I know it’s now February, and that the thought of reading an article on Christmas Cards may not be appealing – but there’s some useful discussion happening on this subject. So, read on…
I’d like to thank everyone for the feedback on the Christmas Card conundrum that I discussed in January’s techbytes. It seems as though I was not the only one who’d spent time thinking about the effect that sending Christmas Cards has – it’s been on your minds for a few years now, it seems.
So, before I share some of the views of other techbytes readers, a quick recap on the question…
Has the tradition of sending Christmas Cards died for small businesses? Has the advent of the electronic Christmas Card taken over? Do your clients feel under-valued if they receive an Electronic Christmas card from you? Or does continuing to send traditional Christmas Cards mark out your company as being old-fashioned and out-of-tune with today’s Carbon-Footprint-aware society? Or, are there some traditions that we should fight to uphold?
These were some of the questions that I was considering as I brought the team together in December, with some great Christmas Jazz on the iPod and some mulled wine to drink, to write the Christmas Cards that we sent. We decided, for 2009, that it was right to continue to send proper cards – but for 2010, we don’t know!
It was interesting that the feedback we received was split 50:50 – half of the people who responded were keen on the use of Electronic Christmas cards – while the other half were strongly defending the tradition of sending a real card.
Lesley Leather, of Tailored Training Solutions, confessed that “Christmas cards in business have never felt really comfortable”. Lesley made the good point that companies often have “little room to put them up on display”. Instead Lesley decided to “make a donation to a charity (I chose a different one each year) and I just let my clients know that, when I sent an e card. I personally felt happier with this”. From our own experience we found that a lot of you took this approach in 2009.
But, Michelle Daniels, of The Results Consultancy, also took the charity route, whilst maintaining the traditional approach. “We will always opt for ‘charity cards’ that print on responsibly sourced paper” and she even took this one stage further with a wish to “keep services like the Royal Mail going”. What I found most powerful in Michelle’s feedback was that “the companies that did take the effort and send real cards really stood out in the goodwill factor”. But, Michelle also stressed that it’s “important to write a personal message of thanks to the individuals and businesses that have supported us in the past year”. Michelle summed this up with “Actually I felt a bit disappointed that so many companies reverted to electronic cards this year… So here’s hoping 2010 doesn’t see the end of the Christmas card”. It’s a sentiment that I’m inclined to agree with myself.
Stewart Graham, of Avalon Solutions, is a self-confessed ‘scrooge’ who isn’t that keen on Christmas in the first place. Maybe that’s reflected in his stance that “the argument to send electronic cards is very strong”. Although Stewart did spend time commenting that many companies send Christmas Cards as part of their marketing strategy without any “analysis on their effectiveness for generating or retaining customers”. This was especially true, Stewart argues, for Christmas Gifts where understanding the client relationship is important… “I decided one year to analyse how much each of those clients receiving a hamper had spent with us and found that some of them had not spent the cost of sending the hamper to them”. Stewart did finish his feedback by thanking us for the Christmas Card that we’d sent him!
Sharad Karia, of ComAcc, “finally bit the bullet and resorted to electronic Christmas greetings” in 2009. He confessed to being in two minds during 2007 and 2008, but in 2009 he took the decision based on two factors “(the) desire to go green being one but the economical situation was the main contributor”. But, in recognition that Electronic Cards are essentially free, Sharad “didn’t blast it out to all and sundry. In fact, I sent fewer electronic cards at 2009 Christmas than I have done traditional cards in previous years”. But, as Sharad concluded “Perhaps this wasn’t a right decision but is there a right and wrong, or even good and not so good? ” and that he was keen to “find out the opinions of your other clients if you get their feedback”.
My favourite comments were from Graham Jump, of Consolve, though. He sent traditional Christmas Cards in 2009 and received the following message from one recipient “Thanks for the card – how Old World of you”. Graham took it as a compliment – but is there a concern that maybe some people would see ‘Old World’ as ‘Out of touch’? Graham’s thoughts were summed up with “I can’t say I get much pleasure from an e-card. Just go with what feels right – I think there is merit in preserving the traditions.”
And Graham’s parting shot was to add that he would include the following line in next year’s cards… “Instead of donating money to charity this year I have decided to blow it on sending these cards!”
I know some of these comments were meant in good humour, and I’d like to thank Lesley, Michelle, Stewart, Sharad and Graham for letting me share them with you. But it does underline the fact that the rules are changing, and no-one’s really sure how to react.
Far from this being the end of the discussion, I think it would be interesting to see if anyone has any more thoughts to share as we move into November 2010. Perhaps I’ll re-circulate the discussion then before making a final decision on whether to order our 2010 Christmas Cards.
Thanks for contributing to the discussion. Steve.