As the holidays approach, this is the perfect time to show your gratitude and appreciation to clients, business partners, vendors and employees.

According to a 2007 Maritz poll, nearly 80 percent of employees reported praise for a job well done was very important to their overall job satisfaction. A simple show of appreciation through a note or a small gift will help you retain quality contacts.

Whenever someone gives you a referral, helps you close a deal, or simply treats you to lunch, take five minutes to jot a quick thank-you note. This shows you are respectful and aware -- rare qualities that everyone admires and appreciates.

Here's how to thank those who help you excel on your entrepreneurial journey.

Write a note by hand. There is no replacement for a handwritten note. It is a perfect opportunity to stand out because so few professionals take the time to do it these days. If you aren't a gifted penman, print your kind words — an e-card is better than nothing at all, but its lacks a personal touch. Call or send an e-mail for very small favors.

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Invest in personalized stationery and be brief. While a generic card will suffice, an engraved note card with your name or company logo will connect your kind effort to your personal brand. Recall the specific event or gift in the note. Three to four sentences are enough to show your appreciation. For an added touch, use a beautiful stamp instead of metered postage.

Mail it immediately. Aim to send your thank-you note within one or two days. The immediacy will show your customer or acquaintance your sincerity. Even if it's been more than a few days, it's better to send it late than never.

Touch base throughout the year. Some entrepreneurs make the mistake of reaching out infrequently or only when they need a favor. Make an appointment in your calendar to contact your most valued customers and business partners at least once a quarter. Use e-mail or an e-newsletter to keep them up-to-date on any new offerings and to thank them for their continued business. To go the extra mile, periodically call customers and ask for their feedback. Use their suggestions as opportunities to improve your customer satisfaction and grow your business.

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Host an event. A casual party for your clients, vendors and employees is a great way to show your gratitude. Host a barbecue or treat them to a sporting or cultural event. Spending time together is the best way to show your most valuable contacts you appreciate them personally.

Celebrate special occasions. If one of your clients or customers gets married, has a baby, or is promoted to a new position, send a card or a small gift. It will show them you care. You will also stand apart from the crowd by mailing cards on non-traditional holidays including the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. If you know your clients’ or customers' birthdays, e-mail a gift card or coupon on their special day.

Send a note even when you lose the deal. If your company is passed over for a job, send a simple thank-you note anyway. Express your gratitude for the opportunity and add that if the selected company fails to meet their expectations, you would be honored to have the opportunity to earn their business in the future. The note will keep you on their radar and may result in referrals.

How do you show your appreciation to clients and business partners? Share your favorite story in the comment section below. 

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