‘Tis the season to give thanks. This Thanksgiving what better way to celebrate the season than by showing your customers that you care.

Thanking your customers isn’t just about being polite. You customers are the lifeblood of your business and giving thanks tells them that they are valued and important to you. It also drives customer retention. It’s common knowledge that gaining new customers is much harder and costlier than retaining the ones you have (anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive). A simple gesture of appreciation goes a long way to keeping those clients, driving referrals, and helping immune your business against the competition.

Too often, however, thanks are rarely extended beyond the point of sale. It’s time to change that. Take a moment this holiday to thank your clients for bringing you their business.

1.  Segment Your Customers

Thanking all your customers equally is a surefire way to blow through your budget. Instead, segment high-value customers and look for ways to use the holiday as an opportunity to further cement that relationship.

Most businesses have a small group of customers who represent the bulk of their profits (also known as the 80/20 rule). The top 20% likely represents 80% of your profits and it’s a group of customers that you should know well. Put yourself in their shoes and give thought to a gesture that matters to them.

What about the other 80% of clients? Giving thanks to this group is equally important, and can help further nurture that business, hopefully nudging them into the 20% bracket of your most profitable customers.

2.  Give Thanks to Your Top 20%

Below are some ideas for giving thanks to your most-valued clients:

  • Send a Personalized Gift – Show that you listen to, know, and appreciate your customers by sending something that reflects their interests and hobbies. Online services such as Greetabl, Token.ai, and even Etsy are useful places to start your search for unique and personalized gifts.
  • Send a Gift Card – If you’re a retailer or food service business, a gift card to your store or restaurant is a nice touch.
  • Host a Thank You Event – This is a great time of year for a customer appreciation event or happy hour. Invite your top customers for a few drinks and appetizers.
  • Offer an Upgrade – Could you offer your top customers an upgrade? This is a great option for technology providers, or even B2C companies. For example, if you operate a landscaping business, throw in an extra service this month at a discounted rate such as tree trimming or leaf blowing.
  • Showcase Your Clients – If you’re in the B2B sector, another way to prove that you value your clients is to showcase what they do. Highlight their achievements, accomplishments, or philanthropic efforts on your blog, in a case study, and on social media. Be sure to work with them directly to ensure you get the right permissions first.

3.  Thank and Nurture the Other 80%

Giving thanks to the other 80% of your customer base can be done affordably and with nurturing in mind. Appreciation for this segment can be expressed in many ways. For example, handwritten and personalized thank you notes are always appreciated, yet rarely utilized. This isn’t necessarily going to drive more business from these customers, but it shows you value them.

Another option is to create seasonal special offers. Combine a thank you note with a time-bound special offer or loyalty program (for instance, “Get your 5th Haircut Free” or “Renew Now and Save 15%”) to create a reason for your customers to come back now.

4.  Give the Gift of Learning

Giving thanks across your entire customer base can also be expressed by sharing useful information. This could be as simple as mailing your customers an eBook or whitepaper with a seasonal thank you note.

Alternatively, host a workshop on a topic of interest and invite your customers. Present this as an exclusive opportunity to learn something new or gain insights that can help them make good decisions or spur future purchases. But stay away from pure sales pitches, you want to be seen to be giving something (thanks and knowledge) without demanding a return.

5.  Donate to Charity

Philanthropy is on the rise among small businesses. Approximately 75% of small business owners have charitable giving plans and donate a portion of their profits annually. Giving back during the season of giving can also make business sense. It can support your brand, boost for employee morale and pride in their company, and, of course, there are tax deduction benefits.

Donate funds or services to your client’s favorite charity or to one of your choosing. Charitable contributions are also tax deductible (albeit with caveats) making them an affordable gesture for small businesses.

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Caron is a small business owner, writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron has blogged for the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE ,and other organizations on all matters relating to small business management and growth. Connect with Caron on Twitter and at April Marketing.