Your customers want to feel appreciated. What better time to say "thank you" than the holiday season? And what a great opportunity to build a holiday marketing campaign around the customer relationships you want to nurture, build, and strengthen.

So, whom should you target?

Don't make the mistake of spamming your contacts database with generic holiday email greetings. The emails will be ignored, your time will have been wasted, and your brand will lose credibility.

Make your efforts count by sending personalized, thoughtful messages and gifts to your customers. But, first, divide your customers into the following five segments, and pursue the relationships accordingly.

1. Relationships With Bottom-of-the-Funnel Prospects

These are customers who have already short-listed or selected your product or service and will likely buy from you before the end of the year.

The content you create for these customers should address any lingering concerns they may have, as well as provide the information they need to make an educated decision. Use your campaign to keep their attention on your business as they work through negotiations and make their purchase.

Marketing objective: Create goodwill while allowing your sales team to stay in touch with your customers during this critical period in the funnel.

How: Send small but engaging gifts. For example, help your prospects relax and unwind with gift certificates for iTunes or gift cards for premium coffee. Keeping the gift small makes it possible for prospects to accept it without feeling awkward. They are also likely to use it immediately, and think about your company when doing it. A small gift also provides the perfect hook for sales to touch base and check in with how things are progressing.

2. Relationships With Middle-of-the-Funnel Prospects

These are prospects who are actively evaluating your product. At this stage, they are investigating their options and seeking out data and information around how the product would actually function within their company.

To effectively engage with them this holiday season, create content that will keep you on their radar and help put your product on their shortlist.

Marketing objective: At this stage of the decision-making process, both the economic buyer and the end user of your product have to be persuaded. Make sure you engage with all parties involved.

How: Mail each of them a personalized postcard with a digital gift included. This tactic harnesses the sincerity of a physical card while drawing them to your website to receive their gift. The more positive interactions they have with your company, the greater the chances that you will make it onto their shortlist.

3. Relationships With Current Customers Who Are Upsell and Cross-Sell Targets

Don't underestimate the importance of your current customers. It costs less to sell to them than it does to attract new customers. They are also loyal and less price-sensitive, and they have expressed interest in buying additional services or products from you.

Marketing objective: These customers have been valuable to your company. Let them know you appreciate them and their business. As with the middle-of-the-funnel segment, engage and create goodwill at multiple levels: the economic buyer, the end-users, and the key influencers in the buying process.

How: Discounts provide incentive for customers to take advantage of your up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, so harness their loyalty with special offers. You can also give your customers the gift of relaxation in the form of spa gift certificates or Amazon gift cards. For top customers, send gourmet food and wine.

4. Relationships With Customers You Want to Nurture as Advocates for References and Recommendations

Customers trust their peers more than they trust you, which is why your customers who have advocated on your behalf should be a top priority this holiday season. This segment also includes customers who are great brand names themselves, and customers who are making exemplary use of your product.

Marketing objective: Make them feel appreciated, and encourage them to become, or remain, your advocate.

How: These customers are your most valuable allies, so invest in sending them a gift they can use on a regular basis. Subscriptions to entertainment services like Hulu Plus and Spotify are a great choice because they will get your advocates excited about continuing to support you into the New Year.

5. Relationships With Partners You Want to Thank and Build Rapport With

Successful businesses don't exist in a vacuum. They often stand on the shoulders of partners who provide access to customers, geographies, supply, technology, and expertise critical to the growth of your business. Suppliers and technology partners, channel and regional partners, and partners who act as consultants and advisers to your customers are all part of this critical group.

Marketing objective: Show that you are a team player and that you appreciate what your partners do for you and your customers.

How: For their holiday gift, send digital gift cards via your personal email. You should also create awareness of your business in the partner organization by sending branded, sharable food items to top partners.

* * *

It's the most wonderful time of the year, but also a very stressful one. You can stand out and make a positive connection with valuable customers by offering sincere gratitude and genuine holiday greetings.

Timely and well-executed holiday marketing campaigns will ensure your customer relationships come through for you in Q4 and are ready to start working for you again in the New Year.

More Resources on Customer Relationships

Customer Relationships - MarketingProfs Training Course

Five 'Customer Marketing' Tactics to Boost Retention and Reduce Churn

GDPR as Opportunity: How to Build Tighter Customer Relationships

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How to Thank These Five Important Types of Customers During the Holidays

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image of Jignesh Shah

Jignesh Shah is CEO at Rybbon, a digital gifting platform for marketers. He has 20 years of experience building, acquiring, and marketing software products. He formerly held marketing leadership positions with Metalogix and Software AG.

Twitter: @jshah1998