by Melissa Klein

Every holiday season, hordes of companies send out holiday greeting cards in an effort to stay in front of clients or prospective clients.

It’s a timeless marketing technique that can be highly effective with a little effort. It can also be a huge waste of time and money.

The holidays might be one of the few times of year when snail mail scores points over any other communication medium. While you may find yourself the recipient of an occasional e-card, paper cards still reign. After all, who doesn’t love to get a card in the mail, even if it’s from the dentist? And it’s nice to get something to break up the usual year-end stack of bills.

So, what determines whether a card carries out its mission of telling a client that you’re thinking of them while simultaneously wishing the recipient a wonderful holiday season -- or just gets tossed in the trash?

Well, for starters, it’s helpful if you send the card to someone you’ve at least spoken with, if not actually met. I am baffled by the number of cards that come through our offices this time of year from people and companies completely unknown to us. What’s the point? Do the senders think that sending a random holiday card to a person whose name they got off a mailing list is going to magically cement a non-existent relationship?

On the other hand, like any effective marketing technique, a holiday card can keep you “top of mind” with clients. I received one card from a contact whom I’ve only interviewed twice, over the phone, and have never met. It’s a picture of him, decked out in a Santa hat, in front of a Christmas tree. It is definitely not the type of thing a lot of people could pull off, but it had its intended effect -- I won’t forget his face, and here I am making mention of it to all of you. And the next time I’m writing on a topic that he’s knowledgeable about, I’ll probably give him a call.
And while this may not be practical for companies that send out thousands of cards to clients, cards with a handwritten note, even if brief, or a signature, are far more likely to send the message that you appreciate a client’s business than a card that bears nothing but the printed message slapped on by the card company. Again, it begs the question, why bother?

Some professionals send out an annual holiday letter that lets clients know what they’ve been up to during the year. Even though it’s typically a form letter, such greetings usually contain personal information and show some effort on the part of the author.

If you haven’t already, there’s still time left before the year ends to remind your clients that you’re happy to have them as clients.

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