The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to build better relationships with current customers and clients. So why not beat the Christmas rush by sending your clients gifts and greeting cards (not e-cards) around Thanksgiving? The upcoming four-day Thanksgiving weekend gives you plenty of time to address cards or draft copy for a year-end e-newsletter
Start by wishing everyone a great holiday season and best wishes for the new year. Then include a few notes on the highlights of 2011 and share some information about any new products, or promotions you have planned for 2012. If you don't already have one, create a cool, customized newsletter template with PBSmartMarketer.
Consider creating a holiday-oriented direct mail piece. Instead of just offering holiday wishes, include a discount coupon or add a special offer along with your holiday message. November is also a great time to clean up your database. If possible, assign someone on your team to review it and delete obsolete contacts. You want to be sure you have current addresses for any bulk mailings you do, because the U.S. Postal Service can charge penalties for bad addresses.
Make a list of small, thoughtful gifts or greeting cards you want to send to your top 10 or 12 clients. They don't have to generate most of your income, but perhaps they are good ambassadors and make frequent referrals. Never take customers for granted, especially since your competitors would love to snatch them away. (But before you send any gifts, do check to see if people are permitted to accept them. Some companies, like Bloomberg LP, have a strict “no-gift” policy.)
Since I live in rural Vermont, people respond well to my “breakfast in a box” gifts that feature local maple syrup, cocoa and pancake mix. Food gifts are generally a safe bet and an easy way to provide a group or team thank you. Dried fruit, fresh fruit, candy or nuts are always popular. And if you have time to bake cookies or bread, go for it.
You don't need to spend a lot of money on client gifts. Think about what the person enjoys doing outside of work. Then, find a small gift that fits their personality or interests. Movie tickets and gift certificates to local restaurants or a bookstore are usually successful.
Finally, for the most personal approach, consider hosting a holiday open house. Invite current and potential local customers. Send out paper invitations since you don't want your invite to be stuck in a spam blocker. You don't have to cater the party. Just head over to the local warehouse store to pick up pre-made party platters of vegetables and dips, cold cuts, rolls and a variety of snacks, cookies and desserts.
Jane Applegate is the author of four books on small business management, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, published in paperback and most eBook formats by Wiley. She's producing and hosting a new online, on demand, talk show sponsored by Microsoft. Tech Essentials with Jane Applegate debuts Dec. 5 at www.myfirstserver.com. Jane is not a Pitney Bowes employee and shares her insights on this blog as a paid contributor.