I'm not a big fan of Christmas and year-end holiday cards. They are not only expensive, but boring and predictable.\u00a0Every year I look for low cost marketing ideas for the holidays. Here are my two criteria for holiday marketing ideas: Inexpensive - They have to be low cost. They can't break the bank. Creative - Yet, they have to break through the clutter that my poor clients are dealing with.\u00a0So they have to be creative in order to stand out. This year, I thought it would be fun to share some of the creative ideas I've found along the way. 1. Dress up Your Website like Google Decorate your website for the holidays. Do it not just for the year-end Holiday season - but for EVERY holiday that comes along. This idea is not only easy, but fun and will bring a smile to your web and blog visitors' faces. If you don't have a designer of your own - use go here and have them do a series of logos with fun holiday flair. Do you use Twitter for social media? Then take it one step further, and decorate your Twitter background, too. You can do the same with your Facebook cover image. Lots of graphic design tools like Canva and PicMonkey help you make a social media cover image easily. 2. Try Personalizing or Customizing These days there are so many fun and interesting ways to personalize just about anything. How about personalizing postage stamps with your logo or a personal picture? Take idea #1 (a holiday version of your logo) and put that on a stamp. If you do decide to send holiday cards (OK, we understand), use your personalized stamps. Don't stop there -- use the personalized stamps for sending out invoices and other customer communications during the season. Get a necktie or scarf with your logo image all over it. Wear that same tie or scarf to every holiday event. You can become a walking brand at holiday parties. You can also personalize cookies, candy and chocolate. For example, if your customers are chocolate lovers, M&M's will let you pick a color and write your own short message on the hard candy shell.\u00a0 Hershey's will write a personal message on your very own bar of chocolate. Or how about a giant fortune cookie with a customized message inside? Why not bake your own cookies? There is NOTHING like receiving something handmade. It shows your customers you've taken brain time and energy for THEM. Create water bottles or other beverages with your logo and/or team photo on it. 3. Meet Your Customers\u00a0Half-way One auto shop owner told customers to bring their own oil and washer fluid and they would change their oil at a reduced rate. Take a look at your business process. What opportunities do you have to save your customers money by letting them "contribute" to the work? And make it an experience, rather than the same old, same old. I thought of this one when a client was telling me about a restaurant where you cook your own food. I remember thinking - why go out? But that particular restaurant was selling the experience and ambiance rather than the food. 4. Create a Video Card YouTube videos have become a popular form of cost-effective promotion.\u00a0 You can also load it on your website.\u00a0 And send a link in an email. Why not pull your group together and sing a Holiday Song. Do some subtle product placement or shout outs to customers. Or commission something on Fiverr.com.\u00a0 You can get one in a week. 5. Give A Personalized Team Picture Here's one of the most low cost marketing ideas for the holidays. Simply take a picture. Create a group shot in the lobby. Or create a collage using candid shots of individuals around the company. Show team members "in action" - making the product your customer uses or taking a call. You can also include photos from your annual customer appreciation event if you have one. Or include any other pictures you may have taken at events. This helps create a personal bond between people in your company and your customers. 6. Create 12 Days of "Your Product" Create a special promotion with 12 days of your product or service.\u00a0 Or create a product of the month. Feature a product or service every day or every week during the Holidays -- or every month throughout the year. Many of your customers don't even KNOW about -- let alone purchase -- all the different products and services you have to offer. Companies in the food business use this strategy a lot. Think beer-of-the-month, cheese-cake of the-month, or coffee of the month.\u00a0 But if you remember the "Book-of-the-Month" clubs, then you know that you can use this with many other products.\u00a0\u00a0Cigars or teddy bears are just a few. There aren't too many companies offering services that do this. But I think some of these might be interesting: Maid service companies could feature an extra cleaning detail each month. Trainers or consultants can offer featured webinars, reports or newsletters. 