Ready or not, Christmas is almost upon us. Sending cards to customers and clients is a great way to cement relationships and highlight the work you’ve done during the year. But it can be hard to make it truly meaningful. So behold my guide to sending the perfect Christmas card.

Be personal

Stop your cards going straight from envelope to recycling bin by adding a personal touch. If you’ve got a small client base, handwritten messages are a great place to start. Include a personalised note about how much you’ve enjoyed working with them this year and how much you’re looking forward to continuing your professional relationship. Remind them of your shared successes during the year and congratulate them on milestones they’ve reached, awards they’ve won or progress they’ve made.

It’s a bit harder if your client base is large but do everything you can to avoid sending a generic ‘Dear Bob, Season’s Greetings from all the team at blah blah blah’. It’s bland, impersonal and boring. See ‘Be creative’ further down for tips on how to avoid this.

Be caring

Embrace the true meaning of Christmas by supporting a charity. Include info in your cards about why you’re supporting them and how, letting clients know how they can get involved. Some charities also design and sell cards for bulk use. Ask if they can be personalised for you. If you’re able to spend a bit more, buy clients real world gifts from charities like Oxfam or World Vision. What client wouldn’t feel good about a donation on their behalf providing a village with clean drinking water, a goat for milk or mosquito nets to prevent malaria? There’s a huge range of options available at Oxfam unwrapped and World Vision. View full catalogues at and

Be creative

Think outside the box. Showcase your business’ personality by sending a card that makes your clients laugh or smile. Rather than sending mass produced cards, look into handmade or artisan options. Find a local artist to design a cover or a photographer to take a quirky team photo. Send postcard style cards rather than the traditional format. If you know someone who’s quick with a quip, get them to write a poem or limerick for the greeting. Do what you can to add a little twist to traditional greetings.

Be paper free

Do your bit for the environment and consider a paper free Chrissie card. Film a video for your website or launch a Christmas You Tube channel – you could even film a series! Think Christmas wishes and carol singing; maybe even a flash mob! Paste it as a link in Christmas emails or in your signature block from mid-December on. Or make a personalised animated card. You can design your own at The instructions are super easy to follow and 20% of the cost goes to one of the nominated charities (you get to pick which one).

Be punctual

Don’t leave things ‘til the last minute – It’s not a great reflection of your business if your cards are delivered the week after the new year. Conversely, don’t jump the gun and send them too early. If you can, time the delivery for mid-December onwards. Take note of when your clients close up for the Christmas break as well as delivery times and cut off dates. If you’ve got a small local client base, add a personal touch by hand delivering your cards along with some Christmas goodies like candy canes or biscotti.

Be helpful

Make Christmas easier for your clients by giving them info they can use. Remind them of your Christmas opening and closing hours, whether you’ll be shutting up shop for a break or working the whole way through. Make sure it’s not all about you by including fun, quirky or little known facts about Christmas; Christmas survival tips (recipes, hangover cures, how to wrap oddly shaped presents); lists of Christmas markets or the best places to buy last minute Christmas essentials. Who knows, your card might end up being their Christmas lifesaver!

So go on, have a little bit of fun with your Chrissie cards this year. Crack a few funnies, make fun of yourself and give your customers and clients a chance to remember you for all the right reasons!

Image credit: Cordey

Shauna Maguire

Shauna is a freelance writer and the owner of ‘Take my word for it’, a content and copy writing business. A Christmas card phobic, she doesn’t send her own (but understands why others do). This Christmas she’s focused on sending charitable gifts so friends and family should expect goats, chickens and other assorted farm animals in their Christmas stockings. A happy Bleat-mas to you all! (Her lame attempt at a goat joke)

Almost every cliché has at least a small semblance of truth to it, otherwise it wouldn’t have become so commonly used and accepted as a cliché. The old saying that, “The customer is always right,” has more than a touch of truth to it, as without customers you will be soon closing the doors of your business. This has never been more true than today, where due to the pervasiveness of the Internet, most businesses are “always on” and have the capabilities to become global. Consequently, interacting with your clients and getting “inside their head” has never been more important.

Like most aspects of life, interacting with clients can be improved, all it takes is the desire and the know-how.Here’s 5 ways you can improve interactions with your clients.When you are seen contributing to a community which your clients frequent, it adds to your credibility and gives you further opportunity to interact with your clients

#1 Go to where your clients are

If you want to know what your clients are getting up to, don’t wait for them to come to you (as you’ll be waiting a very long time), go to where they are. And where are they – online, of course. No doubt you have a website but that is simply not enough. It is imperative that you have a blog as well and that you use these tools to keep your clients involved with promotions and updates that will make them feel a part of your business.

