If you are sending holiday cards to clients, colleagues and referral sources this year, what is your purpose for doing so? I posed this question to a client of mine recently when he advised that he would be sending approximately 1000 pre-printed holiday cards and wanted to know how to get more out of this yearly tradition. He responded that he was sending the holiday cards because he wanted to receive referrals.

Should holiday cards generate business?

As I explained to my client, while the ultimate goal of marketing is to receive referrals or repeat business, that goal is not either appropriate or realistic for every individual endeavor. Sending holiday cards is a nice way to stay in touch with clients, potential clients and others during this festive season, and may serve the remind those with whom you are not regularly in contact of your continued existence, but the idea that sending holiday cards will generate referrals on their own is highly unlikely. This goes double for pre-printed, auto-addressed, remotely mailed holiday cards.

What impression does your holiday card leave with clients?

Holiday cards are about extending good wishes during a season of celebration. Sending a pre-printed and automatically addressed card can leave a poor impression; it can seem as if you are twisting this holiday tradition of spreading goodwill and making it all about getting business and making money (as if the holidays haven’t become commercial enough). Indeed, it turns holiday greetings into something that is about you, rather than about your clients.

Make clients feel special during the holidays

Marketing and business development are about relationships. People want to send you business when they perceive not only that you are good at what you do, but also that you genuinely care about them or their business. You get business when you feel that you are being treated as an individual, rather than just another file (or just another paycheck).

When a pre-printed, automated-addressed holiday card arrives in the mail, do you feel special? Do you feel that you are receiving individual attention, or do you simply feel part of a mass-mailing (which, in fact, you are)? How do you think clients and potential clients feel when receiving these kinds of cards?

If your purpose is to remain top of mind with clients and others who receive regular communication from you throughout the year, a pre-printed holiday card might be perfectly fine if it is individually signed and accompanied by a short personalized note. This shows you have taken the time and attention to consider each client as an individual.

If you truly want to stand out from the crowd, consider something entirely different for your holiday greeting. Perhaps you could offer to donate to a client’s favorite charity in honor of the holiday or send an inexpensive personalized gift. You do not need to spend a lot of money, but you should remember that holidays are not the time to put the focus on you and asking for business. Rather, they are a time to thank others for their business and give them reason to feel joy in the season.

(Photo credit: http://flic.kr/p/7my6au)