Avoid Turning Into The Grinch This Holiday Season: Follow-up

We wanted to thank everyone who joined us last week for our holiday card webinar: How to Avoid Turning Into the Grinch This Holiday Season. The webinar covered best practices with list management, creative, physical cards and e-cards, how to stand out from the crowd, and most importantly timing. After the webinar we got numerous requests for the presentation and notes. So to better help you through your holiday card work we created a holiday card guide! Request your copy by emailing marketing@colevalley.com.

If you missed the webinar you can watch it for free now. Otherwise, check-out other holiday card samples and find inspirations on our ContactEase Pinterest board.

There are Only 33 More Days Until December 1st: Holiday Cards Part III

Did you know there are only 33 more days until the first of December? No it is not a trick (and probably not a treat) but with Halloween this week we thought it would be a great time to check-in on your holiday card progress.

If you have not already started it is not too late. To help you get an idea of where you should be at in the process, we have come up with a suggested timeline below.

September: Project Kick-Off

  • Identify your objective: is your card just to send warm wishes or is there another motive such as contributing to a charity, launch a marketing campaign, or to clean-up your contact information in your database
  • Decide what type of card you will do: physical or e-card or a combination of both
  • Determine timing: based on the type of card you do, you will need to think through the delivery date and create your project plan. This will also affect your messaging such as Happy Holidays v. Happy New Year
  • Discuss distribution: who receives the card and who the card should come from
  • Inform employees about the project: ask them to compile their list of recipients, let them know how you will be using the information, and inform them of deadlines. If doing a physical card, let them know how the cards will be distributed for them to sign
  • Select the vendor/designer: choose who will create the card and discuss concepts and copy
  • Prep other staff or departments: you will want to prep departments, such as IT if there is a need to host a video on a server or prep assistants who will help with list generation, and inform them of your timeline

October: Development

  • Determine additional needs: for example if you want recipients to select a charity from a list, you will need to create a survey. If you’re giving a contribution based on the number of new “likes” on Facebook someone will be responsible for tracking the metrics. You will also need to determine how your firm will handle bounce backs or returned mail, as well as how you will track success (open and click-through rates, interaction with the card)
  • Test the different components of the e-card: if there is built-in functionality like “replay” for video or links to other pages you will need to test the functionality to ensure it work properly
  • Merge and clean lists: your lists should be at about 80% completion
  • Approvals: approve your final card concept
  • Identify quantity: the amount of cards and envelopes needed for a physical mailing

November: Execution

  • Completion: your e-card should be completed and if you’re doing printed cards you should have them in-hand
  • Final version of mailing list(s): should be completed within the first week of November
  • Signing process kicked-off: this should happen around the second week of November and signed cards should be obtained by the last week of November (2 week window for signing)
  • Other marketing: at this point you should consider other ways you will promote and distribute your hard work. Some ideas would be to post the card on your website, tweet it, Facebook about it, and submit to holiday card contests
  • Additional needs: your process and expectations should be established

December: Completion

  • Physical cards mailed: first week of December
  • Complete e-mailing: preferably in early December
  • Last-minute requests for additional cards: take care of last-minute request or provide employees with the tools they need to execute themselves (such as the OFT version of the e-card they can customize and send on their own)
  • Execute other marketing initiatives: promote your card in other channels
  • Track the card: determine success by monitoring bounce backs, returned mail, and click-throughs

This is only a suggested timeline to help guide the thought about what needs to be executed on. Depending on the complexity of the firm it could take more or less time to complete. No matter the length of the process there is one last step that is often overlooked… celebrate!

Celebrate the project completion. It is a large undertaking and requires a lot of coordination. Enjoy the success with your team, thank those who helped with the execution such as the IT department and the assistants, and make sure to share the news with the entire firm. Send out an internal memo with the card and share tracking numbers or feedback that you have received.

Let us know what you think… what other steps does your firm build in and when do you start your holiday card process?