#2 Go Social

A website and blog are the minimum for client interaction but in today’s world “minimum” just does not cut it. You require a social media presence so that you are always there for your clients and illustrate to them that you are part of the “new world.” Not all social media is right for every business, so you must select your platform, or preferably platforms, wisely. For example if you’re selling accessories on your website then Pinterest is a great platform as it’s based on photos mostly. However if you are giving a service such as a life coach, Twitter can be a great place to put out inspirational quotes. Use your social platforms to be at the forefront of your clients’ thoughts but without overdoing it. Remember, it is a fine line between interacting and annoying.

#3 Imitation

To keep with the cliché theme, imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, and with the Internet it has never been easier to imitate or be imitated. Check out your competitors’ online presence, see what they’re doing right that you are not, and copy them. The imitation doesn’t need to be nor should it be blatant but you have to be part of the new reality.

#4 Surveys

Directly accessing clients in a way that is assured to show them you care rather than show them that you want to aggravate them is now at hand. Using surveys you can understand your customer’s wants, needs and satisfaction from your services. By asking questions about your performance, you can constantly improve your business, and when your customers see that they have a real affect, they will give more and more feedback and your interactions will increase.

#5 Be Out There

It is not enough to be a good corporate citizen; you also have to be a good citizen, period. And that means contributing not only to your community but also other communities – online communities that is. When you are seen contributing to a community which your clients frequent, it adds to your credibility and gives you further opportunity to interact with your clients.

Sharon Robinson

Sharon writes for Dooblo, developers of mobile survey app survey2go. She is part of the content marketing team with a high passion for fashion!

As a consultant, I am sometimes asked by people how to get business without being pushy. Pushy sales people seem to be most people’s pet hate, so here are some tips for successful selling without the cringe factor:

  1. Get referred.
    Many of my new clients contact me because they have been referred by an existing client or contact. Referrals are the easiest way to get new business – people are calling you because they are already interested in your product or service and someone they trust has recommended you. Be great at what you do and referrals will come. Don’t be shy about asking clients for referrals. Just say “I am so pleased you got so much out of my product / service. I’d really appreciate it if you could pass my details on to other organisations or people who might need something similar”.Be great at what you do and referrals will come. Don’t be shy about asking clients for referrals
  2. Listen and ask questions.
    Understand the client’s issues and problems, be a sounding board for them BEFORE you suggest solutions. You are wasting everyone’s time if you are trying to sell something when you don’t even know if the client needs or wants it.
  3. Think strategically.
    Once you understand what the client’s issues are, table a solution linked to the bigger picture – you can suggest wider reaching more impactful solutions than if you focus only on the obvious issue. For example: Client X wants some team building sessions to help with team morale. On talking it through it becomes evident that the poor morale is caused by a challenging culture and an inability to influence effectively inside the organisation. The solution is not actually a team building session (although we might do something around that later) but work on culture, strategic influence and building resilience.
  4. Write a blog, send out newsletters, get active on social media.
    Pass on knowledge and solve problems for people rather than just advertise. If people have been reading your articles and finding them valuable you will be top of mind when they need a consultant.
  5. Do guest speaking.
    It’s nice if you get paid, but if even if you don’t it’s a great way to get exposure. Every time I do a guest speaker spot it results in new clients. When you speak, aim to educate, not sell. Know your audience, find out what they are interested in or challenged by in their businesses and give them a taster of the solutions. Don’t use the session as a big sales opportunity, just finish with “I’m going to be around after the session / in the break and I’m happy to take further questions”. If you have a presentation your closing slide should have your contact details and website address. Leave it up while taking questions, you need to give people a chance to write them down.
  6. Repeat business is the best business.
    Give your existing clients a great experience, develop long term relationships with them, and really understand their industry and business. Even when you haven’t got any work on with them you should stay in touch. Have a coffee with your key contact semi regularly, forward them the occasional article or paper that’s relevant to their business or industry. Recognising special events by sending a hand written note or card is also a nice personal touch.

What tips do you have for selling without the cringe? Or stories from the other side of the fence – what are your experiences as the buyer?

Image credit: Stephen Davies

Rosalind Cardinal

Ros is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

In terms of revenue created and the value in experience for customers, gifts are an important part of the world economy, yet are we giving the gift of gifting to our customers?

It’s an interesting thought, and one I feel that is largely underexploited by many small businesses as a great way to diversity and repositioning your product or service offerings.

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving. Erma Bombeck Tweet this

Sure beauty salons and restaurants and a host of other industries have been onto this for years, but I don’t believe we have utilised gift giving to its full potential.

Your current business and services chosen as gifts represent more than ordinary ‘everyday’ purchases because of their symbolic meaning when they are associated with important life events such as birthdays, mothers’ days, weddings, engagements, graduations, births (divorces being the bizarre new trend in this space) and the list goes on.

