As a small business owner, if you are planning to send a generic, pre-printed holiday card with your business name imprinted on the inside, don’t bother. So many business owners have gone about this ritual each year with as much gusto as getting the oil changed in their car. If this is you, you should consider donating the money you spend on canned, impersonal holiday cards to charity. However, if you want to use your holiday card to build your brand and help grow your small business, all you need is some creativity and a little bit of time. Whether you’re an insurance agent, web designer, dry cleaner, restaurant owner, personal trainer, financial advisor, attorney, doctor, etc., these marketing tactics will work for you. If you are in a non-creative business, this type of response will be unexpected, and get your client base talking about you even more.
By physically mailing an emotional sentiment that is NOT a sales message to your database of clients, you are making a non-intrusive, emotional connection. The impact: people get excited enough to brag about you, everyone is buzzing about your business at holiday parties, and you reinforce the power and charm of your brand.
Here are five key tips to creating a more engaging holiday card to create love for your brand during this emotional time of year.
1. Use relevant and creative photography.
Rather than presenting a generic image of a random holiday scene, work with a local professional photographer to create excitement with interesting, creative and relevant photography. I am a fan of creating emotionally charged images of your family to share on your holiday card because it gives your clients a personal connection with you.
2. Make it interactive.
The more you engage your clients, prospects, friends and family, the more they develop a connection with you. Years ago, magazine subscription marketers learned that their response increased when potential subscribers peeled off the “yes” sticker and placed it on a different part of the letter. By getting potential subscribers to interact with the direct mail piece, response rates increased.
Give your community something to do with your card other than look at it. If it can spin, twist, talk, jump or sing, all the better. You want your card to be the most impressive on the mantle when holiday party guests arrive at your clients’ homes or offices. If you have more time than money, take time to embellish your card on your own. Die cuts, pop-ups and hand-assembled handy-work will always make your card a star.
3. Pour on the emotion.
If your words don’t elicit a feeling or emotion, you might want to find other words. “Happy Holidays” just isn’t enough to bring people to tears. The mood is already set for you this time of the year. When your card is opened, the fireplace is cranking out heat, there is warm-fuzzy music playing and kids are running around freshly bathed in footed jammies. The words included in your card with gorgeous photography must evoke a feeling of love, warmth or gratitude so you can tap into the heartstrings of every viewer. If you aren’t a creative wordsmith, hire a professional copywriter, trade with a friend who is a strong writer or solicit quotes from some of your favorite clients.
4. Make the effort to write a hand-written, personal note.
If you can create a mind-blowing creative holiday card AND write a personal note in each one, WHOA. There isn’t much that can top that in the race for thoughtfulness and sincerity. Think about it. What does that say about your company and your brand if you take the time to think about each client long enough to jot down a personal greeting? If your note recognizes an affinity such as “I enjoyed seeing you at the soccer field” then you will make your clients feel guilty even thinking about going elsewhere. If you can’t physically write to every client, use the 80-20 rule and start with your most valuable clients. Like many people I know, I save and covet the cards I receive that include a handwritten note and photo and I toss out the rest.
5. Have a JOY factor.
When you go above and beyond what is expected with your holiday card, the feeling you create with your clients, prospects, friends and family transfers to your brand. You may have heard of the ‘halo effect’ and that’s exactly what happens when you send a heartfelt, creative holiday card. People believe that if you give this much attention to detail and love to your holiday card, you must be delivering this extreme level of expertise in your business.
And a little unexpected bonus comes along with being known as “the business with the most creative holiday card,” too. In my own business, it has become a bit of a reward to receive the mailings we pour our heart and soul into. I have been scolded more than once for removing people from my mailing list. Now that’s a kind brand loyalty I can live with!
Sarah Petty eats, sleeps and breathes small business marketing. She started her career in marketing at Coca-Cola Enterprises, earned a University of Illinois MBA and ran the marketing department for a top local advertising agency for years. Only five years after opening a boutique photography studio, she was named by The Professional Photographers of America as having one of the most successful studios in the country. She is also founder of The Joy of Marketing, where she is dedicated to teaching other small business owners how to grow their businesses with amazing marketing strategies. Check out her small business marketing ideas at http://www.thejoyofmarketing.com/.