By: Susan VanEpps
With winter holidays quickly approaching, entrepreneurs may be wondering if sending holiday cards to clients and customers is worth the investment. It’s estimated that half of U.S. businesses send them out, and the consensus among business consultants is that it’s an inexpensive way– if done correctly– to build customer loyalty and brand recognition, while expressing appreciation for a client’s business. However, opinions vary on the best ways to select and compose the cards. Here are five of the best tips we found fortackling the issues.
Merry Christmas … or not. Holiday cards will get opened, but you want yours to be remembered in a good way. Advisors recommend sending a high quality card and demonstrating you actually know your client and his or her holiday traditions and beliefs. It’s okay to say Merry Christmas if you know the recipient celebrates it. If not, many opt for the generic “Happy Holidays,” especially when sending a card to an entire office. However, to really be memorable, consider opting for a different holiday altogether. Thanksgiving or New Year’s cards arrive before and after the crush of mid-December mail, and can receive more attention as a result.
Make it Personal. Business etiquette expert Lydia Ramsey advocates the personal approach in all aspects of sending cards. To be most memorable, she and others suggest choosing paper cards over e-cards, hand-written envelopes over Avery labels, and postage stamps over a postage meter. If you can’t write nicely, temp companies can send someone out for this very task. Brand your card if you can with your business logo or photo. Hand-write something appreciative or hopeful inside the card – especially if it relates to your specific relationship with the client. Channel the inner voice of your mom years ago, nagging you to write a short note to your aunt for her graduation gift – she knew something written by hand makes a difference. And sign your name in ink at the bottom, without a title.
Consider a Present. Budgets are tight and no one would begrudge a company for not sending gifts, but Small Business Bonfire’s Alyssa Gregory notes that a little surprise in the card envelope can go a long way.
“You can ramp up the usefulness by including something that’s relevant to your brand, products and target audience,” she notes. “… You can include anything, though – coupons, photos, gift cards, calendars, or even a relevant article or newspaper clip — to make your cards more meaningful.”
It’s Not Just How, But Who. We love this nugget from business coach Mark McGregor for a sure-fire way to have your card remembered: don’t just send it to the owners and CEO of a business associate, but also to the CEO’s assistant if you know him or her. After all, assistants who do the important job of managing meetings or contracts may have helped you win that company’s business as much as anyone. A specific card of thanks and holiday greetings is a memorable way to show your appreciation.
If All Else Fails, Focus on the Business. If sales are down or deadlines are looming, it really is okay to just forget the whole thing. After all, the whole point of holiday cards is to do something memorable to enhance the relationships among businesses, clients and customers. If you don’t have the time or budget, remember that cards are just one marketing avenue. It’s fine to channel that energy into work projects now, and show your appreciation later with a personal phone call or note. As they say, it really is the thought that counts.