Holiday Cards Part II: E-Cards

With today’s technology more and more firms are straying away from physical holiday cards and opting to go with e-Cards. There are a lot of marketing and business development benefits for choosing to go with an e-card. Below are four considerations and advantages to think through while working on your holiday cards this season:
Bar GraphTracking    
By sending an e-card your firm can identify who has received a card and what action they took. The number of people who opened the card can be tracked identifying if the e-card was successful and worth the time put into the project. Marketing and business development initiatives could be launched and the click-throughs to additional messaging or promotional items can be identified. Those activities could then be added to the database and depending on the call to action there could be very specific follow-up items assigned.
Magnifying Glass Identifying Potential Risks                                                  
Opting to send an e-card helps your firm clean-up the database. If a contact at a client leaves and the firm doesn’t know about it, it could become lost work if the firm doesn’t have any other contacts there. By tracking bounce backs and failed emails someone can look in the database and see what other contacts or relationships the firm has with the client and alert the firm of potential at risk clients.

VcardUpdating Contact Information and Communication Lists

When sending an e-card consider having contacts update their own information and which communications they would prefer to receive. With ContactEase this could be done by using our Online Client Update Form. Ask contacts to take a minute to review their data and make any changes necessary by providing the hyperlink to do so. The data is then cleaned up in the database and your firm has the most up-to-date information for a contact and contacts can opt for the communications that matter the most to them.

PeopleExpanding Your Reach
Within the e-card create a mini campaign of some sort through calls to action. If you have a Facebook Page or Twitter account your firm is trying to expand, create a perk for people to “like” or “follow” you. One firm did this by letting their contacts know that they had decided to use the money previously spent on physical cards and donate it to a local charity. For every follower they received they would donate X amount of money up to a certain dollar amount. They were giving back to the community while expanding their audience reach.

If you are spending the time and money associated with doing a holiday card it is important to identify what your key objective(s) are. If your firm is simply sending a card for warm wishes, think through the above points and how the card could be used more strategically for your business development and marketing initiatives.

Holiday Cards Part I: It is NEVER too Early to Start

It may still be shorts and t-shirt weather, but the dreaded season of “Holiday Cards” is just around the corner. The best way to prepare is to plan for the inevitable sooner, making the project easier as the time approaches.The first step is to determine what your firm’s intentions are for this year’s annual Holiday Card. Some firms are satisfied with an e-card that goes to all of the clients, prospects, former clients, alumni, vendors, etc. with a generic, “From your friends at Smith & Jones.” Other firms want a physical card signed by those who are directly involved with the client, a separate card per partner. While there are also dozens of variations in between, before you can make your holiday plans it is important to know exactly what your firm wants to do.

Here are some suggestions of things Marketing should determine up front to ease through those holiday blues:

  1. Do we send a card at all?
  2. Are we going to do it the same way we did it last year?
  3. E-Card or paper card?
    [You will need some lead time to order physical
    cards and/or to design
    the perfect e-card.]
  4. Only one card or will individual cards be sent?
    [A contact might receive several cards from different professionals
    in your firm, is that what your firm wants to happen?]
  5. Who will be sent a card(s)?
    [Clients, prospects, former clients, alumni, friends, family, vendors…]
  6. Will the card(s) be personalized?
    [Signed by specific professionals, will it contain a personalized sentiment?]
  7. When should the card(s) arrive?
    [Remember, if it is a physical card that is personally signed, you need to get all that done in time to drop it in the mail, or else it won’t arrive until 2014!]

So before the kiddies are back in school (because once the fall begins, time is short), you should nestle up to a patio with a cold lemonade and start making your Holiday Card plans. Use the list above to make certain that you know exactly what your firm will be doing. Then, once you know where you are headed and what is involved, it will be easier to see how ContactEase can be used to help in the process.

Watch for future postings to help guide you through the Holiday Card Season, and remember it is never too soon to start. So READY, SET, GO! Start mapping out your firm’s plans now, so the process is easier in the long run.
Holiday Card Madness