It's official – the holidays are upon us. Yet, if one were to examine the recent history of discounts and decorations and come to the conclusion that Christmas falls somewhere in early November, that person could be forgiven. Increasingly, businesses jump the gun on holiday sales. Black Friday is no longer the start of the holiday shopping season – in reality, it happens well before Thanksgiving. All of this makes for a bizarre schedule for consumers looking for the best deals available.

For small businesses, it might not be the best idea to get in a discount arms race with massive suppliers like Target or Wal-Mart. There are other strategies smaller companies can use to drive sales and bring in customers closer to the holiday.

Send a season's greeting
Small businesses can show their appreciation and build rapport with their customers by distributing a holiday greeting card, reported Entrepreneur. The trick is to make sure the card is not just a promotion or special offer, but an honest, earnest well-wishing.

For family-owned companies, the greeting can be almost identical to a typical family Christmas card – think, "Happy Holidays from our family to yours," with a well-dressed, smiling group posed next to a fireplace. Even for a small business with no familial element, showing the faces of employees or staff adds a human, personal touch.

Linda Pophal, marketing and communications strategist and CEO of Strategic Communications LLC, told Entrepreneur that the main challenge is to stand out from the crowd.

"You don't want to be a 'me too' with any of your marketing messages, and that includes the end of the year warm wishes," Pophal explained. "I think people do value having that connection with the company where they come across as being more people than a building."

Email greetings can be effective as well, but they're also more difficult to pull off correctly given the sheer quantity of junk most people filter through on a daily basis. A combination of digital and traditional might be effective – Pophal suggested a QR code on the traditional mailer that links to a holiday message on the company's website.

Think 'how,' not 'how much'
While major retailers can afford to promote ridiculous discounts and deals, their smaller counterparts cannot be expected to sacrifice all profitability in the name of holiday cheer. Rather than driving down prices to bring in more customers, these stores should focus on getting the most out of the customers they already have, according to USA Today.

Holiday bundles are one such method. Instead of buying a single box of chocolates, maybe that box includes a second small box, gift card and gift wrapping for a small price increase. It's a win-win scenario: The consumer gets a better deal for his or her money, while the company turns more profit than they would have otherwise.

In-store gift wrapping, in general, is a good way to provide a holiday boost. Why buy a gift and wrapping paper and waste time putting it all together when you can have it done right there in the store for just a few extra dollars? Using these techniques to bring in more customers, small businesses can capitalize on the things that make them different from huge department stores – versatility, personalization and quality.

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