Our VP of Marketing, Jonathan Koo, recently had the opportunity to discuss how gratitude can increase open rates and deal sizes for B2B sales professionals with Sweet Fish Media’s Logan Lyles on the B2B Growth podcast. We’ve transcribed their conversation below.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited and condensed for clarity. The original, auditory version of this conversation appears here.
Logan Lyles: With everything that’s happening around us, I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time out of your schedule to chat.
We’re going to discuss something that’s applicable to what’s going on in the world, and that’s gratitude and thankfulness. In general, these concepts are top of mind for both salespeople as well as marketers.
Jonathan, tell us about your background, and for a little context, what you and the team at Thnks are up to these days.
Jonathan Koo: I come from a background mostly in digital and growth marketing. I spent several years leading the growth marketing team over at AdRoll, which is a fantastic marketing technology company based out of San Francisco, before moving back home to New York City and running the team over at Thnks.
Thnks, at its core, is a digital platform that allows salespeople, marketers, and business professionals in general to stay connected with their clients, prospects, and customers through gratitude and appreciation.
Through our platform, you can send personalized gestures of appreciation instantly and digitally. On our backend, we take care of all of the fun business stuff, including expenses, budgeting, compliance rules, controls, and measurements.
Our goal is to make it super easy for your frontline folks to focus on what’s really important, which is practicing gratitude in order to establish and build strong relationships.
In general, we think very highly of the power of gratitude.
Logan: I love what you guys are doing on the back end. Here at Sweet Fish Media, we’ve talked a little bit about terms like “gratitude” and “love” in business and how to facilitate them. Especially since our number one core value here at Sweet Fish is “love people.”
You don’t hear that, especially not in B2B these days, and divulging that one of your core values has the word “love” in it can appear weird to people.
James and I in our “behind the curtain series” discussed why you should strategically and intentionally try to turn prospects and customers into friends because it does have a business impact, as you mentioned.
Of course there are some things that just because they’re within a business context, you need to be mindful of, such as compliance and expensing, which are very important if you’re in accounting, finance, or sales and marketing ops. I love that you guys are enabling that.
The other thing that you’ve brought to my mind is from James’ book on content based networking, which explains that when you deliver value to folks with no strings attached, both sides benefit.
First, we’re going to talk about four tips to incorporate gratitude into your sales and marketing approach. Tell us a little bit about some of the techniques that you guys have incorporated in enabling sales and marketing teams in relation to gratitude, reciprocity, and giving value first while relationship building.
Jonathan: I think one of the most important realizations that we’ve had at Thnks is that you need to be genuine in your gratitude. Why is that the case? Well, if you’re doing something that’s more of a trade off or quid pro quo where you say, “Hey, take this meeting and I’ll give you this XYZ thing,” it’s not really genuine relationship building, and what you want when you’re practicing gratitude is to build that relationship.
True relationship growth stems from being genuine and not expecting anything in return. What is amazing about gratitude is that inherently, we as people understand the concept of reciprocity, meaning that if you get something, you want to give something back in return. This has been proven multiple times in different scientific studies.
There’s a very popular one from Cornell University where a waitress left a piece of candy with a check and then came back and said, “Hey, I just want to thank you guys for being great customers. Here’s another piece of candy on me,” and her tips went up by around 20%.
So there’s a real science behind the power of gratitude. If you’re genuine and practicing that appreciation, you’re going to see the benefits long term. That same principle applies to business. At the end of the day, we all really want to work and do business with people whom we like, and gratitude and reciprocity can help us to unlock that power.
Logan: I love that. What I hear a lot from one of my good friends, Ethan Beute, who’s the host of our customer experience podcast and the CX series here on B2B Growth, is that people still want to be seen, and they want to be known. They want to feel understood.
You’re right: whether you work in a B2B or B2C environment, we’re all still people.
Another book that we go back to a lot here at Sweet Fish is Giftology by John Ruhlin. So for those tuning into this conversation, it might be another resource to check out.
Let’s talk about tips that salespeople can use to practice gratitude.
You make a really good point that when you deliver value and go above and beyond by showing your thankfulness beforehand versus after the fact, you’re going to actually generate better results. Because when it’s after the fact, it’s kind of expected and people can sense an agenda.
When you give or provide up front, it changes the paradigm. Nowhere is that clearer than with the 90% open rate you guys have with your platform.
Can you give us more context surrounding that stat, what it’s about, and what sellers should do with it, or how they can keep it in mind?
Jonathan: I think the core of the stat really comes from people enjoying being surprised and delighted. When you give them a little bit of thanks and you show some genuine appreciation towards them, especially with a gesture that’s personalized, it will generate or elicit a response. This can be practiced in various different ways throughout the sales cycle.
Think about the early days when you’re prospecting. There’s so much digital clutter out there. Whether it’s floods of emails, or what have you, it’s really hard to cut through that noise.
Sending a small gesture of appreciation—for example, “Hey, I want to send you a cup of coffee for taking the time to talk with me,” or, “Hey, I know you’re staying in for the next couple of months. Here’s a Hulu subscription on me”—something that will bring a smile to their face is really going to help you strengthen your relationships and increase your response rates.
With our own platform, we’ve really seen the output of this by attaining a 92% open rate from all of those gestures, and that’s because they’re going to people who really can appreciate them, and they’re being sent in a meaningful way.
So that’s an example of how you can practice gratitude early on in the relationship building process.
Logan: Another that’s very tactical, I think for salespeople, that you guys talk a lot about are ways that you can show appreciation before virtual meetings.
Everybody sends that recap, “Thanks for your time,” line after a call. It almost gets skipped over, because it’s just part of that clutter, and part of what everyone does.
