The power of thanks

The end of the year can be an emotional time. Frustration with holiday shopping, the joy of spending time with family and friends and reflections on the year past can be just the beginning. My mom always goes around the Thanksgiving table and prompts each of us for what we’re grateful for. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s about being thankful for what’s important in your life.

As a business owner, you are probably most grateful for your customers. They are, after all, the lifeblood of your success.

a father carving a turkey at holiday tableThis time of year is the perfect occasion for thanking those who have stood by us, who allow us to continue to realize our entrepreneurial dreams. And giving holiday gifts to your customers is the perfect way to show your appreciation. In fact, this is really an investment in your company. A thoughtful gift can build loyalty with your customers and ensure repeat business.

First, though, check with your customers to see if they have any limitations on receiving gifts. See the IRS website for rules on gift-giving (IRS Publication 463).

Here are five tips for holiday gift-giving:

  1. One size may not fit all. To save some money you might want to consider a few types of gifts. A beautiful food basket or sporting tickets may be appropriate for your largest customers, while plants or a modest gift card may be a better fit for smaller customers.
  2. Be genuine. A discount to buy more products or a calendar with your company logo all over it seems more self-serving than it does a genuine thank you. Save the promotion for during the year.
  3. Keep it personal. If you know your customers really well, tailor the gift to them. If Kathy has talked over and over about the theater shows she went to over the weekend, get her tickets to the new show coming to town. Also include a handwritten note expressing your appreciation for her business.
  4. Be mindful. In other words, be as politically correct as you can be. Stick to a general “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greeting” theme. Steer clear of anything that could be considered controversial. Test out the idea on family and friends to see if they would have any objections.
  5. Give to give. Consider making a donation to a charity in your customer’s name. Keep it local by supporting a worthwhile cause in your community. This is a guaranteed feel-good hit!

Hey! I helped too …
And don’t forget to thank the other people critical to your success, your employees. Recognizing their efforts will help build loyalty with them, too. The tips above apply to them as well. You might choose a holiday party in lieu of gifts, or you might choose the good, old-fashioned cash bonus.

If cash is an issue, can you afford to give them an extra day or even half-day off to get shopping done? Showing and telling them how much you value them and their efforts will go a long way to building a happy and productive workplace.

For help with your business, from marketing to finance … management to technology … or general business startup or growth, contact your local Small Business & Technology Development Center.

– Contributed by Kelly Bigelbach through a partnership with US Bank.

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