Posted on December 7, 2015, at 6:40 p.m.
by Luke Thomas.
As string lights begin to appear on balconies and Mariah Carey’s familiar carol blasts from every storefront entrance, there are a few things you can always expect to appear in your mailbox: colorful ads on flimsy paper announcing the deals-you-can’t-miss this Black Friday, an emotional Salvation Army donation request and an article about the latest company signing a pact with the Holiday Devil (ahem, Starbucks). But there’s one type of festive correspondence that we’re seeing less and less of — the Christmas card.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or none of the above, sending a holiday greeting card is a wise and often overlooked PR move that can benefit you both personally and professionally. For business owners, it’s a smart way to strengthen sales. Personally, it lets people know that they’re on your mind. Greeting cards are a great opportunity to network and have a grander impact than an e-card with dancing elves.
Break out the ink
A pre-printed greeting card is better than no card, but the ones that include handwritten messages are the most powerful of all. Sure, it may be easier to type up a note, paste in everyone’s email address and hit send, but that’s why handwriting is so much more effective. It shows that the recipient is worth your time — your time to buy the stationary and stamps, and go to the mailbox; to craft each word with your own hand, without an undo button or spell check. It’s also a way to stand out from the crowd, and who doesn’t want to do that? According to a 2010 U.S. Postal Service survey, the average household received a personal letter only once every seven weeks. Compare that to 1987, when the average was two personal notes per week, and you’ll quickly see how making use of a fading art can make a lasting impression.
Rain or shine, you’re on my mind
Between family functions, the office holiday party and buying gifts on both your and Santa’s behalves, free time can be stretched pretty thin during the holidays. Instead of lamenting the time it takes to write a card, think of it as another edge on the competition. Christmas time is a busy time for everyone, so by going the extra mile and sending your friends, family or professional posse some season’s greetings, you show that they’re on your mind even during what can be the most stressful time of the year. Along with handwriting, the timing ups your credibility and sends an unwritten message. In a world full of e-cards and auto-delivered memos, a real-life card in the mail won’t be taken as a winter cliché, but just the opposite.
People like to know that you care about more than their money, which makes holiday cards a great way to add a personal touch to your relationship with customers. On that note, if you take the time to write out a card, make sure the message itself is something personal. Reference something said at a meeting, a lunch or about the new house they told you they were buying. This can open the door for a conversation, which in matters of business can mean the opportunity for a sale.
Networking expert Susan Dench touched on the value of old-fashioned communication in an article for American Express’ Open Forum.
“Because handwritten notes are so much more personal, not to mention more rare, they’re very much appreciated,” Dench said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be heartfelt. People don’t necessarily remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.”
Ready, set, mail!
This holiday season, while you sip your cocoa and steal the gumdrops off the gingerbread house, consider taking a moment to write your own greeting cards. Start with just one or two a day, and it won’t seem like a monumental task. Try it out, and you’ll be done before Santa can even finish his list.