It happened again this Holiday season. I received numerous emails regarding this business conundrum. What is this weighty strategic question….“to send or not to send” that is, should the company send out Holiday cards to clients/customers being that finances are tight?
I have witnessed many of these discussions myself and have heard many stories about this most excruciating decision, in particular over the past few years. What is interesting is that there are similarities that are in common with all/most of the companies:
- Huge amounts of energy and time are expended on this issue even though the budget for this initiative had been determined months ago and is a relatively small item. Now, there is great value in improving and correcting strategy as you go along when necessary but it just seems disproportionate to be looking at such a small line item in a vacuum and spending so much time on the morality of the action.
- The decision was so tough that a conclusive decision was not made until the last possible moment. This results into two possible scenarios. First, the company finally determines that clients really like the cards (or even expect them) and that this is an important marketing spend. Because this decision is made at the last minute, execution is often highly flawed. The card design is inferior, the right people do not sign the cards, or the cards arrive too late (it is not enough just to get them to the client before the holiday but have them there for the client to notice the weeks before the actually holiday) to name a few. The second scenario is that the powers that be make a late decision to cancel the Holiday cards in the name of saving money and being fiscally responsible. Then a less than stellar email goes out to the company explaining why the decision was made often with a very self-righteous attitude. Hmmm.
- When executives, sales people, account managers get wind that cards or gifts are not going out they end up doing it themselves. This takes time out of their day and usually costs more than if the company used their economy of scales to get this done.
Sound familiar? I hope not but it might.
So what is the answer? Well, it will be different for each company. For some companies their Holiday card or gift is a part of the brand, for others might be an obligatory action with little value. For some industries it is a pure necessity. Some companies may find value that each account manager is trustworthy enough to do their own thing with Holiday cards and the results are highly customized.
But here is the grind. Holiday cards, although a small line item, are given inordinate amount of attention and review because they are such high a profile item and can be observed by everyone in the company. This really distorts the decision making process and can really skew the decision-makers response.
First, the decision should not be made in a vacuum but in relationship the entire marketing strategy. Second, the decision should be verified by at least September so that proper and graceful execution can be realized just like you would do for any other marketing campaign. (Duh.) If the decision is made not to send out cards, make it early and thoughtfully and move on.
I wish executive who fret about the Holiday card debate would spend the same amount of rigor and time on some of the most significant issues of the organization.
Lastly have a great, renewing and sacred Holiday. (And yes, consider this my Holiday card to you.) Peace.