One of the most dreaded tasks that lawyers and law firms encounter each year is the annual holiday card marathon. The only exception I can think of that might be more painful is the yearly collection fiasco that goes on in the last month of a firm’s fiscal year.  At least there is obvious value to the partners/firm in the collection spectacle.  With the effort and time put into getting those damn cards out the door, not so much.

Most firms put way too much staff and lawyer time into an effort that in my IMHO is one of the most worthless marketing tactics undertaken.  Of course, it must be done, if only for the negative connotation, if the client realizes that YOUR firm sent no card.  I wonder if clients even pay attention to the cards they receive or remember who did or didn’t send one.

One reason is that too many firms send out cards with NO personal touch.  If the cards have signatures at all, many times they are computer driven and added to the cards at the printer. Heaven forbid that the cards be signed by human beings and contain a handwritten note. Without those two latter actions, the cards are a total waste of time. I’ve heard clients comment that such impersonal cards are meaningless and lack feeling.

Although cute, email holiday cards are as bad in my opinion.  Talk about a lack of attorney involvement or interest. They are emailed to the firm’s database of clients and other contacts by the marketing staff.

My apologies to all of you who painstakingly take time and effort to send meaningful cards with a personal signature and note.  You are the exception!  However, I still question whether the clients or referral sources – forget about prospects – will remember come January who sent them a card.

Okay, they are one tool in the marketing toolbox, albeit of little or no value in gaining new work (helping to stay top of mind, maybe).  I have two suggestions to make them slightly more meaningful:

  1. Make your card REALLY stand out.  Look at the suggestion of Ruth Carter on Attorney at Work earlier this month. As she puts it “If you must send a holiday card, send a personalized note…”, or send a unique, memorable postcard such as she did celebrating Captain Kirk’s birthday (or Elvis Presley’s or some other memorable occasion).  Her main thrust is to make your card unforgettable. (One firm that consistently sends unique holiday greetings” is Boston’s Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, due in no small part to their great client services director, Sara Crocker); or
  2. Send a Thanksgiving Day card instead.  At least that will be more memorable than a December card.  Also, you will beat the December crowd, and might have a chance of being remembered for it.  What is more appropriate than sending a card that THANKS your clients, friends, referral sources and any other contacts for their friendship, business, and thoughtfulness.

Whatever you decide, put forth a meaningful effort on holiday cards, or forget it.

The matter of whether to send printed holiday cards instead of e-cards is one that I feel very strongly about. It is not unlike my view about sending handwritten Thank You notes, instead of emails when expressing gratitude or congratulations to someone. I’ve written and spoken about the topic many, many times on this blog over the past eight years and for longer in my business development seminars.

It is much more personal, especially when notes, as well as the envelopes, are handwritten.  Not enough people take the time to show they really care.  Since the Internet entered our lives, way too many take the easy way out.  Yet, it appears that many, including lawyers still see the value in printed cards.

Bob Weiss surveyed 140 lawyers as to their views on the subject, and wrote about it on Attorney at Work.  Weiss admits it is not a scientifically sound survey.  Nonetheless, I believe the results are telling. Over 60% of lawyers from one to over 20 years in practice, and in all age groups “prefer holiday cards over e-cards.”  So, it isn’t just us old folks that feel that way.  Moreover, approximately 80% said it made a better impression if the card is “personally signed and includes a brief personal note.”  Weiss also has 6 tips on how to go about handling the process.

Thus, my message is to NOT send E-cards instead of printed holiday cards.  Otherwise, your message may come across as: “I don’t have the time to send a meaningful card, because you (fill in the blank – ‘friend’, referral source or client) are just not important enough for the effort to do so.”

Not good marketing.