The most organized among us are already prepared for the holidays, with the perfect gift picked out for every family member and designs for the family holiday newsletter sketched out. But even if you’re a last minute shopper, it’s worth preparing early for the holidays at your business. Right now is the ideal time to think about how you can make the most out of your holiday season.
Are you thinking that September sounds a little early to be bringing out the mistletoe, and that you don’t want to be part of the crowd advertising winter specials before Halloween even rolls around? Consider this: Anyone who can take off time in December and who also celebrates Christmas will. That means that you’ll want to have your holiday messages in place by Thanksgiving if you want them to be seen before the end of the year. Thanksgiving falls on November 28 this year, at least in the US, which is also the first night of Hanukkah—almost a full month before Christmas.
How long it will take you to prepare any marketing materials related to the holidays will depend, but a month may be a short timeline once you get into the process. The earlier you can start, the higher the quality of your holiday marketing.
But What to Do For the Holidays?
The greatest advantage of the holiday season is that, at least in Western cultures, we’re practically programmed to expect everyone we know to touch base with us—holiday cards are an incredible opportunity to reconnect with those people we’ve lost touch, including clients. Even for those individuals and companies we maintain close ties with, the holidays are a good opportunity to send a little something that reminds them that we value the connection.
Even a minor reminder can be valuable, at any time of the year. Just getting a past customer to think about how pleasant it was to work with you—how easy you and your company are to deal with—can be enough to get them thinking about when they can do so again. But if you’re going to the effort of reconnecting, why not make a little extra effort? Just sending a pre-printed card with your company name on it is only a first step. While your clients may be pleased you went that far, especially if you come up with some particularly clever or beautiful card design, they’ll know that you spent most of your time on getting the card right and finding the right printer for it. You’ll get more bang for your buck if your customers can tell that you were thinking about them as individuals.
Whether or not you wish to give a gift to your past clients, beyond sending them a holiday message, is a matter of what is the norm in your industry, what you feel is appropriate and what budget you’re willing to devote to such gifts. It is worth remembering that if individuals in your field are used to receiving gifts of a certain caliber, it’s worse to miss the mark with a gift below that standard than to not offer a gift at all. And, once more, personalization shows: while you may not be in a position to buy unique gifts for each client, any small touch can help.
Individualization is Key to Reconnecting
Writing a short note in that beautifully designed holiday card that speaks specifically to your experiences with the recipient is crucial to convincing them to reach out to you again. That level of personalization can be time-intensive, so this isn’t a strategy for companies making small sales to lots of different customers. But if you deal with clients who make larger purchases, or you have a few big customers who buy in bulk, the hours it may take you to add those touches are worthwhile.
This is one of those situations where maintaining an up-to-date customer relationship management system comes in handy. Something as simple as making a note last year if a client mentioned that she’d be spending Hanukkah with her family (rather than Christmas), can let you show that you’ve been paying attention and that you’re sensitive to such details. Even without personal details to work with, you’ll likely have something interesting to say about the project or product you’ve provided to a given client. You can just ask about how your widget is working out at their company if you’re at a loss for any other ideas.
An overt sales pitch may not be necessary or even desirable at the holiday season. Depending on your sales process, having the opportunity to reach out again after the holiday season ends can lay the groundwork for offering a follow-up service or an updated product. During the holidays, most of us are looking to feel good—to be reminded that we enjoy the people we work with and that the new year is bringing us opportunities—not to deal with an expected offer. Keep that in mind as you’re preparing your holiday messages.
Giving Thanks Rarely Goes Amiss
Keep in mind that Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season (unless you really get into the spirit of Halloween). That presents a unique opportunity: as we’re each thinking about what we’re grateful for, it’s worth reflecting on the roles our clients play in enabling us to run successful businesses. You may not be particularly grateful for some of your more difficult clients, but the good ones probably play a key part in keeping you interested in running your business from day to day, as well as paying your bills.
Channeling the Thanksgiving spirit can present you with something special that you’ll want to share with your clients. A simple ‘thank you for your business’ can go a long way to showing a customer why they want to work with you again.
You may not be able to do much more than express your gratitude in a given year, but doing just that much can be an opportunity to check in with your clients and to open up communications for the new year.
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