Five Meaningful Ways to Connect During the Holidays

November 30, 2012, 6:06 PM EST

By Jeff Hellenbrand of Cake Coaching
December is the perfect time to reach out to the people you care about and that includes industry contacts and clients. However, impersonal holiday cards and other generic tokens just add to the noise at an already busy time. You can stand out and make a huge impact by putting a little extra love into your effort this year. Here are some ideas to connect in a more meaningful way:
Hand-deliver Christmas cards. Vendors and clients sometimes get inundated with cards around the holidays. Still, it's a great way to tell your "friendors" (vendor friends) and clients you care. To make things even more meaningful, pick out a handful of venues and vendors to visit in person. Call ahead, tell them it will take five minutes or less. Drop by, say hello, hand over the card and bring some candy canes for everyone in the office.
I personally like to wear a santa hat for this. Keep some brochures or cards at the bottom of your candy-cane bag just in case they ask you for some more (they will), but don't make the visit about you.
Pick up the phone. Nothing beats getting a personal phone call. Pick out some clients and call them just to say, "Happy Holidays." While you've got them on the line, make sure to offer something useful and personal. Tell them about a website you think they'll love or offer to connect them with someone else in the industry who could help them out.
Not sure how to start? Look at some old emails or notes for personal details that will give you clues. If you don't note those kinds of things, now is a good time to start.
Give a personal gift. Who doesn't like getting presents? The key here is not so much spending a lot but making it special. If your client mentioned he loves chocolate, send him some of your favorite truffles. Does one of your friendors hate cleaning? Send him a gift certificate for a great cleaning company in town.
If you're worried a mutual contact will be jealous since you didn't get them a gift, don't sweat it. If she brings it up, ask when her birthday is. Just make sure to make a note and send her something extra special then. If your profit margin is razor-thin, keep the gifts simple and inexpensive. If you offer a premium service, up the ante and send them an appropriately-priced gift.
Be authentic and respectful. Every year, there's too much talk about holiday lingo. Is it okay to say "Christmas"? Do we call them "holiday trees?" Here's my take: Be yourself and respect others. If you celebrate Christmas, say, "Merry Christmas!" If you know that your favorite wedding planner does NOT celebrate Christmas, but Hanukkah, wish her a "Happy Hanukkah" instead. It'll show that you know her and that you respect her faith and traditions.
If your heart is in the right place, you'll be fine. One more point on being authentic: this isn't the season to manipulate people, network too hard, be salesy or gross in any other way (there is no season for that). If you try to connect for the wrong reasons, it always comes through. Connect because you care and you'll connect in the most powerful way.
Remember that love is spelled t-i-m-e. Showing people you care is all about giving your time. There's no shortcut for creating relationships or connecting in a meaningful way. Ask yourself, "How can I take a minute (or an hour) to make somebody feel special today?" Don't panic, though. You don't have to take the week off to do this. Even a thirty-second phone call can send the message that you really care when it's unexpected and coming from the right place.
How can you connect meaningfully with clients and contacts this month? Start by picking just one thing you can do and actually do it. You'll be amazed by how good it feels to be nice for no reason (other than the season).
If the holidays are stressing you out, sign up for Jeff Hellenbrand's free online class, "An Entrepreneur's Guide to Surviving the Holidays," throughSkillshare.comstarting Monday, Dec. 3, 2012.