’Tis the Season to Be Marketing

By: Sharon Berman,

Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators

With the approach of the holiday season, we turn our thoughts toward family, friends … and clients. This time of year presents a unique opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with clients and referral sources. Although you may not think of your holiday cards, gifts and get-togethers as a form of marketing, they are just that. So if you choose to use these marketing tools, approach them strategically. No company has ever lost business as a result of not sending a holiday card or gift, but many have managed to offend people by sending an item that was politically incorrect or just plain thoughtless. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to maximize your ROI from this year’s holiday marketing.

Holiday cards must strike a proper balance between promotional and holiday messages. Even if you send holiday cards that have no promotional content, they help build – or harm– relationships. First of all, as relationship-building tools, holiday cards should be as personal as possible. As we tend to be extra busy and stressed at this time of year, it’s tempting to send out cards in bulk with the preprinted company name – Happy Holidays from XYZ Corporation. Don’t do it! Such a card sends the message that no one is thinking about the recipient as a person, so it’s better to send no card at all. In other words, why spend money on postage just to tell your clients and referral sources that you do not care enough to include even a hand signature? Sending out an e-greeting as a holiday card, belongs in the same category of thoughtlessness.

Whether you view it as a marketing tool or not, the message any holiday card conveys is that you are thinking – or not thinking – of the recipient. At the very least have someone hand-sign the cards, even if it is an assistant signing your name. Having any personal signature is better than a preprinted one. At least it tells the recipient that someone was thoughtful enough to take the time to sign. If you cannot commit to a hand-signed card, don’t send any card at all. One step above a signed card is one on which you handwrite the recipient’s name above the printed message and follow it with a hand signature.

The ideal holiday card should contain a handwritten note that demonstrates a personal interest in the client. Whether it’s to congratulate the recipient on having made the latest ranking list, or to inquire about his or her tennis game or a child’s soccer practice, such a note shows you are thinking of the client as an individual. Of course, in today’s busy world, this has to be limited to a select group.

Most companies are sensitive to political correctness in the cards and gifts they send, but there are still exceptions. A few years ago, one company sent everyone a wreath, regardless of faith. Some clients were a bit surprised, to put it mildly. Even a bottle of wine may not be an appropriate gift for everyone since many people do not drink alcohol. The ideal solution is to select a unique gift for each client that demonstrates that you know him or her personally. If personalized gifts are not feasible, carefully consider whether what you are sending is politically correct and appropriate for everyone on your list. Select a neutral, balanced gift, such as a CD of music everyone can enjoy, a highend tote bag, or the like.

A practical alternative to gifts is to state in your holiday card that the company has made donations to certain charitable organizations on the recipient’s behalf. Some companies allow the recipient to choose from a list of non-profit organizations.

Again, carefully select the charities so no one feels left out or offended.

Approached strategically, holiday parties make excellent networking events. Even when they are designed as purely social gatherings, have some business cards along and keep your eyes open for opportunities. Obtain a list of attendees, if available in advance, and refresh your memory on key people with whom you would like to speak. Also remember to arrive a little early so you have the opportunity to approach your targeted clients or referral sources before they have been seated or are in conversation with other guests.

For many companies, business tends to becomes sluggish during the holiday season. Why not use that time to reconnect with clients and referral sources? In addition to cards, gifts and gatherings, phone calls are an effective tactic. The holidays give you an excuse to call and say, “I just wanted to wish you a happy New Year” without feeling awkward or coming across as trying to solicit business.

This year, don’t view the holidays as a toobusy, if not crazed, time when you feel compelled to send out cards or gifts just because everyone else is doing so. Rather, take advantage of the season’s unique opportunities to market your company. Get a head start now by strategizing to make the best of every opportunity this time of year has to offer.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.

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