You know how I love to show my appreciation often and to many. The holidays are a great time to do that. Today I wanted to share how you can use holiday cards to build/improve your professional and business relationships.
Did you know that holiday cards are a great way to strengthen a professional or customer relationship? By sending one, it gives you a chance show your appreciation of their support and/or business during the last year. Plus if you’re in business, holiday cards can help ensure that your brand is top of mind going into the new one. A card may also convince a client with whom expectations weren’t quite met this year that you deserve a second chance.
But as I’ve mentioned in the past, appreciation should be shown in a sincere fashion. There should be intent behind your actions, and it shouldn’t be done for personal gain. This is true with sending holiday cards. If your purpose is to ask for more business or a job or if it’s executed in a half-hearted way, it likely won’t be well received. Instead, you will likely harm the relationship vs. grow it.
Here are my 5 tips for making the biggest impact and best impression with a holiday card:
1. Make It Timely. While Thanksgiving has passed, there is still time to create and mail out your cards. Not a lot of time but enough. Feeling overly pressured? Avoid the crush and instead make yours a New Year’s card. This gives you a little more time and is still within the time frame to offer your holiday greetings and thanks.
If you do choose this alternate route, make sure your message is committed to a New Year’s one or your recipients may think your cards were an afterthought.
2. Create a List and Track it. Your list may be long. There are customers (if for business) or on the personal side, friends, family and professional colleagues (like recruiters, or networking contacts). I’ve found it’s best to create a list and break it up into smaller manageable quantities. It’s unrealistic to try to tackle every single card in one day. You can try sorting the list by your top customers or those who may be taking vacation in December and send these first. Next work on friends and family, or smaller clients.
I also recommend creating a tracking list so that you have a starting point next year. Over time you will add and delete names, and that’s OK and expected.
I actually have a holiday card tracker. It’s probably due my background in direct response. I track each card that I send and mark down if one was returned, and tack my response rate (percentage of cards sent vs. returned). While I have friends who will remove someone from their list if they don’t get one back, that’s not me. I know that some people either don’t like to send cards, or it’s just not their thing. However, having this list each November when I start to compile my new one, or when I want to add someone on the fly after they’ve helped me say in April, has been a life saver.
3. Keep It Professional and Secular. Each communication is a reflection of your brand if you’re in business. This is a chance to redistribute your logo brand, website, contact details, and/or other company information. Don’t forget the quality of the paper stock either. Choose something that looks and feels nice. You never know how long it may sit on your customers’ desks and how it could influence future business opportunities. For personal use, simply pick something that appeals to you, or make your own. With the software out there today, the options are limitless.
Keep it secular. You want to keep your message simple but also ensure that your greetings are appreciated by all, no matter what holiday they may celebrate.
For my personal list – I try to have Merry Christmas cards for close friends and family who I know celebrate the holiday, and Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays for my business contacts and those I’m not sure which holiday they celebrate.
Idea: When creating a business holiday card, consider a picture of your employees with the message “Happy Holidays to All of Our Valued Customers.” Include your logo can contact information.
4. Share Your Appreciation! My favorite tip of course. This probably should have been the first one, but sharing your appreciation of the recipient is key. Sending cards is really more about building the relationship than about marketing. You should include a line or two to say thank you for their support and/or business over the last year. I recommend being specific as possible as people will feel extra special when they recall something you’ve pointed out.
Your cards can also include Updates or Continued Interest. There have been times when I’ve been on a job search and I’ve sent notes to recruiters, even if they haven’t placed me, simply thanking them for their support and assistance in presenting opportunities. This can also be an opportunity to share your best to a potential employer you interviewed with and may be waiting on the status. In addition to sharing your holiday greetings, you can express your continued interest in the firm and the hope that you may be able to work together or speak again in the future.
5. Sign Your Cards. It sounds straightforward, but you’d be surprised at how many people and businesses simply have their names pre-printed and send off the card in the mail. I know I’m less of a fan of the increasing number of unsigned cards/photos I receive. It often makes me feel like I was just a name on the list instead of someone important to the sender. Not signing your business holiday cards can make your customers feel less important too.
Close with a Call to Action. One idea to help generate some interaction, is to include an offer to meet for coffee (or something similar) in the new year. This keeps communication lines open, expresses your interest (if a job seeker), and creates something for both you and recipient to look forward to in January.
*NOTE: This tip is NOT required. It’s simply an option you can use to further the relationship if you feel comfortable doing so.
I hope these tips will help you improve the relationships you have in your personal life and in your job. If sent with sincere appreciation, a holiday card can have a positive impact. As you know, appreciation goes a long way in building long-lasting relationships.
Season’s Greetings Everyone!
I am so appreciative of you and your reading and following of my blog posts!
Have you ever sent holiday cards to people outside of your friends and family? What was the purpose… was it to thank them for their assistance or show that they are a valued client? Let me know what you think or if you have additional tips to share.