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The support shown to small businesses across Canada this year has been tremendous. The Buy Local movement shone a spotlight on the value of community-based businesses and consumers carried owners through another year of uncertainty. Here's how you can thank your patrons for their support.

There’s no doubt the pandemic has been on hard on businesses in Canada. But it’s also been hard on consumers – from inventory and staff shortages to evolving shopping protocols and rising prices, buying everything from essentials to luxuries has been a little more challenging. But your customers have stuck with you and continued to support small businesses like yours.

Perhaps they deserve a round of applause? Here are five ways you can thank your customers – for their confidence, their loyalty and their patience over the past year.

Send a handwritten note or card

There’s something about receiving a personalized, hand-written message. In an age where digital channels make communication quick, easy and convenient, a hand-written note of thanks is a lost art and demonstrates a next level of appreciation. A hand-written note also highlights the human side of your business and shows that your customer’s support of your business in turn supports you, your staff and your families.

Spotlight your customers on social media

Of course, if your business has an active social presence and sizeable following, a more public show of thanks may be in order. Showcasing loyal customers, with their permission, on your social network – through photos, videos and stories – can highlight just how much you appreciate their business to the rest of your audience. Good feels all around.

Offer behind-the-scenes deals or content

Customers today love to feel involved. They want to know the people behind the brand, the mission that drives it and how the business works. Depending on what kind of business you’re in, a peek behind the curtain can take many forms – from a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen, unique content curated especially for your loyal customers, social media posts that showcase how products are made, or special deals that are exclusive to your loyal base. Special efforts like these can ensure your customers know they are valued and appreciated.

Hold a contest

Customer contests are great for showing appreciation as they get customers engaged and interacting with your business. They can also encourage social sharing, which can boost your number of followers. When it comes to the type of contest, you can go old school or new school.

New school: Consider a video contest in which customers share a video that revolves around your product, or a photo caption contest where you post a photo on your feed and ask fans to post their caption in the comments. You can also ask your customers to vote on a new product or service, which not only gets your audience engaged, but gives you great ideas for your business!

Old school: A colouring contest for kids, a “guess how many jellybeans in the jar” contest or even a logo redesign competition (where customers can enter their ideas for a new store/product/brand logo) offers the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with customers and an extra chance at an in-person thank you.

Give to a charity in their honour

Throughout the pandemic, many Canadians were looking for ways to help others in need. A desire to help out is especially high during the holidays and can be a meaningful way for you to give back to your community. If your client base is small, you could ask each of your customers to share with you a cause or charity that is important to them and provide a donation on their behalf. If you have a broader base, consider doing a poll and donating to the cause that matters most to your customers.

Your customers are vital to the ongoing success of your business – showing them a little love at this time of year can help them feel valued and involved in your brand. Appreciation efforts that are genuine, human and creative can make them feel even better about doing business with you – over the holidays and throughout the year.