This seems like a common debate that comes up every year for professional service providers such as attorneys, CPAs, and those in the financial services industry. It always begins this week – and people usually fall into one of four categories:
1. Sending cards because they do every year
2. Sent cards in the past, but are on the fence this year and thinking about not sending at all or scaling back
3. Have made up their mind against sending cards
4. Are freaking out because they intend to send cards, haven’t done anything yet, and just received their first card from a colleague
The argument for sending holiday cards
Depending on your outlook, not sending cards might be a non-option. Perhaps it is part of your larger marketing strategy and your clients have come to rely on receiving a card from you every year. It certainly can be a good front-of-mind tactic and if need clients to true-up on year end bills, it can help remind them that you still exist and that they owe you fees. It can also help remind dormant clients that you still exist and would love to have them back. This is the main, over-arcing benefit to sending cards – exposure. Whether you have the time to personalize or specialize what you send certain types of contacts, the main goal here is exposure and client bonding, correct? So how do you go about that?
The different strategies
Cast a wide net – There is a strategy that says it is good to send as many cards as you can – the value being in name recognition. Keep the costs down, automate as much of the process as you can, and start early.
Cast a narrow net and personalize – If you narrow your mailing list, you might be able to have a more personalized impact without spending a lot of time. You should always be thinking about who your most valuable contacts and referral sources are, this is a chance to let them know that you keep them in mind. Try peppering in some folks who you know have the opportunity to send business your way or are decision makers at their companies.
Only send response cards – The least time-intensive card sending strategy has you only sending cards to individuals who you always get cards from and keeping a few extra around for any new cards that come your way. This way you can make the cards hyper-specialized and personal. The drawback to this strategy is that you may get stuck in a longterm cycle of card sending long after a business relationship or opportunity has passed.
Be unique – Developing a different approach in either format or timing can help you stand out from the crowd and get the most bang-for-your- buck. Try sending out a different format such as a pop-up or three dimensional mailing. You may also want to send our Thanksgiving or New Year’s cards to help stand out from the crowd.
Sign your cards – This can be a point of contention among people who send holiday cards. The decision to sign is often largely based on time constraints, but if you are going to send a card, you will get the most bang-for-your-buck if you sign them. Personalized messages can get daunting, so keep it short and sweet.
The argument against
Perhaps you have sent cards every year and are worried that if you don’t this year your clients will notice. The good news is that this probably isn’t the case. Given the current state of the economy, the last thing you want to seem to your clients is non-frugal. After all, here you are working hard for them, charging them fees and making sure that they pay on time. Everyone is trying to trim process and expense in order save money right now, your clients included. Sometimes, if a client receives an expensive-seeming holiday card, it can seem like expense may not be a concern for you. Further than that, the effectiveness can be argued either way – cards are often lost in a heap of auto-mailed cards that offices receive. Depending on your audience, sending holiday cards can seem expensive, excessive, and wasteful. The thing you should be careful of, is how the practice is perceived within your industry and client base.
There are alternatives
If you are considering personalized low-cost alternatives to the traditional card, the good news is that there are plenty. You can have an e-card designed relatively inexpensively and it costs nothing to mail except for the time involved in proofing the card and maintaining mailing lists. Sometimes, well-thought out and designed e-cards can even get traction outside of the recipients. There are several law firms that send humorous or well-designed e-cards every year and get them noticed nationally. Another option is to hand-pick a select group of your very best clients and hand write them notes on stationary that you already have. You can also invite clients to a holiday reception that you might already be having anyway. Another option along the same line is to lump drinks or dinner into an already pre-standing meeting as a way to show your appreciation.
What is the right strategy?
Ultimately that is for you to decide depending on how much time you have and what your industry standards either are or aren’t (if you want to follow or stick out). The important thing is to remember not to go over the top and get bogged down. Pick a strategy, plan for the timing and effort involved, and execute. Do whatever works for you and do it efficiently. Even with the craziness of the holiday season, you still need to focus on your practice and business development – so don’t spend 90% of your time sending holiday cards.
Interested in getting in touch with me and discussing your small business marketing strategy? Feel free to contact me via the form on my site or call me directly at 1-800-516-0320.