However, you guys advocate for some pre-meeting steps that decrease no-show rates, increase the effectiveness of the meetings that you do have, and start deals off on the right foot.
What are some of your recommendations for sellers before those virtual meetings, especially since pretty much everyone is selling via virtual meetings right now.
Jonathan: I think that everyone who’s been in a sales role has felt the pain of being ghosted before. You have that meeting or demo booked on your calendar, and you’re saying, “Hey, I’m really looking forward to this account. I think there’s a huge opportunity here,” and then the next thing you know, the meeting comes and no one shows up.
You can really circumvent that and increase your attendance rates by sending them a gesture beforehand. For example, saying, “Hey, thanks for setting aside time for our call later today. I know we’re going to be meeting at 1:00 PM, so I wanted to share a little something to give you an afternoon pick-me-up beforehand.”
Whether it’s as simple as a tea or something fun that applies to their personal interests, sharing a gesture beforehand can allow you to show them that you’ve done your research, that you care about them and you actually appreciate their time during that meeting later on in the day.
What you’ll find is that people will not only attend the meeting, which is the bare minimum of what you want them to do, but they’ll also go into those meetings with a better sense of who you are as a person. You’ll prove that you’re caring, empathetic, and appreciative while laying a good foundation for your partnership.
At Thnks, we’ve seen increases in attendance rates for some of our clients, and some of the deal sizes have increased as well because the relationships that they’re building are solid, and they’re able to have better business conversations.
Logan: I like that you mentioned there that you guys see an increase in deal sizes as well because of that early engagement, in addition to decreasing those no-show rates.
One of your tips centers around how marketing can work with sales before they begin outreach to some of their target accounts. Where do you see marketers implementing gratitude hand in hand with their sales teams?
Jonathan: Marketers, especially ones who view themselves as curators of the customer journey, should take some time and really think about appropriate instances where they can prime customers, clients, and prospects during outreach.
Whether it’s coming from a salesperson who’s going to start moving them through their pipeline, or an account manager or customer success manager who is going to potentially try to upsell or cross-sell them later down the road, marketing has a huge role to play there. You can run a lot of campaigns that influence those people along the customer journey.
An example might be by saying, “Hey, I know that you have a virtual event that’s going to discuss the power of a new tool that’s coming out that you’ve been developing. After the event, you’re going to be passing the leads that it generated to your sales team for them to go after, so why not make sure that your virtual event attendance is as high as possible? You want to maximize your team’s lead gen efforts, so before that event, send personalized notes, thank yous, or gestures of appreciation to your attendees.” You know that they’re going to respond and say, “Okay, this is a little interesting.”
Your attendees will appreciate the gestures, and will take extra time out of their schedules to pay attention and remain engaged during your virtual event.
This goes for in-person events too, once those start back up. You want to make sure that you’re priming your attendees beforehand and again, it’s not by saying, “Hey, attend our event and you get this thing.” You need to be genuine when you’re sharing gestures of appreciation and know that instincts of reciprocity will come back around.
Logan: Even just framing it as, “We want to say thank you for registering for our event,” so that they take the next step and actually show up, similar to the sales use case of getting prospects to show up to booked meetings or calls.
The second tip that you wanted to share with marketers is about rethinking swag. Tell us some of your recommendations on this point.
Jonathan: When I had my first internship in marketing, I was responsible for creating and distributing a lot of our company’s swag.
Now that I’ve put in more time and gained more experience, I really want to rethink swag. Sure, swag has its time and place, but I think it’s become overused, especially in the B2B space.
I don’t know about you, but how many branded t-shirts do you have sitting in the back of your closet that you probably picked up at an event? I have a giant pile of them in mine.
The thing about swag is that it’s not really personal. Because it’s not personal, it isn’t really valued by the client. So it’s less likely to move the needle when it comes to your B2B sales cycle. A bigger impact is made when someone gets a gesture that really matters to them that they can use versus another branded water bottle that’s going to sit on their desk and collect dust.
I want marketers to think about how they’re using their budget effectively, to take some of those dollars and really think about whether it’s more valuable to send a client another sweatshirt with your company’s logo on it, or would it be more beneficial to send a movie night package or board game to someone who’s staying at home amidst a lockdown.
Logan: I love hearing the story of how your experience starting out as a marketing intern has impacted your thinking on swag over the years and throughout your career.
One of the things we think about too, just to add some context from our own experience here at Sweet Fish is, “Hey, if we send something with our logo on it, then people are gonna like that.”
But unless it’s a customer of mine or partner of ours where I want to display their logo because we have a really strong partnership or good relationship, which does have a time and place as you said, it might not resonate as much as when you’re sent something like the board game example that you mentioned which you can really use, and is personalized.
An easy way to incorporate personalization is instead of sending someone something by default with your logo on it, send something with their logo on it.
It seems super simple, but I don’t see a ton of people taking the steps to do that. I understand why—it’s seemingly easier to get 250 pens with your brand logo on them—but, to your point, will they make an impact?
Of course 250 pens is just a random example, but I want to give people some other ideas to be thinking about for ways that they can make the gestures that they share stand out, ensure that they’re appreciated, land an impact, and overall, demonstrate gratitude whether it’s displayed with the items themselves or in the messages that are digitally composed.
I’m in line with you guys, Jonathan, and I appreciate what you’re doing to enable sales and marketing folks to practice gratitude since it really does have positive effects for businesses. Thank you for unpacking some of these gratitude-driven tactics.
To learn more tactics to help improve your sales game, download our ebook, 7 Tactics to Move Prospects Through Your Pipeline Faster with Gratitude, and see how Pure Storage used Thnks as their most powerful sales tool. Interested in learning more? Sign up for a demo, or click here to learn more about expressing gratitude in business!