Have 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!

If you liked this post, you’ll love the next one.

To have future posts sent to your inbox and to receive my free guide “The 10 Best Strategies to Differentiate Your Brand,”

The Downton Abbey Method of Marketing
Brand Storytelling Lessons From Harry Chapin