Client Christmas cards – how to get it right

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The holidays are a time of comfort and joy—not a time to unleash your inner cynic. The fact remains, however, that nearly everyone on your corporate holiday mailing list knows your gift, card or e-greeting is really an end-of-the-year marketing pitch. A soft sell to be sure, but a marketing pitch nonetheless.

That doesn’t give you full reign to impersonate Ebeneezer Scrooge, however. According to etiquette expert Thomas P Farley—known colloquially as “Mister Manners”—holiday business greetings are a rewarding exercise and a great way to improve client relations, provided you get it right.

“This is an opportunity to get back on the radar with your clients in a meaningful way,” Farley said. “If it’s not meaningful, you’re better off not doing anything at all.”

With that in mind, here are five timely tips for wishing your clients a happy holiday season.

If possible, send a personalized, handwritten card.

Operating on a tight budget may prevent you from sending mass-mailed holiday cards to all your clients, but if you can afford the extra effort, it’s worth it.

“An e-greeting can be annoying because they’re often difficult to open and they may not make it to the individual,” said Dianne Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of the Protocol School of Texas. “Handwritten cards breed goodwill.”

Farley agrees, adding that generic e-greetings often “get deleted the moment they’re sent.”

Instead, Farley recommends putting pen to paper and using the opportunity to make a comment specific to the individual, perhaps drawing on a business lunch or meeting the two of you attended.

Choose a tasteful, appropriate design.

As head of custom design at California-based Tiny Prints, Heidi Reichert has seen a lot of corporate holiday cards over the years. The best, she said, always “reflect the professionalism” of the company.

“We’ve seen really silly photos or things that might be construed as offensive—maybe it’s a photo of the employees doing shots or something like that,” Reichert said. “It might seem funny at the time, but you never know what your audience might think when they get it.”

Instead, Reichert recommends using photos that are appropriate and professional, along with designs that stand out from the ubiquitous red-and-green that don most holiday greetings. Lime greens and blues are especially popular this season.

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