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Where did all the real Christmas Cards go?

I'm not talking about the mass printed, generic Christmas message cards where each staff member signs their name, but the ones with hand written, personal and meaningful messages.

With digital having such a huge emphasis these days, are we losing the human touch?

This year I got close to a couple of hundred electronic Christmas Cards - from everyone from my dentist to a lawyer I have never used, to a supplier that I stopped using years ago. Some even had my name spelt wrong.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a Scrooge... I love Christmas! And I preach avidly about Digital Marketing and what it can do for a business, so it's not that I don't like email.

In reality, I liked that they took the time to wish me Season's Greetings, however, I can honestly say that I can't remember any of those cards or what they said, nor who the person or company was that sent them.

They were gone with a swipe of the 'delete' button.

On the other hand, I have received three handwritten business Christmas cards and I can tell you exactly who they were from and how they made me feel.

That's because they took the time to mention something that had happened this year, something we had done together or they were thanking me for something that I had done for them. I can still feel that grin when I think about them and they take pride of place on my desk and will do until the New Year.

People do business with people... We sometimes forget that.

A company can't really wish you Season's Greetings - it has to come from a person.

So how do we combine the power of Digital and the human nature and intense power of the offline world to get the best results?

One of My Icehouse clients has done this perfectly.

Wendyl Nissen and Daniel Ellison run an online store selling all natural cleaning products, beauty products, recipes and ingredients. www.wendyls.co.nz

Just recently we ran a report to see who the top 20 customers were in the online store and Wendyl and Daniel took the time to write a handwritten note inside their latest recipe book and sent it out to them, along with a voucher and a discount code for them to buy more of the books from the online store for their friends and family.

The purpose was to thank the customers for being their top customers and to surprise and delight them. We don't really mind if they use the coupon or not.

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Put yourself in those customers shoes... How would you feel if a gift turned up unexpectedly in your mail with a hand written note from the owner of the store. I'm guessing you'd be over the moon and would want to tell other people about it?

That was the response that Wendyl and Daniel got. People were thrilled to pieces. They took the time to write and thank Wendyl and Daniel and even better, the sales of the book increased too, thanks to the online voucher.

It's good old fashioned 'surprise and delight', which creates word of mouth in the offline and online environments and everyone is happy.

Now imagine if you could delve deeper into your customer relationship and find out something unique about that customer, and make that message even more personal (without pushing privacy boundaries) - maybe even choosing a personal gift based on something you know about them ... I'm thinking that you could create an advocate for life. Someone who will happily talk about you and your business to people they know.

Now I know that you can't do that with every one of your customers but that's not what Wendyl and Daniel did. They picked the top 20 customers and went with that.

In an ideal world you'd pick the top 20% of your customers, who likely bring in 80% of your revenue and you would take all of your online knowledge about them and use it to communicate with them and choose a gift, as a person to another person, in the offline environment.

The other 80% you can send an electronic email to but do think about what's in it for them and do at least try to get their name right.

I hand wrote 36 cards this year to my top customers and suppliers. In every one I put a personal message, based on what I knew about them from our CRM (Customer Relationship Management Database), my relationship with them and the work that we had done together.

It took me four hours and I came out with blue fingers as I discovered my fountain pen was playing up. However, as I watched each person open them, the look on their face was worth every minute. And those that I didn't see in person have taken the time to thank me. I'm thrilled and I hope they are too.

Hope everyone had a fabulous Merry Christmas!


This blog post is written by Debra Chantry, a business coach and Executive in Residence at The Icehouse, helping owner-manager and start-up businesses to take their business to the next level. She also runs her own business growth agency, Ventell, which helps people take their passion and turn it into excellence in business.