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Earlier this week, I received that most elusive of snail-mail through my letterbox – a non-bill or yet another piece of junk mail inviting me to grab that #BlackFriday. Yet another reason to buy something that, 97% of the time, isn’t quite the bargain it seems.

The elusive piece of mail in question was an actual, hand-written Christmas card

A Disappearing Practice?

This was a practice I thought was disappearing, along with saying “thank you for your business” or political parties living up to their election manifestos (steady on Keith!) but I’m very happy to report there seems to be a bit of a resurgence this year.

Apart from my delight at receiving a Christmas card from a good friend, the moment itself got me to thinking about how fellow business owners still feel about the giving and receiving of physical Christmas cards. Could it be that 1 of the effects of this global pandemic is making us care a bit more for our fellow human relationships?

From a purely business standpoint, I wondered if there is a way of measuring Return on Investment into the sending of such cards or whether we should content ourselves that the “soft” returns of yin and yang should be benefit enough – simply knowing we’d sent out some goodness into the universe and not expected anything in return.

The Power of LinkedIn Surveys

So, I conducted my very own survey via LinkedIn and invited people to outline what they’re doing this year. A broad range of business people responded (thank you all) across all age ranges, ethnicities and backgrounds so I think there’s a relevant dataset to be working with.

Mani Hayre said: “When I lived and worked in Scunthorpe I would send hand-written Christmas cards. This moved to printed company ones with generic messages and now it’s probably just a social media post. ”

Thanks Mani, it’s a sign of the times and, possibly, a sign of Mani’s huge popularity with her clients and online “tribe.”

“I am all about sincere human connection,” said Lucy Barkas of Whatwhenwhyhow (couldn’t agree more Lucy!)

There are also – thanks to COVID-19 – some new trends that weren’t even on the radar 2-years ago: video or voice messages – via LinkedIn or Loom etc.

Graeme Brodie said: “I’m recording a number of video messages which will be emailed. Think it’s much more personal and a bit different. Complete with Xmas jumper!”

(Thanks for my Christmas video message complete with your Xmas jumper Graeme!)

Wendy Harris responded too: “It will be a mix for me this year Keith. A personal voice message to some and a handwritten card to others. But of course, I will be spreading the Christmas spirit with everyone!”

Wendy Jones, who runs an Ethical cleaning company in the Northwest of England leaves a card and a gift for her customers at Christmas as a thank you (good move Wendy!)

Pete Morgan says: Handwritten cards for many, with something a little extra for my regular podcasting clients. I could give you some reasoning based around reaffirming the brand in the customer’s – or potential customer’s – mind but, in reality, it’s because I love Christmas!

Ask Yourself – Why Are You Doing This?

Are you sending Christmas cards or messages simply to ingratiate yourself with the recipient and do you really, actually care about them? What are you hoping will happen as a result of the other person receiving it?

This year, the year of the global pandemic, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Katie Hale agrees: Hand written cards for me – I encourage my clients to send cards too as it’s such a nice way to remind your clients you care!

An Opportunity to Differentiate…

Nicola Corfield: The more we move into digital and virtual the more I think it’s nice to send a hand written card. Receiving a card in the post has become something of a novelty. That said this year the challenge is getting posted cards to people as many of my clients are working from home. With that in mind we have gone digital this year. I might be able to post Easter cards to offices next year!

On Brand Reinforcement:

Julie Brooke-Cavendish of Bespoke Pet Care Services says: “I send personal cards to that person using pictures of their pets (her real clients!). This is only the first year doing so I don’t know how it’s going to work. Hopefully it will be a success. Fingers crossed!

That’s a fantastic way of saying thank you whilst reinforcing your brand Julie – very creative!

Anita Ellis: Handwritten cards for me! I love putting pen to paper, especially at Christmas. And i think it’s so nice to receive something via the paper post in these digital days!

Jamil Shabir: Might have to be electronic…usually id go out and visit our clients and handout Christmas cards and a few goodies. This year will be a little different.

Joanne Gore: In the past, I have sent both digital and printed cards for the holidays Keith. This year I’m aiming to send EVERYONE a printed card! Because we cherish and remember what we touch so much more than what we only see.

Marianne Smith: A card and a gift to say thank you is still my plan as I think it’s a nice gesture to say thank you.

A Chance to Innovate

Eilidh Carricker: I am taking myself out my comfort zone and doing a vlog

And That Old favourite: GDPR

Lucy Lomas; It’s a tricky one this year Keith Many folk are overwhelmed by email and digital stuff. An email message and a voucher gift are easier to do but have less real impact. But sending something real probably involves getting people’s home addresses, which could create a GDPR issue.

Getting Lost in the Melee

I have a friend in the US that doesn’t send Christmas cards at all, specifically because they’ll get lost in the melee of everyone else’s cards and messages and she wants her message to stand out (smart too!). Instead, they send Labor day (U.S. spelling) cards; there are less of them are sent, so it’s more likely the card will stand out on the recipient’s desk.

Whatever works for you, I guess!

In Conclusion

Whilst this is a relatively small data-set, it might be a generational or cultural thing but us “experienced” types – especially women – still seem to prefer sending physical Christmas cards with hand-written messages, whilst younger professionals prefer sending electronic messages.

Electronic messages are also more sustainable and this might give some insight into younger mindsets and their priorities. This is something we can all learn from.

Whatever you plan to send this Christmas – whether physical cards or electronic messages:

  1. Is Something better than nothing at all? (this year, I believe it probably is)

  2. Personalise your message if possible (not easy if you have a big database) – you may need to prioritise: P1 (VIP) contacts should receive personalised messages, P2 contacts get your standard messages

  3. Is there a way to say “thank you” whilst gently reinforcing your brand?

  4. Consider sending electronic messages instead, on the grounds of sustainability. Especially if sustainability is important to the person you’re sending the message to.

  5. Above all else, do it sincerely and authentically

Me? I’ll be sending a mix of physical Christmas cards to family. Thereafter, I’m going to take the time to send personalised electronic messages (Text/WhatsApp/WeChat) to key contacts and I’ll also reach out to our total client database of about 2,000 contacts around the world whom I’d like to remember at this time.

Clearly, there won’t be time to create individual messages for everyone but I hope that receiving a message will make just a few of them smile, knowing they’re in my thoughts.

Remember: Not Everyone Is In A Good Place This Christmas

Christmas affords us all the opportunity to remember others and share just a little bit of joy at this special time of year. Not everyone will be in a good place this Christmas. If you can raise the spirits of just 1 person at this time of year by sending them a positive message that says “I value you”, then that, for me, is worth it.

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