The US Post Office knows it well: the holidays are a time when we, the digitally minded people of America, send physical cards once again. According to a press release from the USPS, the mail carrying service expected to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of holiday mail for the 2015 holiday season, a 10.5 percent increase over 2014. Thanks to our hyper-connected digital lives, snail mail has become a signal of true care, and holiday cards let people know you’re really thinking of them. While eCards have become a regular part of the holiday season (Forbes declared them “better than paper” in 2015 ), the paper holiday card still won’t die.
Paper cards: thoughtful, traditional, difficult
Sending paper cards can be difficult for myriad reasons. They cost money and time, which also explains why they’re so special. But that also means you’re limited in the number of people you can send a paper card to. Even just trying to put together a small list of close personal friends or relatives you want to send cards to can be hugely difficult; for a business with contacts spread across existing contracts and warm leads, that list can quickly get out of control.
And then, of course, there’s the time you have to spend signing, addressing, and mailing the cards. Tracking down new mailing addresses can be a huge pain, and an unsigned paper card can be as impersonal as an email. Got a busy, traveling CEO? Good luck getting him or her to sign your stack of 500 holiday cards before Easter!
eCards: forward-thinking, all-inclusive, also difficult
Most people think of eCards as being the better option, financially speaking, and tend to think of eCards as the “greener” option, too. Of course, an eCard can present other difficulties you may not expect. While you can probably send it to as many people as you want (depending on your data plan), eCards can be unremarkable, boring, or, worse, awful and go viral for the worst reasons. The shareability of electronic communication sets you up for a huge burn if your card is stupid, although the other side of that coin is that an awesome card can also be re-shared over and over, gaining your company notoriety.
You can also get quickly buried in an almost infinite number of decisions regarding your company eCard, beyond just the recipient list: Should it be shareable? Which social media sites should it link up to? Should it be interactive? And once you’ve decided on the scope of your eCard, you may need to spend as much on having a professional design it as you would on paper cards, anyway, not to mention the time it takes to double check that email list.
No card: no way
Nevertheless, holiday cards serve as a remembrance, whether they are sent for personal or business purposes, and not sending a card can make as much of a statement as sending one, even a bad one.
So, yes, you should probably send a company holiday card. Here are a few tips on deciding what kind of card to send, and how to do it:
- Identify your budget. Time is part of your budget! Remember that postage can cost more for heavier or weirdly-shaped cards, so keep that in mind when cost-crunching. A stamp for a regular envelope (under 1 oz) is currently 49 cents. A postcard is 34 cents. You’ve also got to incorporate the cost of the card, including printing. The paper card business is still going strong, so you have plenty of options for having a customized card made for your company. For smaller budgets but bigger recipient lists, an eCard is probably your best bet.
- Identify your audience. Make that list! You should able to determine who belongs on it based on your budget. Again, if you have a larger list, eCards are probably the way to go. However, you can also come up with a hybrid option – send eCards to everyone and paper cards to a few special folks who deserve a warmer touch.
- Determine who needs to sign the card. If you’ve got a small office, everyone should be able to sign the card. It’s easy for an eCard or even a paper card to be signed “from everyone at [your company]”, but at least the CEO and any major account players should probably put their names down on the bigger client’s paper cards.
- Select your card and what you want to say. Unless you’re a religious organization, steering clear of overtly religious cards is not a bad idea. Most people probably won’t be offended by seeing a manger or a menorah, but it shows a certain amount of care to keep your personal religious affiliation out of the company card. If you work for a global organization, “Peace on Earth” is a great statement to make with your holiday card. You can also order your cards from organizations that will use the money you spend to fund certain non-profits. This is an excellent chance for your organization to show its community commitments.\
- Order the card early! Holiday card-sending time falls between Thanksgiving and December 31, so order those cards by Thanksgiving to make sure they’re ready to go out on time. For an eCard, you’ll want to test it several times to make sure it provides the best ultimate recipient experience.
- Have a card-signing party. If you make it fun while also making it mandatory, more people will show up to sign. You can conjoin your company holiday party with a card-signing one to make sure everyone gets their signatures in while they’re eating a slice of pumpkin pie. Bonus: making your company holiday party early in the season means more people will be able to attend and it won’t conflict with other holiday parties. For eCards, you can have an unveiling party where you show team members what is going to be sent and get them to weigh in on any last-minute changes you may need to make.
- Send the card out! Don’t hesitate! For eCards, you may have to work through any bounce-backs to make sure the email gets to the right recipients before the actual holidays. For paper cards, make sure you have the right postage – again, weirdly-shaped or heavy cards may cost more, and having 250 cards returned to you for incorrect postage is a drag.
- Respond to other cards. You’ll probably get a few holiday cards of your own. You should at least respond with an eCard if you don’t have the ability to respond with a paper card. Something as simple as a “thank you” via email to a sender you weren’t expecting a card from can be important. There’s a lot of weird hierarchies that happen during the holiday season between clients and customers, but you can never go wrong when you err on the side of graciousness.
At the end of the day, remember that the reason you’re sending a holiday card is because you care about people and relationships. If it gets to be too stressful, you’re probably going with the wrong solution, and you can note that for next year. Enjoy the relationships you have and use the time you have to spend on these cards reflecting on how you’ll make your relationships stronger for the coming year.