When you have a service business, capitalizing on the biggest spending season of the year isn’t as simple as offering a promotion or putting up a sign in your window. Many service businesses slow down year end thanks to all that extra energy going toward old St. Nick. While you may not be in a position to sell off your inventory of consultations or bookings before year-end, you can increase visibility and encourage interest in your services during this time, bringing more business to your doors once the holiday craze has subsided.

Focus on your one-percenters

Lately it’s just not cool to talk about the one percent, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about your one percent, the people who already like and appreciate your services. These are the customers who are most likely to spread the word about your services.

Your one-percenters are worth their weight in gold and you want to treat them that way. Year-end is a great time to let your customers know just how valuable they are to you. You don’t have to break the bank on this, it’s more about thoughtful recognition and strengthening relationships.

Here are a few ideas to show gratitude to your one percent  in meaningful ways:

Spotlight Customers

Call out customers on Twitter. It’s a short and sweet way to stay connected and give thanks. If you see something you think a customer may be interested in, retweet it and add an @mention, this generates conversation in a way that’s helpful to you both. This works on Facebook and Google Plus as well. Make sure you follow your customers on social media and interact with them.

Compliment them by featuring them on your website. This makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of pride in doing business with you.

Look for opportunities to refer them to other clients or link them into your network. Helping to keep your customers in business is a sure way to stay in business yourself.

If applicable, write an enthusiastic testimonial. Make sure it’s personal and relevant – and never hand this over to an intern .

Send Hand Written Cards

Hand written notes and cards are a novelty in 2014 and well worth the effort. Write a brief, personal note inside holiday cards and crown them with custom postage stamps printed with your logo. It’s terrific branding & your customers will appreciate your care and attention to detail.

If you’re worried about your message getting lost in the holiday madness, pick an obscure or bizarre holiday in December instead. A terrific sense of humor is always appreciated! Get your graphic designer to help you create your own card.

Give a Great Read

If your customers are business owners, there’s nothing like sharing a great book on subjects they relate to. There are lots of influential business books, many of which you’ve probably already read. Why not send one to your best customers during the holidays? It’ll let them know that you’re as serious about success as they are, and it may open new dialogues about shared interests.

Be sure to write a personal note inside so that they know it’s just for them.

Find Something Meaningful

Chocolate Packaging Design Flux AppealSome years ago, I worked at a firm whose clients were mostly large insurance carriers. During holidays, endless goodies arrived on the scene daily: tons of baked goods, candies & chocolates, notepads, office gadgets mugs,etc. But each year there was one gift I especially looked forward to – the Farmers photographic art print. Every year I awaited the cardboard tube with a stunning landscape print curled up in it. On the back was a small acknowledgement of appreciation, information about the image and the Farmer’s Insurance logo. Not gimmicky or terribly expensive, but always cherished around the office.

What would your clients appreciate? If you can tie your gratitude to something your clients will use or appreciate, they’ll remember it.

Earlier this year I happened upon a great read by Jackie Huba called  Monster Loyalty. It’s about the great PR machine that is Lady Gaga. Truthfully, I knew virtually nothing about Lady Gaga at the time, but somehow it ended up in my hands and what I learned from it was fascinating and illuminating. It’s really a book about what inspires loyalty and how it pays off in dividends. It’s fairly small, easy to read and gave me some excellent insights into my customers.

Another customer service resource you might enjoy: 10 things your customers wish you knew about them from Help Scout.

Organize a Small Event

Invite the people in your network to a luncheon. It’s easier to organize and less expensive than a full-fledged party. It’s also more intimate, allowing for better connection. Remember, people’s schedules are stretched during the holidays, so choose a welcome treat or break that doesn’t interfere with the big days. Other ideas are a wine & cheese tasting, a “stop the madness” happy hour, open house or tea. Give away small promotional items for them to remember the great time they had. You can choose just about any activity that encourages interaction and fun – miniature golf anyone?

Make sure you take lots of photos of the merry-making so that you can post them on social media, newsletters or your website.

Package Up Your Knowledge

Business owners who sell services or experiences are experts in their industry. That’s what customers are paying you for, right? Put together a digital asset to give your audience a taste of what you do, and encourage them to become a client to experience your full services. The giveaway could be anything — a list of 10 tips, an e-book containing your best blog posts from the year, or a webinar. Put a nice holiday-themed cover on it and you’ve got a great gift.

Get Out & Meet New People

Happy hours, charity events and holiday parties are sparkly and fun! Not only do you get to spend time with friends, they’re great opportunities to make new acquaintances. I never consciously think of socializing as networking, but people almost always ask “what do you do?” and are generally pretty open to learning about someone new as long as you’re not trying to sell to them. Don’t be short-sighted. Each new person you meet knows a slew of other people, and just because they’re not a fit now doesn’t mean they can’t become a great asset. Some of my best clients walked in through the most unlikely doors.

Take advantage of this shiny time by getting out and about, handing out your business cards and other branded promotional items. Wine bottles with your custom logo make great host gifts and custom branded chocolate bars are pretty awesome too!

Advertise Pre-booking incentives

If your business holds events, add a discount or coupon with your holiday cards, giveaways or promotional items. One idea is an early bird discount of, say, 20% off to anyone who reserves by the end of 2014. This could work with consultations as well.

Another idea is to package up services so customers can get something they may not have taken advantage of otherwise. Utilize all those great party conversations to pre-announce a new services or packages you’ll be rolling out in 2015. You might just get some bookings, or at the very least, some great feedback on your new service.

Stay visible

Subtle and not-so-subtle reminders keep you front and center. Be festive and share visuals on social media, your blog and website. Try custom designs for your holiday marketing including greeting cards, promotional items and packaging if you can afford it – people do notice. If your budget doesn’t allow for that, look for other ways to make your brand special. Festive papers and envelopes are a nice touch on packages, invoices and correspondence and you can even order custom postage stamps with your logo and slap them onto everything you mail out throughout the season. Even a nice holiday quote on the bottom of your emails will help spread the cheer.

Those who know that the end of the year can be a black hole for closing new business, use it wisely to plant seeds for the fresh New Year. It’s important to stay visible, participate in the merry-making, and most importantly, be ready for “back to business” when January arrives.

Flux Appeal is ready to help. Call us with your design needs — we’d love to work with you on whipping up something special to help you stand out this holiday!