In this digital age, it may feel strange to find yourself each December sitting amid a stack of holiday cards, envelopes, and mailing labels. But you’re not alone.
“A lot of people still send cards, contrary to popular belief,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of EtiquetteExpert.com. “Particularly in business, it’s one time during the year that you can put your face in front of people you haven’t contacted in 12 months. It’s all about visibility.”
The problem is holiday cards are often done poorly. Whitmore describes the genre as “preprinted, presigned, with a postage meter stamp on front. It says you put absolutely no time or effort into sending this card.” That hardly makes people feel festive.
Here’s how to make this item on your December to-do list inspire warm feelings instead:
“People still like to put cards out,” notes Barbara Pachter, author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette. When selecting cards, be on the lookout for lovely artwork, or perhaps some shimmer.
As for the photo cards you send to your friends and family? That’s an option for business contacts too, but be mindful of the message. “You have to think about the brand, the image you’re projecting,” Pachter says. “If you’re in a wellness line of work, a photo of you on the ski lift might be great, or it might make your clients think ‘When we need her, she’ll be skiing,'” she says. Tread carefully.
“If you’re going to mail a card, you have to include a personal note,” says Pachter. First, write the recipient’s name–you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. Write a line or two thanking the person for doing business with you. “It doesn’t have to be a book,” she says. “In fact, people don’t want it to be a book.” But it needs to be something. Otherwise, why bother spending the postage?
A festive, envelope-matching stamp is more personal than using a postage meter. You might also hand address the cards. “These things take time, but if you’re doing it for business, people may notice these things,” Pachter says.
Let’s face it–people get a lot of cards. “If you can find a way to make your card stand out, to make the card unique, that tends to impress people versus a generic card,” says Whitmore.
Enclosing a $5 Starbucks gift card–as long as various vendor agreements don’t prohibit you from giving gifts–is one option. Even if the person doesn’t drink coffee, these are basically a currency around the holidays, and can be used as Secret Santa gifts or stocking stuffers. “It’s a little gesture, but it’s something unique people will remember,” she says.
Something more whimsical–like a custom-made crossword puzzle or stickers–work if you’re in a creative field. In any case, it will keep your card from being tossed immediately into the recycling bin.
Most preprinted cards stem from laziness, but a few owe their existence to the sender’s atrocious handwriting. Pachter once received a note in which she noted: “The handwriting was so poor that if it was a thank you note for a job interview, I wouldn’t have hired him.”
If your personal brand involves elegance, then you don’t want people to think sloppy. Print the words instead of using cursive, or type and include a personal note in each card, or go ahead and send a personal, appreciative email to everyone on your list. People won’t print and display emails, but they will feel warm and fuzzy reading them, and that’s worth something on its own.