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Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:05pm EST - There may be only one day a year devoted to giving thanks. But expressing thanks regularly — year round — and doing it well is one of the most profitable business strategies you can have.

Study after study reveals that when you say, "thank you" to your customers, they both spend more money and tell their friends about the exceptional service and products you deliver, increasing your profits. Volumes chronicle how employee productivity zooms when appreciation is expressed, raising your margins. Vendors go the extra mile to extend credit and deliver "just in time" when they hear gratitude regularly, not just in November, and keep your cash flowing.

Giving thanks works in business. But you're already doing more with less and the last thing you want is another item on your to-do list. So what are the most effective and efficient ways for you to express gratitude to these important players in your business' success?

Here are some tips you can use to develop the profitable habit of saying "Thank you" to your customers and employees, and not just in November:

Be specific in your thanks. It's one thing to say, "I appreciate what you did today. Thanks a lot." That's a soap-bubble comment. Pretty while it lasts, but gone in seconds. It's general and vague. When you thank them for something specific, that's Velcro. That's a thanks they remember because it sticks. You hook your gratitude to something the employee did. For instance, an employee just handled a difficult phone call with a customer really well. Thank them for that specific activity.

Appreciate the process. Target your appreciation on what the employee did. Let's go back to the worker who took the phone call. Avoid telling the employee, "Thanks for helping me keep that customer." That's just an outcome that benefits you. Say, "I like how you hung in there when that customer was being difficult. You were really patient and respectful."

It's about them, not you. Showing that you know something about them, and that you're able to place yourself in their shoes, is incredibly valuable. Connect your gift-giving with life beyond the business walls. If an employee became a grandpa, give him a copy of "Goodnight, Moon" to read to the little one. If an employee's mother died of breast cancer this year, make an end-of-the-year donation to Race for the Cure in her name. Such intimacy breaks the relationship ice in a transformational, not just transactional, direction which is the game-changing pathway to greater profits.

Go old school with your thanks. In this pixelated world of emails and texts, Facebook and Twitter, the simple and quick act of writing a handwritten expression of gratitude can go a long way. There's something special today about a handwritten note. I keep a stack of cards and envelopes with me to write thank you notes on a flight when returning from a workshop or coaching session. It takes about three minutes per card. You create return business when you take pen in hand and write, "Thank you," to your customers. Just say, "I know you could do business with others, but you chose us. Thank you! We treasure our relationship."

This article originally posted on Entrepreneur.com.

© 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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