Rhonda Abrams – Gannett News Service:

For years, I’ve advised readers to make the most of this time of year, and get out there and market. Yes, “marketing” took the form of parties, gifts, and cards — but that’s still marketing — a way to build and enhance a relationship with customers and referral sources.

But this year — have you noticed? — money is tight and the economy is uncertain. It’s a scary time to host lavish holiday parties or send out expensive gift baskets. Does that mean you’re going to go in a corner and pull the covers over your head?

Here’s how to do holiday marketing on the cheap this year:

Holiday cards: The least expensive, easiest thing to do is to send out holiday cards — to your clients, customers, patients, referral sources, key suppliers. A holiday card is an easy way to keep your name in front of people at little cost. Shop for inexpensive boxes of holiday cards at discount retailers — even dollar stores or retailers like Big Lots. Then sign and address the cards yourself. Unexpected benefit: Hand-signed cards seem more personal.

Gifts for employees: The holidays are also a great time to say “thank you” to the people you depend on every day to make your company succeed. Everyone does want cash, and if you can still give cash, do so. But if you feel uncomfortable giving a relatively small amount, give a gift of a “splurge” they’re less likely to afford themselves in this economy — such as a gift certificate for a restaurant, massage, manicure/pedicure, tickets to a sporting event.

Holiday party: Parties build staff rapport and improve morale. Lots of alternatives here: lunch for staff only at a moderately priced restaurant, a party or open house at the office instead of at a hotel. Even a potluck dinner at your home. Unexpected benefit: You may find your party has a warm, family feel, actually reinforcing staff rapport more than at a fancy restaurant.

Photo by gravityx9.

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