I always like to call attention to smart, low-cost ideas that provide powerful marketing value, and I have to thank my sister and her cat, Noel, for making me aware of this one.

When my sister and her husband took a vacation recently, they needed to board Noel. My sister looked around and found a nearby pet resort that seemed to be a nice place — far nicer than the vet’s cages in which our childhood pets spent our vacations, emerging upon our return like prisoners of war.

After their trip, they stopped at the resort to collect Noel, and they were handed a report card featuring the cat’s photo. It quickly described the feline’s behavior during the stay, addressing appetite, activity, willingness to cuddle with the staff, and similar factors. It ended with brief comments describing how much the staff enjoyed spending time with Noel, and asking my sister to bring her back in the future.

While I’m sure that the ailurophobes out there are now gagging on hairballs, those who are owned by felines are smiling. Yes, the report card concept was cute, but it was so much more powerful. It made it clear that Noel received very attentive care at the resort, and that the staff took the time to get to know her. It also included that all-important invitation that said “you and your cat are very important to us.”

An overworked staff member could have carted out the cat and said, “Yeah, she was pretty good. Ate ok. No real problems. Thanks for bringing her in,” and my sister probably would have returned. But thanks to a clever little marketing device called a report card, the resort has gained a customer for life, and I’ll wager that my sister is sharing Noel’s experience with every pet owner she knows. Are your efforts creating customers that loyal?