Looking out the window on a fall day, it’s clear the season is changing. Soon the goblin and ghoul decor will be replaced by evergreens and red-nosed reindeer, and pumpkin spice lattes will be traded for peppermint mochas. Love it or hate it, the holiday season is fast approaching.
As every good marketer knows, spreading holiday cheer is not just good manners; it’s an invaluable opportunity to reach out to existing and potential clients. However, keep in mind that firms receive hundreds of cards and gifts during the season. If a firm’s goal of holiday giving is to show gratitude and to ensure that it stay top of mind, its current efforts may be failing.
Think, for a moment, about the life cycle of a holiday card. Many hours are spent creating a card with a perfect snowcapped mountain, a beautiful sentimental greeting and perhaps a puppy. Next, it’s sent to the printer, and to avoid writer’s cramp, signatures are printed on the card.
Then it’s in the hands of the postal service. The card arrives in a client’s office among a stack of 20 other green and red envelopes. The card is quickly removed, scotch tape is slapped on the back and it makes its way to the “wall of cards” in the front lobby never to be read again.
You may be thinking e-cards are the best alternative to avoid this fate, but you have a different obstacle: the in-box. E-cards are becoming so popular that many professionals barely have time to open them all. Humor, animation and sound seem to be the features that set one card apart from the next. Critics say e-cards can be impersonal; however, entertaining and engaging ones can avoid this pitfall.
Gifts can present many of the same obstacles. A gift basket, for example, can be received much like a card: the cellophane is removed, the card is added to the wall and the basket is placed in the break room for all to enjoy. The anonymous food donation was much appreciated.
Here are some tips to help you make a good impression this year:
1. If sending a traditional holiday card, sign the card personally. If you can’t make time to quickly sign a card, what message are you sending the client?
2. Send the card directly to your contact. Yes, you may have to send more than one card to a firm, but a personal card means so much more and it’s important for it to land in the right hands.
3. Choose another holiday to reach out to clients. Fewer people are vying for your client’s attention at other times, so a gift will stand out – no matter what it is. For example, host a Thanksgiving-style luncheon for clients and be sure to tell them why you’re thankful for their business.
4. Be creative. Try sending a video message instead of an e-card. Consider sending a cookie card instead of a paper card. When it comes to your top clients, start thinking bigger. You could send carolers to your client’s lobby for a few minutes of holiday cheer. Or go really big: Send a Santa flash mob to your client’s building. You will not only grab their attention, but also become a YouTube sensation.
5. Research to learn which gifts are already being given this year. A quick Internet search will tell you that nearly half of companies give out calendars during the holidays.
Know your client
1. If your client is an environmental firm, a paper card is a big no-no and a gift with a lot of packaging is out of the question. The worst thing you could do is send a gift that contradicts a company’s mission. The client will remember you, but for all the wrong reasons.
2. Does your client have a charitable foundation? Would a donation in lieu of a gift mean more to the firm than a material item?
3. Can your client accept gifts? The public sector can be tricky. Become familiar with state ethics guidelines (ORS Chapter 244) before purchasing gifts for government clients.
Making a lasting impression is important for both big firms and small ones. This is the one time of the year it’s socially acceptable to contact a potential client unsolicited. Make the most of this opportunity: plan ahead, research trends and be creative.
Penny Williams is a marketing coordinator for Harper Houf Peterson Righellis Inc. Contact her at 503-221-1131 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.