7. Write a Free Holiday Survival Guide I like low cost marketing ideas for the holidays that are integral to your business. Creating a guide is great for any kind of consultant or services business.\u00a0 It shows off your capabilities. We're marketing experts -- so we're giving you this one! Create a downloadable guide for your customers. What are some tips and tricks you know because you're an expert and an insider in your industry?\u00a0 Think about what your customers would really appreciate learning.\u00a0 What are questions they commonly ask? Place these ideas into an e-book or PDF format. 8. Write Your own "Holiday Story" Hire a writer, and take some pictures (or use your employees' kids to create illustrations) around a holiday story. You can develop a story that features some of your core corporate values wrapped around the holidays. Perhaps include some "case study" examples that feature your heroic capabilities. Put a humorous spin on it. It will be keepsake AND a promotional item for your customers. For example, a few years ago, Mark Anderson, the professional cartoonist of Andertoons, created a small Thanksgiving booklet which he sent to customers. It contained a collection of his\u00a0 Thanksgiving-themed cartoons. It was small and lightweight, and inexpensive to create and mail.\u00a0 Yet it made a big impact. How about a customized book? For instance, Blurb is a tool that will let you create your very own high-end book.\u00a0 This is a wonderful keepsake for customers. 9. Create a\u00a0 Printed or Craft Holiday Ornament Create ornaments for the tree highlighting your organization's features and benefits. You can use little snowflakes printed with goodwill messages.\u00a0\u00a0Create a design that's a combination of text messages and pictures. Print them off, put in a hole punch, and add a ribbon so it can hang on the tree. VOILA. It's a daily reminder to your customers of why they choose you. If you've got pictures of you and your customers taken over the past year -- throw some of those in there. If you're not that crafty -- then create your ornament cards digitally on Moo.com and they'll be shipped to you. All you have to do is hole punch and hang. Or go to the craft store and find wooden ornament templates to hand decorate.\u00a0 Or create edible goodies.\u00a0 Do this for your best customers or perhaps even some of those prospects that have been on the fence. 10. Commission a Special Holiday Greeting Some of you just can't resist sending out holiday cards. So if you must, make it a special and unique card. Commission a humorous cartoon through Andertoons, for example. Then once you have the custom image from him, use one of the online custom card-making applications like\u00a0Zazzle or Moo to create your card. Or talk with your local printer. Have the cards professionally printed in your own backyard. 11. Create a Customer Recipe Collection Here's one of those marketing ideas for the holidays that will also be memorable for years to come. Instead of collecting recipes from friends and family, let your customers know that they are part of your family. How? By including THEIR favorite recipes mingled in with yours. This will not only be a promotional tool, but a keepsake. Your customers will cherish it for a long time. Here is a downloadable\u00a0recipe collection how-to article to get you started (thanks to HP). 12. Holiday Cards and Invitations Now, if you really insist on sending Holiday Cards, here are some low cost alternatives. First, find a great stock image, and superimpose some text with a customized greeting on it.\u00a0 Print it out on heavy stock card or have it printed at the local print store. The trick is to pick an image with lots of "empty" space on it.\u00a0 This means having a simple plain background. See the image at the top of this article?\u00a0 That is an example of an image with lots of open area (the lower third of the image, the part in brown).\u00a0 You can place a text message using a graphics program such as PicMonkey on the open area.\u00a0 That image was a free-to-use image from Pexels\u00a0(with a Creative Commons license). Here is an even simpler alternative. Simply download this PDF template and type in your personal message. Then print it out on a nice heavy weight card paper and you're all done. And if you're having a holiday get together for your office or any club or organization you belong to, try this easy template for a holiday party\u00a0invitation.\u00a0 It's ideal to distribute, post or send. When it comes to making an impact during the year-end holidays, even smaller businesses can run with the best of them. Whatever level of effort and/or money you want to put into holiday marketing, there are plenty of low cost marketing ideas for the holidays to choose from.\u00a0Start now while you still have plenty of lead time. Make sure your business is top of mind with customers when the holidays roll around.