October 28, 2023

The principle of reciprocity in marketing or business is based on our natural tendency to want to return a favor. Like me, you may have been raised that if someone invited you over to their house then you should return the favor by having them back over to your house. It just feels good to return a favor. You may have noticed that in marketing it’s become quite the thing to motivate customers or prospects to provide their emails in return for giving them a discount on the item they may want to buy. This is also an example of the reciprocity principle.

Everyone enjoys being thanked for their contributions. At many stations, the things we did to say “thank you” in the months of November and December were disrupted by the Pandemic. Some of us might feel unsure about if or how to resume the things we did to show our gratitude at this time of year. Some businesses have reworked traditional holiday giving practices in order to honor the beliefs and identities of all staff and associates. The Thanksgiving holiday is a time of gratitude for many, but is considered a day of mourning within many Native American communities. 

What is most essential is to thank your sponsors at this time of year for the essential support they provide to your mission and community. Be thoughtful about how that might look for each of your sponsor relationships, but take the time to do it. There are so many ways you can go about this that may not involve spending any money. Here are some of my favorites and some great ideas I’ve seen from some of our Greater Pubic member stations:

1. Send a thank-you email to business supporters from your CEO.

Pull an email list of all your business supporters, from the last 18 months, including nonprofit supporters, advertising firms, and current prospects. Yes, even current prospects. This is so much easier if you have CRM (Customer Record Mgmt) software. But even if you don’t, see if you can make an excel spreadsheet and export the emails into Constant Contact, Mailchimp or your email software.

You may decide to do this a week before Thanksgiving with a “Thanksgiving” style graphic heading. Ask your CEO, President, or GM to write a very short paragraph saying how much the station appreciates the support of their business sponsors and what it means to the station. If you are experimenting with ai (such as ChatGPT or Otter.ai) you can get this ai software to help you write the thank-you email. Then, under the CEO’s thank-you paragraph, give a big thank-you from your corporate or business support team along with wishes for a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving. At the bottom make sure you have your contact information for any questions about streaming and new ways to support the station.

Getting a message from the station’s CEO shows supporters how important they are to the station and makes them feel like a part of your public radio community.

2. Send Thanksgiving or year-end thank-you cards by mail to your top 20% of accounts.

Some stations have purchased thank-you cards for each account executive to address, sign and mail to their top accounts. This is usually about 10-15 accounts per rep and is a small investment with big returns. Consider that some of the larger non-profit organizations who buy annual schedules on public radio are delighted to have someone thank them for their partnership.

3. Send a digital thank-you card to business supporters via email.

(Again you could use AI to help write this) from the corporate support team using Mailchimp or Constant Contact with a photo of everyone with their dogs/cats and the Thanksgiving/fall/holiday decorations of your choice, just to say thank you for supporting the station. Maybe include your favorite recipe as a “gift.”

4. Have gifts delivered to your top business supporters.

Before the Pandemic, some stations traded for cookies, candy or fruit baskets and delivered these as a Thanksgiving gift to their top business supporters. It’s the right time of the year and can be a nice addition to the office luncheons that often happen at this time of year before long holiday weekends. It may be a good time to start this practice again.

The power of saying “thank you” to business supporters at this time of year has many great benefits.

  • If you are delivering your top business supporters “thank you” cookies or candy, this gives the account representative a reason and a way to see their business contact in person. This has become harder to do since the Pandemic and it’s a great way to connect with the client even if they have an advertising firm and bolster their relationship directly.

  • Saying “thank you” feels good to all involved and especially the account representative delivering the thank you, no matter in what form it is given.

  • A “thank you” in November comes at a time of the year when it can bolster with reciprocity a renewal of business for the next year. It reinforces the relationship and acknowledges the gift of support.

Let us know if you have a special way you thank your business supporters at this time of year. We’d love to hear other ideas!