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"The Perfect Gift for Our Customers"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2001, A Few Good People, Inc.

It’s the holidays again and we all want to do something for our customers, right? We want to let them know how much we appreciate them and their business, and we want to wish them and their families a wonderful holiday season. Mostly, though, we’d like to score some big points so they will continue to be our customers! (Maybe we’re just afraid we’ll look stupid if we don’t do anything at all…)

What to do for them? Buy a gift they may or may not want or need? Wine? Maybe they don’t drink. Candy? Maybe they are watching their weight. Calendars? Desk stuff? When’s the last time that you received something like that from someone that you do business with? Did you like/want/need/appreciate it? My guess is "No". So what can you do that everyone will appreciate without breaking the bank?

Consider this: donation cards. I have used this concept with great success. Here’s what worked for me.

Print post cards that are self-addressed/postage-paid on one side. On the other side put a holiday message to the effect "Thank you for your continued support during the past year. In lieu of a gift of some sort, we felt a charitable donation in your name would be more in keeping with the holiday spirit….", a place for name and address, and a list of charities from which they could choose. (You can see and borrow a sample from )

Bingo! Holiday shopping is complete, you have complete control over the cost, and your customers will love it. Some thoughts:

1. You can decide ahead of time how much you want to spend, and then write the individual checks in proportion to the responses.

2. Send each charity a copy of the cards that selected them, in case they send acknowledgements.

3. Historically it has been cheaper to put stamps on the cards than pay a business reply rate on only those that are returned.  You could let the customers pay the postage, but that would defeat the purpose!

4. Printing the cards for several years in advance makes them really inexpensive, and including them in my Christmas card gets them into my customers' hands at no extra cost.  The down side, however, is that if something changes, the cards may be unusable.

5. I wouldn't suggest letting individuals write-in a charity... you'll get too many different ones, which will be very expensive by the time you write a check that is an amount worth sending, research addresses, and keep track of it all. 

6. We tried to select the charities so that there would be something for everyone: three major diseases (Heart, Cancer, Diabetes) and one for animal lovers (Actors and Others for Animals).  Now, something for September 11 might be appropriate as well.

7. Several of my customers have told me that they always look forward to getting my cards every year (we always use humorous cards), and appreciate the donation.

8. Many companies object to vendors sending gifts of any kind, but we have never run into an objection with this technique. 

How can you adapt this idea for your business?

Happy Holidays!

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