These are significant life events that sadly (for culture, not small businesses) is recognised with consumerist and materialistic values, and due to our excessive western behaviour, we no longer want the “standard gift”. Consumers expect the best gift, the most thoughtful gift, the most clever, considerate (not always expensive, but that helps) to show off how much of a wonderful wife/husband/sister/daughter/friend we are. And because the internet has bestowed us with the convenience and choice like never before, we are under even more pressure to think outside the box for great gift ideas.the internet has bestowed us with the convenience and choice like never before, we are under even more pressure to think outside the box for great gift ideas

A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer. Lucius Annaeus Seneca – Tweet this
And it is here where the untapped potential lies. Give your customers the option to buy your products or services as a gift for their loved ones, that is specially packaged to remind them just how clever they are and how valuable and unique the gift is….simple.

…Or not you might say? Perhaps you don’t offer anything you could package as a gift?

A gift, with a kind countenance, is a double present.Thomas Fuller – Tweet this

I most certainly agree there are some instances where this will be the case, and the funeral industry is the first such scenario that first comes to mind. For my company, PuggleFM, where we offer podcasts and music for free, it is almost impossible for PuggleFM to gift wrap the services in which we offer parents when they are for free in the first place.

Still, there are many businesses with untapped gift giving potential that remains to be fully exploited to its full potential. If I were a business networking company for women, a membership as a gift voucher might be a nice thought for a friend or family member who has just started their own business.

Thinking of a unique “congratulations on your 2nd/3rd/I’ve lost count baby” that’s sure to impress your girlfriend and all in attendance at those highly competitive baby shows? Why not gift a voucher for cleaning for a month, or a mobile massage, or a mobile hair colour/cut and treatment?

A good friend of yours has just got engaged? Need a gift? Why not a voucher for a professional concierge service to help arrange all that dreaded changing your name paperwork (if she is changing her name) or help with the wedding planning and stationary in general?

Gift purchases represent 10% of all retail purchases in North America and over $100 billion is spent annually on gifts in the US (Laroche, et al. 2000).

This combined with the results of a recent study which the variety-seeking trait* extends to gifting, as subjects with this trait consider a wider range of product categories when buying gifts for others (Tilottama, Ratneshawer and Desai 2004), gives a wonderful opportunity for small businesses throughout a wide range of industries the ability to access the untapped potential in the gift of giving gifts. Your challenge ladies and gentlemen has been set, it’s not up to you to accept it!

Chance happens to all, but to turn chance to account is the gift of few. Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton – Tweet this

*variety seeking trait: a personality-driven trait quite similar to Optimum Stimulation Level of which there are several different types;

1. Exploratory purchase behaviour (e.g. switching brands to experience new and possibly better alternatives).

2. Vicarious exploration (e.g. where the consumer secured information about a new or different alternative and then contemplates or even daydreams about it).

3. Use-innovativeness (e.g. where the consumer uses an already adopted product in a new or novel way) (Schiffman 2011)

Works Cited

Laroche, Michel, Gad Saad, Elizabeth Browne, Mark Cleveland, and Kim Chankon. Determinents of in-store information search strategies pertaining to a Christmas gift purchase. 2000.

Schiffman, Leon, Aron O’Cass, Angela Paladino, Steven D’Alessandro, David Bednall. Consumer Behaviour 5th ed. Sydney: Pearson Australia, 2011.

Tilottama, G., S. Ratneshawer, and Kalpesh K. Desai. “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself: Variety Seeking motives in gift giving.” Advances in consumer Research, 2004: 22-23.

Charlie Caruso

Charlie Caruso is the founder and CEO of PuggleFM, an online radio and podcasting station created especially for parents and children. Since its inception, PuggleFM has found audiences in the US, Europe, across Australia and Asia looking for an alternative to commercial radio. Charlie, 25, is the 2013 winner of the Australian Excellence Awards Women in Business category; a finalist in New Business and Young Entrepreneur categories in the Small Business Champion Awards 2013.

Additionally Charlie is a current finalist in the WAITTA Achiever category for her contribution to ICT in WA. Charlie has a background studying international business and Mandarin at Murdoch University. Always interested in business, she started her first enterprise when she was 16. Charlie is also available for speaking appearances bookings through Voxy Lady Speakers;

Featured image:Thomas Hawk

Online communication is all very well, but when it comes to face-to-face meetings, it’s the little things that can make all the difference.when it comes to face-to-face meetings, it’s the little things that can make all the difference

In these days of instant communication, when messages bounce off screens and mobile phones at the speed of light and so many transactions and connections happen online, it’s sometimes easy to forget that personal relationships are still a vital part of business life.

That first face-to-face meeting with a new client or business prospect can often be the clincher to our future dealings with them. How did we come across to them? And how did we feel about their response to what we had to say?

