Holiday Card Dos and Don’ts

holiday-dos-and-donts-image-280x204Have you heard a holiday song on the radio yet?

It always amazes me how early the holiday music starts.  I am among the 81 percent of Americans who don’t want to hear it in stores before Thanksgiving.

But while I am not ready to endure endless loops of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” I am already thinking about my business holiday cards.

In fact, I confess, I ordered them last Monday.

Why do I look forward to this ritual that many people find stressful?

Two reasons.  First, I love handwriting cards and making a personal connection that way.  Second, I do them by choice, not from a sense of obligation.

For most people though, holiday business cards present a conundrum.   To send or not to send?  Paper or e-card?  Do you send to clients only? Or should you include employees, vendors, referral sources and prospects?  How will someone feel if you don’t send them a card?

And the biggest question of them all:  is it worth the effort?

Business holiday cards are one drop in the relationship marketing bucket.  The answer to “is it worth it?” is the same as all of your other relationship marketing efforts:  only if it furthers the relationship.

Here are my holiday card guidelines to help you decide if you should send them, and to increase your success with them if you do.

  1. Do send a snail mail card. Don’t send a mass email, e-card or e-video.

    The inspiration for this article came from a rant my husband sent me last year.  He received several e-cards that turned out to be 1 – 1 ½ minute-long videos that he characterized as “a completed waste of my time.”He also said, “[With a traditional card] I know my contact put in the thought of signing their name and making it at least a scintilla personal. I will display cards in my office for a few weeks.  The video?  Gone as soon as I forward it to you.”The companies that took the time to make the videos and send the email link actually hurt their relationship with him by annoying him.  They would have been better off sending nothing at all.
  2. Do personalize the card with a short message and your signature. Don’t use a signature stamp or have an assistant sign for you.

    Companies don’t celebrate holidays.  People do.  A holiday greeting should be from sender to recipient.  Recipients see right through efforts to delegate the greeting.  If you can’t sign the cards yourself, don’t send them.This does not mean you have to spend hours thinking up what to say.  Find a short, meaningful phrase you can use for everyone (like “wishing you a happy and prosperous year!), then add something else only if you want to.  That phrase and your signature will be enough.
  3. Do keep it secular. Don’t get overly personal.  Like the rest of your business communications.
  4. Do make it a pure greeting. Don’t include a business card. The presence of a business card makes the greeting an overt marketing pitch and loses the sentiment.
  5. Do send the cards in a timely manner. Don’t sweat it if they are a few days off.  I aim to get my New Year’s cards to recipients in first week of the New Year.  Many people have thanked me for the cards.  No one has ever chided me for not getting them there before New Year’s (and many people aren’t in the office that week anyway.)
  6. Do track your recipient list each year and make the decision to send a card a conscious one. Don’t just send on automatic pilot.  Over time you will add and delete names from the list and that’s okay.
  7. Do give yourself credit for the cards you send. Don’t berate yourself for those you don’t get to.   You can always choose another holiday.  And a handwritten card on a non-holiday is always welcome!

Remember that your goal is to further your relationship with the recipient.  It’s better to send 50 personalized snail mail cards than 5000 meaningless and forgettable e-cards.

Have fun writing or not writing your cards this season.  And don’t play your holiday music before Thanksgiving!

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8 Responses to Holiday Card Dos and Don’ts

  1. Kris says:

    Great article, many sentiments about the music (which I heard as early as the day before HALLOWEEN! this year) made me smile and resonated with me. However I disagreed with the goal of whether to send “only if it furthers the relationship.”

    I send my cards annually and was pleasantly surprised to see that you track who you send to as well! However, my goal in sending these is to enhance the relationship – in that I want to show that I care about their business, their assistance, their friendship and use it more as a time of thanksgiving so to speak. If that furthers the relationship or gains new business so be it, but it’s not my end goal.

    I’ve also found that e-cards – I use Punchbowl.com – allow you to personalize the message. The presentation I think can’t be beat. (It literally shows the outside of an envelope and then the card coming out of the envelope and finally opening). These are especially great for a younger target, those who are strongly focused on the digital market and if you only have an email address. I believe it has a similar impact of a hand written if/when you can’t/best to not send one.

    Again, great article and enjoy the “voice” of your writing.

    • Evelyn Starr says:

      Kris,

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      As in our other email communications, I believe we are mostly on the same page here. To me, enhancing the relationship by showing gratitude does further the relationship. By “furthering” I did not mean that it would result in business; just that it would continue to deepen the relationship which expressions of gratitude do. Enhancing and furthering are the same to me here.

      I have received personalized emails like the ones you describe on Punchbowl.com – I think the sender used Jackie Lawson e-cards. Yes, they are better than just a mass email, but I still find they have less impact than handwritten notes. For those to whom I want to send a card and don’t have an address, I email them to request it.

  2. Mary Honan says:

    Thank you for reminding me why I have mailed business holiday cards every year and personally signed them. I was literally on the fence this morning as to whether I would do it this year. My answer is yes and I will review the short list of designs today to get my order in!

  3. Adriane says:

    Great article Evelyn and thank you! I am a strong proponent of mailing business holiday/birthday/thank you cards and just like your husband I find e-card or e-video very impersonal. To receive a mailed personalized card with a hand written short message and or signature not only resonate with me but it has greater impact. In addition, having the cards displayed remind me of those who took the time to personally connect with me.
    Call me old school, but I do not send electronic business holiday/birthday/thank you cards. I agree companies do not celebrate holidays people do and I believe that’s the distinguishing factor.

    • Evelyn Starr says:

      Thanks for your comments Adriane. Cheers to the “old school!” Just because there is new technology available does not always mean it is better to use it.

  4. Adriane says:

    Great article. I know now I am not old school. Personally, I am turned off by e-cards. I agree that with a traditional cards, I know my contact put in the thought of signing their name and making it at least a scintilla personal. I also do love to display cards in my office and home for a few weeks.

    • Evelyn Starr says:

      Adriane, I am still displaying the cards in my office and my home too! I put the personal holiday cards on the mantel of our fireplace and they stay there all year. They finally get recycled when the next batch come in.

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