Your loyal customers keep your doors open and lights on. So why not thank them for the business they gave you in 2015? Holidays in December and January are a perfect time to show your appreciation with a sincere season’s greeting. So how do you show your thanks without breaking the bank?

Small business owners are known for making more from less. If you’re interested in sending a warm end-of-year “thank you” to your customers, employing thoughtful resourcefulness is key.

Your customers keep coming back for many reasons, one of which is probably personalized service. Why not share your holiday cheer in the best way you know how? When you customize a gift that they won’t find anywhere else, they’re going to remember your kindness for months – and hopefully years – to come.

Here, we’ll offer some ideas – and encourage you to use your creativity for a personal touch.

Partner with another small business

Show that you care and add value to your customer relationships with a distinctly different kind of present. If you’re not in the business of selling typical holiday gifts, maybe there’s another small business in town that is willing to partner with you. Think of one that has customers who may want something you offer and ask if they are open to trade. And why not? If you’re a mechanic that partners with a nearby car wash, the car wash owner could refer their customers to you – and could become a valuable ally in the coming year.

Thoughtfulness is memorable

Your holiday gift to your customers could be as humble as a hot cup of cider or as memorable as a generous discount on their next visit. Either way, the old adage holds true: It’s the thought that counts.

If you’re ready to pull out the stops, find a service or gift you know your customer is going to use. For economic, large-scale gifting, take a look at inventory that may not be moving as fast as you’d like – if it’s a small write-off, why not wrap a trinket in a bow and find it a new home with one of your deserving clients? Just make sure the gift fits and it’s not obvious you’re unloading unwanted product!

Tasty treats are an invitation stay – and shop

If you don’t normally sell food, consider keeping a plate of charcuterie or cupcakes for walk-in clients. Hot chocolate, cider or adult beverages are always a welcome perk. Customers who indulge tend to linger longer. And if they’re spending a few extra moments with you, take the time to ask about their holiday plans – your interest in their lives shows that you care. 

Surprise them!

There’s something about a free T-shirt, beverage or small plate that makes people feel special. Depending on your business’s size, you could choose to give your cashier authority to give freebies at check out – what a pleasant surprise! You could also print thank you cards that are “good for one free item” of your choosing. Include a space to write your customer’s name and a place for the gifting employee to sign. These could be distributed to all customers, or just the regulars (think brand ambassadors).

For example, if you give each of your employees blank holiday cards, they can gift them to customers with which they have nurtured relationships over the past year, making the gift that much more meaningful. The card can express personal, heartfelt greetings and best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year. Choose an expiration date to help you plan your inventory – or not. It’s up to you!

The element of surprise is surely memorable and if you aim for an impeccable customer service experience, you could even receive the gift of a brand advocate!

A gift that gives throughout the year

Does your company provide a service? If you can afford to offer a discount in the New Year, you can send a holiday (think New Year’s) greeting and include a discount offer for their next order in 2016. If you give these to all or just some of your clients, it’s likely they won’t cash in at the same time, so you can absorb the discount through the rest of the year.

Host an event in the New Year

The moments from now until New Year’s Day are precious. If your clients are rushing, frazzled or pre-occupied with travel plans, perhaps a nice way to thank them for choosing your service-based business is a post-New Year’s event. A yoga studio could host a free meditation session, for example. Coffee shops could host a social with coffee and cakes. Or better yet, invite a series of guest speakers to teach your customers something they may not already know. Creating community and providing space for your customers to connect with each other could be the gift in itself.

A letter is a gift

Any one-of-a-kind gift – no matter how small – can come with a hand-written note. They’re not going to get that from a big box store! If you fancy yourself to be a talented (or even semi-talented) scribe, consider writing your message by hand. Our lives are rife with text messages and emails, so a simple thank you with pen and paper means you took the time to think about just them. Even if you choose to print a card, sign your name and encourage your employees to do the same!

Think outside of the basket

This is the time of year when spending time, personal greetings and thoughtfulness are most appreciated the world around. Gift baskets will always be opened, but for the client who receives three at a time, you will always stand out when you get creative. Simple and thoughtful gestures, however small, are sure to warm the heart. Sincerely show your thanks – because you couldn’t be in business without them – and you can rest assured that they will be back in the New Year.