I recently visited a lawyer in a large legal practice in the Melbourne CBD. I had come with a copyright-based enquiry, related to my ‘second life’ as a playwright. When he opened his office door to meet me, he clearly looked bored. We had hardly begun our meeting when his phone rang. He immediately took the call –another client – and kept me waiting for 15 minutes while he dispensed advice via his Blackberry. When the call ended, I outlined the reason for my visit. He never once looked at me but kept his eyes glued to his Blackberry, responding to emails while I talked.

I ended the meeting, angered by his arrogant assumption that this is how business is conducted in the 21st century and that I should just put up with it.

Ok – dismiss me as some old fuddy duddy with outdated ideas, but I still believe in the value of making a client feel special. I don’t view myself as a file or case number with an allocated number of dollars attached. I’m a person, with an individual request and if I seek professional advice, I want to feel I’m the most important person in the room for the duration of a consultation.

There’s no difference between a salesgirl busy gossiping with her colleagues while customers wait for service, or a lawyer with bigger clients on his mind: lack of client focus is a huge problem for organisations. Yet, putting the client at the centre of your commercial universe is one of the first precepts of marketing and the first step in doing this is the way you introduce yourself.

5 customer service tips for face-to-face meetings

1. When you first meet a client – smile: it may sound obvious, but a smile is a wonderful ice breaker. It shows you’re considerate and approachable. And when you smile, your client will smile back.

2. Shake the client’s hand firmly: A wishy-washy or half-hearted handshake is a real turn-off. A strong, firm handshake shows you are professional and ready to do business.

3. Look interested: again, a no brainer, but your clients will soon sense if you look as if you’d rather be somewhere else and are bored by what they have to say.

4. Taking calls and playing with your Blackberry? I don’t think so: of course it’s rude and nothing is more off-putting than a blatant disregard for the person in front of you.

5. At the end of the meeting, thank clients for their time: your clients have chosen YOU but they could have gone to thousands of other organisations, retail outlets or consulting firms, each one probably offering a similar range of merchandise, qualifications and experience. Your clients pay your salary, so treat them with respect. They deserve it.

Dina Ross

Dina Ross is Public Relations Director at Evergreen Advertising & Marketing in Melbourne, Australia, specialists in communicating to the 50+ market. A PR and crisis communications expert, she has held senior editorial positions at BBC UK and The Age , headed her own award-winning PR consultancy and is the author of “Surviving the Media Jungle”, a guide to PR. Melbourne, Australia.

Featured image: thetaxhaven

These days, it’s not enough to just have a great product or service. It needs to be delivered in a form people want to buy.

Know what your customers need.

As simple as this may sound, it’s something a lot of business owners don’t do. You need to constantly review your offerings to to ensure the product or service meets your customers’ needs including packaging.

I received an email a few months ago from a lady who was holding a workshop on building a website. I found that interesting because this was something that could be easily done online cheaply, and let people follow the workshop on their own computer without leaving home.

When I mentioned this and asked her why she opted for a workshop rather than an online event, she was adamant that was how she wanted to teach people. Sadly, about two weeks later I got an email saying the event had been cancelled due to lack of numbers. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about finding the best way to solve your customer’s problem.

Most people are busy these days. It takes organising to free up time to go to a live event, and make sure the family is looked after. That’s not to say people don’t do this, but they need a compelling reason to be physically present.

Improving customer service and customer experience.

Convenience will win out over price so make it easy for your customers to say yes. Can they download your product when they’re ready to buy, even at 2 am? Do you need to meet them face-to-face or can you do business over the phone? What about recording live calls so they can access them at a later time?

Perhaps you could take a few of your products and package them together in a way that solves a specific problem for your customer. A great example of this would be a dog groomer. They could offer a flea treatment package that included a wash, groom, and a flea treatment product that is sold as a tablet or spot drops.

Another option could be to package together three, five or seven (odd numbers seem to work best) grooming sessions which when paid in full receives a discount.

They could also create a maintenance package which contained a flea treatment shampoo, conditioner and brush so the customer could continue to look after their dog between visits. A good example of upselling a service to customers.

You’re only limited by your imagination. Start thinking about ways you can make your customers’ lives easier. Brainstorm ideas about what you could offer and ask your customers if they’d buy it if it was offered to them.

Packaging your products or services works on two levels. Firstly, it leverages your time and resources. Secondly, it makes it easier for customers to decide because it avoids them feeling overwhelmed. Why not try it today?

Leonie Hope

Leonie Hope is known as the Purpose, Passion and Profit Specialist, and founder of Inspired Life Paths. She’s also a speaker, author, and qualified NLP Coach. Leonie is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs and business owners to create a profitable, unique and authentic business that stands out from the crowd and makes a difference. She achieves this by interpreting the information found in your fingers and fingerprints.

Top Image: Credit