I joined the leagues of late-bloomer shoppers this week at local malls.  I know – what irony, an online marketing person neglecting cyber shopping for brick-and-mortar crowds!  I was standing in line at an electronics store and overheard a conversation taking place between two friends who were purchasing a game system for a third friend.  I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment and shared it with the two gents.  One quipped that the gift “wasn’t just for him [the friend]” but for all of them to enjoy.  While it’s commendable to be completely selfless this holiday season, small businesses, desiring to give consumers a little something this year, should remember some gifts give back, yielding positive returns.

Coupons and Discounts

In some cases you have to give to receive.  This week, we learned that social media browsers love receiving information related to discounts and coupons.  Small businesses, here is a perfect opportunity to give, but also get back.

Offering social-media-limited discounts and coupons can create a lot of social site exposure.  Consider comprising a coupon campaign and track the data; allowing your brand to see whether giving to social browsers also gives traffic and exposure back to the brand.

Charity/Pro Bono

Charities are more prevalent as well as stories of hardship this time of year.  Has your brand considered donating proceeds to a charity or doing pro bono work for a consumers or clients suffering hardships?  The humanitarian sentiments are to be celebrated for their selfless origins alone but a helpful brand does not have to go unnoticed.  Speak with public relations representatives about showcasing charitable acts to reporters, media outlets, and the public at large; it’s okay for a giving brand to receive accolades and exposure for its generous actions.

Retention

Sometimes customer retention takes a backseat to new-customer acquisition.  Goals of expansion are understood and encouraged, but don’t dismiss the importance of retention.  Regardless of whether a consumer continues loyalty to your brand, facilitating their positive experiences is essential regarding future references, word-of-mouth marketing, and word-of-Web reputation management.

Consider presenting long-standing consumers of your services and products with sentiments of appreciation, whether it take form of a custom letter, free month of service, or some other form of “thank you.”

Don’t underestimate such retention-minded sentiments, regardless of your brand’s popularity.  I myself find my cell phone contract ending with a popular vendor that will be losing my long-standing loyalty this year.  Why?  After ten years with the brand, despite prompts, overt statements and observances from me, I receive absolutely zero sentiments of appreciation.  I’ll consider paying more for a service coming from a brand that will better appreciate my allegiance.  I’m willing to give back to the brands that give to me.