Can giveaways, discounts, and other creative tactics turn one-time buyers into a loyal, repeat customers? Service managers and others in related fields on LinkedIn swapped opinions and ideas around that question recently.  Here are the three smart perspectives that got our attention:

Do the Unexpected

Some, like Harry Plunkett, an operations/field services manager from Atlanta, stress that following up with customers — whether with freebies or otherwise — is crucial for longtime loyalty.

“Follow up, follow up, follow up, cut an on-the-spot, one-time deal, add a small freebie, and follow up, follow up, follow up,” Plunkett says.

Giving away little freebies, he added, is a great way to maintain strong customer relationships beyond the point of sale. And those give-aways can come in many different forms — a percentage off the next bill, handouts like Swiss army knives with your company’s name engraved on the handle, even football tickets.

“Do something that is completely unexpected and they will talk about it for a long time,” he writes. “The customer knows and doesn’t miss a thing you say and do, no matter how insignificant you might feel it is.”

Offer Gratis Consulting

Alternatively, offering a free customer consultation may be a better incentive, says Betsy Sanderson, who works in sales for ClickSoftware. Consultations benefit both the client and the company: They help customers see how they’re doing against certain key performance indicators, and help companies identify potential cross- and up-sell areas. These “value-discovery sessions” show customers what kind of ROI they can anticipate and represent a powerful sales tool, Sanderson says — so save the freebie giveaways for trade-show booths.

“Once a year we encourage our customers to sit with one of our people to see how they are measuring up toward their goals,” Sanderson says. “We do give freebie gifts away, but that is mostly at client/partner conferences or trade shows.”

Do In-Depth Customer Research

Nancy Boas, a senior solutions marketing manager for ServiceSource, a revenue management company based in San Francisco, agreed that free advice is more powerful than free swag, and can offer “eye-opening results.” Boas described her company’s free consultations as a “mutual discovery process” where the company and the customer discuss business needs. Once the customer understands the services offered and sees successes with other clients, the company offers a more formal analysis.

“We often conduct a service performance analysis that looks at 50 key metrics to [identify] gaps, benchmarking and performance gap assessment,” she wrote. “It’s immensely valuable for our customers and valuable for us to gain deep customer understanding.”

More: Five Tips for Converting Estimates Into Business.

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ABOUT Tiffany Kaiser

Avatar photoTiffany is a tech journalist turned full stack developer who's passionate about the design of a site, the code I write and the people I'm writing it for. I can OO JavaScript, style a sidebar and query a database while upholding that human element needed to communicate with team members and clients.