thoughtful thank-you gift for a referral. (See the note above about non-lameness of gifts.)

When someone spontaneously thanks you for doing a great job, immediately ask if you can turn those words into a testimonial. Nearly everyone will happily say yes. Then quickly work up some wording that gets the essence of what they said, send it to them, and confirm that you may use it and their name in your marketing.

What if You Don’t Have Any Customers Yet?

Find someone who has the customers you want. If you’re a nutritionist, maybe this person is an acupuncturist or a personal trainer or the manager of a health food store.

That person is not following up with their customers either. Show them this post and help them put together some great customer communication. Work through the email class together. (Let’s face it, you’re a lot more likely to act on what you learn if you’ve got a buddy to work with.)

Introducing you is a great way for your new partner to kick off a customer communication program. And you and your partner can come up with twice as much tasty, beneficial content, split the work, and double your customer base.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

7 Dumb Things Small Businesses Do

Don’t miss all 7 dumb things! Subscribe (for free, of course) right now in a reader or by email.


  1. DaveOlson says:


    Just started reading your blog. Enjoying it so far…. not that I think that’s about to change. :-)

    Thought you should know I tried to sign up for your free class on email marketing but I received the following error message: “Sorry, the account you tried to access was not found in our customer records. To notify the website owner of this message, push the “back” button on your web browser or check some of the selections below for more information. ”


    DaveOlsons last blog post..Collaboration Cafe Style!

  2. Sonia Simone says:

    Thanks Dave! I refreshed the code and it seems to be working properly now. The sign-up forms are the one part of Aweber that I’m not in love with.

  3. DaveOlson says:

    Cool… I’m signed up then. :-) Just gotta click the email link.

    DaveOlsons last blog post..Collaboration Cafe Style!

  4. Karen Swim says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Sonia,

    Another great solid tips post. Whether you’ve been in business for several years or are just starting out, this is great advice. Each time I read one of your posts it makes me examine what I’m doing and I ALWAYS find room for improvement. Thank you for helping us all to be better and do better. Our customers appreciate you. :-)

    Karen Swims last blog post..Sha Na NaNo – In the Key of Thanks

  5. chas says:


    thanks for the friendly and thorough reminder. it does seem to be pretty much second nature for people to feel unloved, and reminding people that they are loved, and reminding ourselves that we do love, is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our clients as well as ourselves. and of course anything that applies to clients also refers to everyone else in our lives.

    thanks again.

    chass last blog post..global coherence

  6. Sonia Simone says:

    @Karen, you’re definitely one of the people I’m grateful for. :)

    @chas, what a nice way to put it, thanks so much.

  7. Hi Sonia, now that you mention it, one of the “reasons” I use to unsubscribe from a feed is when I feel the author of the blog could not care any less about me.

    I know it’s not that rational, but with tens of sources, all competing for my attention and a limited time, sometimes my emotions move me faster than my mind.

  8. Todd Smith says:

    Well said, Sonia. You always bring me back to the basis of business: giving! Thank you.

  9. J.D. says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    I like the way you put it … Keep making yourself useful.

    I think that’s incredibly true. Sometimes the market isn’t ready. Sometimes you’re just not in vogue yet. That is, unless you already missed the boat.

    J.D.s last blog post..Leadership Challenge Checklist

  10. Sonia Simone says:

    Good point, J.D. It’s also extremely helpful to have a way to “park” potential customers who will probably need you some day, but might not today.

  11. We can’t go wrong with expressing gratitude. How about that, customers drift away because they don’t feel loved. They’ll also leave if they find a better service. I’ll catch up on your series, keep at it! :) Have a wonderful weekend. :)


    Miguel Wickerts last blog post..New Pages At Simply Blog

  12. chris zydel says:

    Hi Sonia,

    Another great post and a great reminder to “love the one you’re with” i.e. your existing clientele. It’s so important to always remember that we are actually in a relationship with our clients and customers and like any relationship it needs time and attention cause no one likes feeling taken for granted. You are so right : generosity, appreciation and gratitude are really the world’s best marketing tools!

    Thanks, as always…..

    chris zydels last blog post..PAIN FREE CREATIVITY

  13. Derek says:

    It’s actually quite funny how something as simple as “great post,” makes a blogger feel like they’re doing something great. Or even, a quick “thank you” for producing great content, helps a blogger feel amazing.

    Anyway, great post, Simone. (no sarcasm intended).

    Dereks last blog post..Who Else Wants To Sell Like Gary Vaynerchuk?

  14. I enjoy reading your posts because they offer up good tips that make me ask. Am I doing that or am I doing enough of that? You always provide a good business reflection check-in.

    Tom Volkar/ Delightful Works last blog post..Grounding Your Small Business Vision

  15. Okay Sonia. You know I have been reading your blog ever since you had that greeny colored one with the really tiny font which gave me headaches every morning and now I am actively taking you up on the newsletter idea.

    I think it’s a sweet thing to do and my associate agrees so we are going to produce something to send out as an end of the year, thanks for the business, here’s what we’ve been up to type of thing.

    I’ll let you know how it went over with our clients. If it works I’ll take the credit and if it doesn’t I’ll say it was your idea ;)

    Timothy Cootes last blog post..How To Kind Of Fail Your WOMM

  16. Sonia Simone says:

    Ha, Tim, that is fantastic! You will let me know how it goes, right?

  17. Sure. I can send you a copy of the newsletter too if you want.

    Timothy Cootes last blog post..How To Kind Of Fail Your WOMM


  1. [...] Sonia wrote about this  Dumb Things Small Businesses Do #6: Ingratitude [...]