A group of people sit at a table and hold glasses of water outward for a toast. The two people in the center of the short are women, one wearing an emerald green patterned top and the other in a red top with her silver hair pulled into a bun on top of her head. The table in front of them is set with empty bowls, a glass water carafe, and a vase filled with flowers.
If you have the budget, consider holding a holiday event for your most loyal customers. This will make them feel appreciated while ensuring they'll keep you in mind next year. — Getty Images/10'000 Hours

As the holiday season nears, ample opportunities exist to capitalize on building customer relationships. A free product, special offers, and more can go a long way toward building customer loyalty year-round.

When you express gratitude toward your customers, you show them how much you value and appreciate their loyalty. In return, these customers might be more willing to pay extra and seek out your business compared to others in the same market. Pull on your customers’ heartstrings and aim for an emotionally driven experience so they don’t feel like just another sell.

Consider one of these unique and affordable strategies to express customer appreciation this holiday season.

[Read more: Holiday Windows of Opportunity: Executives from Staples and Hallmark to Gap Share Their Growth Strategies This Season]

Offer a free product, service, or upgrade

Customers love freebies, so show your gratitude by offering just enough to say thank you and not break your business’s bank. Depending on the products or services you offer, your company could give a free subscription plan for a month (or longer!), upgrade a service your customer has already purchased, or upgrade delivery plans so their products arrive faster than usual.

Provide coupons or special offers

If you don’t want to provide a physical gift to your customers, coupons and special offers may be your best option. Coupons such as “buy one, get one free,” “25% off with any purchase,” or “$10 off when you spend over $30” are easy ways to keep customers coming back.

You can send these offers via an email campaign using time-sensitive language, so only responsive customers will reap the benefits. Integrating preferred offers directly into your website may also be a good idea, so your online shoppers can see your thank you directly in their shopping carts at checkout.

[Read more: Holiday Retail Trends Your Business Should Know]

When you express gratitude toward your customers, you show them how much you value and appreciate their loyalty.

Include a free gift with purchases

Since it is the gift-giving season, consider providing a customer with a free gift with their purchase. The gift doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive to make a lasting impression — the simple thought will ensure your customers feel like a valued part of your business. Branded items like candies, stickers, and sample-size products make great free gifts for the holiday season.

If branded products aren’t in your small business’s budget this season, offer something like a candy cane at the register of your brick-and-mortar store or throw in a free PDF download during online checkout.

Send a thank-you card

Writing a note to express gratitude for purchasing your products or services during the holiday season is a meaningful way to demonstrate your appreciation for their business.

You can include the note in purchases around the holiday season or even send a message independently to loyal consumers with a special offer to come back in the new year. If you get too far into the holiday season and realize you don’t have time to send a thank-you card, send a personalized email instead.

Give away gift cards

Consider showing your appreciation by offering free gift cards. If your company provides a service like selling real estate, you could give away gift cards to local businesses in your area to say thank you while also creating a strong networking relationship in your community. If your company sells products, you can give customers gift cards to your store with the hopes they will bring more business down the road. Gift card giveaways can also be done via social media, increasing online exposure and bringing in new customers.

Host a holiday event exclusively for loyal customers

This option can be a bit more expensive, but if you have the budget for it, an exclusive holiday event for your best customers or clients is sure to make them feel special and appreciated. If your business has a physical location, you can host it there and offer light refreshments and swag bags for attendees to take home. Alternatively, booking a restaurant or event space for a small guest list can provide a more intimate experience.

If your business operates primarily online (or if you want a low-budget alternative to an in-person gathering), you can organize a virtual event that gives attendees exclusive access to special deals and discounts that you haven’t announced to the public. Either way, you’ll give customers the opportunity to interact with company leaders and get a behind-the-scenes look at your business.

[Read more: B2B Sales Techniques for Building a Loyal Customer Base]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.