Isn't It Ironic?

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that none, as in zero, of the people to whom I sent a holiday card this year, mistakenly assumed that theirs was the only one I mailed. Not the friends and family who received the “family” card; not the clients and colleagues who received the “company” card. Everyone knows that these are sent in bulk.

Personalized? Yes. Personal? Not really.

And yet, as both recipient and sender of these mass-produced objects, I think they represent an opportunity to make a connection. Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to move the needle a little bit and remind one another that we’re on each other’s respective lists.

Two of the cards I received this year, however, crossed a line which I believe was a mistake – the senders included their business cards.

The reason I think it’s a mistake is because it takes what would otherwise be a friendly, “thinking of you,” relationship-building opportunity and turns it into a come-on for business.

There’s nothing wrong with marketing or selling or business cards. But when you include all that in a holiday card, you break the spell of the moment – even if that spell is just an illusion we all agree to. You remind me that I’m only on your list because I’m a prospect. And besides, I don’t think it buys you anything anyway (I just received your envelope and card, do you think my seeing your business card adds anything?).

So, how about you? What do you think is the best way to send holiday cards and/or are the biggest mistakes to avoid? I’ll try to remember what you advise by next December!

Photo courtesy of Mykl Roventine, used under a Creative Commons license.

10 thoughts on “Isn't It Ironic?

  1. Ross Lasley

    This is a tough one – I agree with the business orientation, and the depersonalization points but as a serious geek I have a problem I overcome with my cards: my handwriting is seriously illegible. I started including my card with all handwritten notes because I genuinely had a few where folks did not know who it was from.

    Biggest Holiday card mistake I saw this year: Merry Christmas card with a postmark of 12/28.

    Best card this year: a box of chocolates.

  2. Mark Brownlow

    I also see any holiday card as a plus, however small. But I do appreciate some show of effort on behalf of the sender. Like my name actually appearing on the card is a plus, as is a real name as the sender (not just the company).

    And a handwritten note is lovely, even if it’s just one line showing that they actually care who gets and sees it and know who they’re sending it too. I understand that this kind of personal attention isn’t always possible when you have a big list. But it really helps the card stand out from the preprinted stuff most companies send.

  3. Alan Siegel

    I have to really give some thought to your blog topic. I send out cards to about 400 clients and some prospective clients each year. I handwrite “Blessings…………….. Alan Siegel” on each card. I also put in a calendar for the New Year and I put in my card. My intent is not that I am trying to get them to call for new business. I look at it as a convenience so they always have my card and number if they need to reach me for any reason. I would like to think I am very service oriented. But maybe my intent is not what people are perceiving.

  4. Jane Sherwin

    I agree with Mark and Alan about the handwritten note. Because I don’t have hundreds of clients, I put together a short handwritten message specific to them. I do not send cards to prospects, at least not yet. It seems presumptuous. And I agree that including a business card is tacky, tacky. The value of the card is the personal connection, sustaining the relationship.

  5. Michael Katz Post author

    Ross, Mark, Alan and Jane – I should point out right off that in responding to your comments, and along the lines of personalization, I wondered if I should respond to each of your comments individually or as a group! (I hope you don’t mind that I went with “group.”)

    And all really interesting points. I really see this one as right at the line. Alan and Ross make excellent points about their intentions, neither of which is a sales pitch.

    For me, it’s about trying to strike the best balance between automation and personalization. I send a generic email newsletter to thousands (easy, but unpersonalized), paper cards via an automated snail mail service on both an individual and small group basis (little more labor intensive, but a lot more personal) and handwritten notes through snail mail as well (very labor intensive, very personal).

    My big insight in the last couple of months has been how effective snail mail has become (again). With practically nothing of value arriving that way anymore, it’s wide open for building relationships. Back to the Future!

  6. April Force Pardoe

    I agree, no business cards in a holiday card. It’s a personal connection, not a business transaction (even though they are a client). If the card is attractive (I’m a designer, so mine has to be) they will show it off and want to display it. No card needed.

    This year I sent cards and gifts at Thanksgiving instead of in December.

    This was good for several reasons. 1. It was different, 2. It arrived before all of the many Dec. cards, 3. I didn’t have to wonder what everyone celebrates and finally, the message of “thanks” works great – I’m thankful for their business. Then I could focus on family-oriented holiday things in Dec.

    I also send personal, hand-written notes out every month to various clients. Sometimes just to say “I enjoy working with you” or to say “thanks for your business.” I believe it stands out and I know it makes a good impression because they’ve told me so. I don’t include biz cards with those either.

  7. Michael Katz Post author

    Great idea on the Thanksgiving cards April. I send client gifts the first week in January, also to be different. My theory on that is the week after the holidays is a tough one and getting a gift then means a lot more (like finding that overlooked present under the Christmas tree a day later)!

  8. Biz Corrow

    I send personal hand written notes throughout the year. The envelope is hand addressed and I affix a real stamp. In these notes I send something I think is of interest to the client. Not a sales pitch. Maybe their child has done something noteworthy and has been featured in the newspaper. Perhaps it is an article regarding something about their industry or profession, or them. I do include a business card in these.
    Holiday cards I do not include a business card. My belief is a holiday card should be sent as a sincere wish for a happy holiday and happy and prosperous new year. I may say in my personal hand written message “Thanks for you for your patronage.” but that’s the closest I will come to making it a business message.
    I have a colleague who sends out a card at Thanksgiving. In it she includes a brief list of the things she is thankful for and what she and her family have been up to. College graduation, birth of a child, grandchild, trip to Timbuktu or whatever has happened. She does not include a business card. She gives a snap shot of her year in review and a personal insight as to who she is. Each year I get to know her a little better. In this way she builds trust. Trust is what I want, and I believe that is the way to grow your business.
    Michael Katz does this very effectively in his Blue Penguin e-mail newsletters. If you don’t receive them you should. Michael will teach you in every mailing how to make people want to read your Newsletter and trust you. No, I have not mastered it, but each week I get closer.
    So Penguin followers I suggest you do not include business cards in your holiday greetings. That’s just me. You do as you see fit.
    Biz Corrow

  9. Dorothy Smith

    At least it’s not as bad as a Santa Claus handing out his business card to the kids with whom he visited! Yes…this really happened this year. My son approached me with Santa’s business card. Wow.


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