As a small business owner, you never want to overlook any opportunity to brand your product/services – especially a chance that is relatively inexpensive and has the potential for earning goodwill.
Since the calendar is now showing the month of November and we’ve “fallen back” to that time of year that has us traveling home in the dark at 5:00 pm, my internal clock (after being set with a reminder for so many years) is telling me the time is right to start planning a new holiday card for the year.
Since design, production, and distribution all take time, you really should have at least a month (and preferably more) to execute this project.
Pick Your Celebration
While you can certainly elect to celebrate any holiday, Christmas and New Year are the most common for most businesses now choosing to make these commemorations less specific as a way of showing respect for the many celebrations occurring this time of the year: Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and many more. (For a complete list of holidays occurring throughout the year, see Wikipedia’s list of events.)
As a result, you may want to select Season’s Greetings or Happy Holiday upon picking the general theme and time of year for your celebration . . . and might want to select iconography that does not favor any one over the others.
Choose Your Medium
Traditionally, greeting cards were printed, addressed, and mailed . . . and recipients would frequently display all of those received as an expression of friendship and appreciation. For a variety of reasons, printed cards have become less common . . . so those senders that do go the traditional route very often stand out. However, be aware that mailing costs have risen and adequate time must be given to ensure timely delivery during this most busy of postal seasons.
The alternative, of course, is to e-mail cards. Assuming you or a member of your staff has both the IT and graphic arts skills to create your template and assuming you have collected the requisite e-mail addresses for marketing and/or operational purposes, this alternative offers a number of advantages. Specifically:
- The ability to send cards to multiple people within the same company.
- Less production and delivery time.
- More control over the date the e-mail is sent and received.
However, you can expect the greeting to have less longevity – most likely being deleted upon receipt as often as not.
To make the transition from printed to e-mailed greetings, some businesses have elected to use the amount saved on production and distribution expense to donate to a favorite charity and to use that gift as the centerpiece of the greeting message AND branding impression.
By the way, a few companies actually elect to do both – taking full advantage of the timing being different to spread their message across a much longer period.
Create Your Design and Message
The design and message of your greeting card provides an opportunity for branding. While you can certainly go to a local store or shop on-line, these generic versions eliminate much of your chance to customize your visual elements as well as content. For example, my old employer used to invest in unique screen-printed cards that had images that both reflected the season as well as the corporate logo and other typical iconography. Some people choose to show their building fully decorated for the holiday as the cover of the card — both setting a festive mood and reminding the recipient of the company’s presence. Similarly, quite a few businesses feature group photos of staff to communicate their greeting in a more personal way that allows customers and business partners to attach a face to a name.
In these latter two cases, you can very often take a sufficiently good photo yourself and use one of the countless photo reproduction services to get the final printed product – which gets your project done pretty quickly and inexpensively without absorbing the extra cost of a professional photographer or commercial printer.
To ensure a quality picture with a traditional visual, holiday theme, you can also go to one of the many sources of free images and download one that you can then use as the basis of pretty cheaply and easily building your own card that includes your logo and a very personalized message. For example, www.unsplash.com makes available free images such as these:
(Check back in the future to download a ready-to-use greeting-card template.)
When you go the route of designing your own, you can generally find an Internet vendor who will allow you to upload your artwork and provide a high-quality final product . . . very often including the ability to add an envelope with a preprinted return address – a great labor saver. (Some vendors are even able to take care of recipient addressing – at a cost, of course – allowing you to provide an electronic list of addresses from which envelopes are produced.
When crafting your message, you once again have an important chance to promote your brand as a business that:
- Cares about and listens to customers.
- Takes pride in service.
- Promotes product quality.
- Values community service.
- Recognizes the critical importance of good employees who take pride in their work and want to do the best possible job for customers.
- Has strong local roots.
One of the best benefits of sending out holiday greetings is very simply to feel good about participating in the spirit of the season. Both you and your staff can enjoy this moment of celebration and picture your card being circulated around the participants’ offices. This ability to keep a healthy work/life perspective is necessary and will be appreciated by staff and customers alike . . . and will become an important and memorable part of your brand.
As always, we welcome any thoughts or feedback, and we encourage you to comment by using the space provided below.