(Disclaimer: this was posted several years ago and I’m now my own boss. Not nearly as grouchy now, but I still stand by these tips for holiday card giving!)
It seems I’ve developed a reputation for being the office Scrooge. In my defense, I’ve been managing our holiday gift giving and cards for so long that I never gave it much thought — it’s just another thing I put on the calendar and auto-pilot like every other December obligation.
When I started to wonder why this time of year makes me so grumpy, I realized it’s because the holidays are the most outboundy time of the year for marketers. Regressing to traditional, intrusive holiday marketing tactics, when Inbound works so well, makes me sick to my stomach.
E-cards are a topic all their own — I have a love/hate relationship with them because a few companies knock them out of the park, while most use them as a seasonal SPAM outlet.
But the paper cards you might consider ordering for your sales team to send to clients are another beast. As someone who’s been sending and receiving holiday cards at the same company for over a decade (not by choice), here are my thoughts on how to make client card giving more lovable.
Your Sales Team Must Hand-Write Them
Cards delivered to me at home or the office with a printed address label are usually tossed into the trash without being opened. A printed address label means one or more of the following to the person on the receiving end of your holiday card:
- you were in a hurry to get cards out the door
- you’re having an assistant do it for you
- they’re just another contact in your CRM
Once you get sales to buy into the fact that they have to hand-write envelopes, they’ll pare down their list (next section). They’re also responsible for writing a salutation inside the card and signing it (no signature stamps allowed!). Even better if they go the extra mile to include a longer personal message.
Only Send Cards to People You Know
Do you like getting mail from people you don’t know? Every year my husband and I get a card from the law firm that handled our mortgage closing five years ago. They clearly spend a lot of money on high quality cards, but it goes straight into the garbage because it means nothing to our family. The lawyer we dealt with doesn’t even bother to sign it, so why would I put it on our mantle?
Maybe if they had kept in touch and tried to nurture a relationship with us outside of Christmas I’d feel different about it, but now I think they’re lame (marketing snob, my husband says) and wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.
So before you put someone on your list, ask yourself a Seth Godin question: would this person miss my card if I didn’t send it?
Invest in Quality
Every year, marketing departments are inundated with stacks of uninspiring holiday card catalogues. The fact that those printing companies stay in business tells me that a lot of people are simply phoning it in and ordering crap. If you’re reading this, hopefully you want to be better than crap!
Here are some of my favorite places to order high-quality holiday cards online (I don’t have relationships with these companies, but I’ve ordered from each of them in the past):
Before you place an order from any of these retailers, make sure you Google coupon codes — I’ve gotten some great deals during the holidays that way.
For God’s Sake, Skip the God Stuff
Unless your company is a religious organization, you’re likely sending cards to people of many faiths (or none at all). You probably don’t put your religious beliefs all over your LinkedIn profile, so keep your holiday cards agnostic and “wintery,” especially if you want clients to proudly display your card at their desks.
Don’t Put Envelopes Through the Office Stamp Machine!
If you’re liking this advice so far, then I’m sure you’ll agree it just wouldn’t look cool to have a handwritten envelope accompanied by a big ugly machine stamp. So mosey on down to the post office or your local Costco, and get some holiday “forever” stamps.
Bonus Points if You Lick the Envelopes
I’ve been known to lick my way through a stack of business envelopes. And then I saw that episode of Seinfeld where George’s fiance dies, so I don’t do that anymore. But those envelopes have to get closed somehow and you’re not putting them through the stamp machine, so get a sponge or something and close those suckers personally.