"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s sentiment is never more true than during the holidays. And whether or not it’s your family, friends or customers, the statement remains true: They may forget the details of your products or services, but they don’t forget how their experience with them felt.

With the holiday season upon us, now is the time to give closer attention to how you make your clients feel. Traditionally many businesses send their customers their gratitude this season via holiday cards. It has even become quite commonplace for many businesses to send out their holiday ‘thanks’ during the granddaddy of ‘thank you’ holidays: Thanksgiving. (I’m usually still struggling the week after to stuff envelopes, affix labels and get my cards out the door–even though it it the perfect time to appreciate clients with my logo and business name!)

What Specific Feeling Do You Want Your Customers to Have About Your Business?

Just as flimsy paper and a poor print job on your business cards or stationery will send a message to customers that you’re not investing in this area of your business, so does your choice of holiday greetings. Many businesses have an elaborate, tiered-schedule for thanking their customers during the holiday season. At the top, they may search out and send fancy gift baskets, certificates to spas or sports game tickets to their best customers. Further down the appreciation chain may be a bottle of wine, an elegant desktop clock or picture frame as a ‘thank you.’ Covering all the bases is the company mass-mailed (or emailed) holiday greeting card.

Yes, there are plenty of companies emailing their appreciation instead of snail mailing it. Are they any less appreciative of their customers for using the less expensive delivery method?

Not necessarily.

A company might choose to send elaborate and elegant holiday greetings to customers to include customizations using merge tags and graphic interaction not possible via snail mail.

As always, the proof is in the quality of appreciation. Just as you can tell that someone stopped off at the 7-11 on the way to your house to pick up a ‘little something’ as a gift, putting little thought into the appreciation, you can also tell if the snail mailed or emailed holiday card was randomly chosen from one of the typical catalogs that arrives around Labor Day in the office mail.

On the other hand, you may receive a wholly original greeting card from the business that makes a big impression on you.

(Shameless self-plug): Oh, yes! I’ve done a few of these in my day:

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Most of the images at the top of this collage of holiday cards seem fairly innocuous. They combine a client’s product with a holiday image. (And I’ll skip over the whole ‘is it offensive to some?’ issue depending upon how much Christian or Jewish religious imagery is included. Undoubtedly you already have strong feelings about this topic and how it should be represented, if at all, to your customers.)

At the bottom, you’ll notice I put a Santa hat on Ginny. This imagery moves the emotional reaction meter over toward the lighthearted and humorous for most customers. (Have you ever tried to get a hat on your dog?)

Another approach is to embellish existing artwork – such as your logo, a product photo, your tagline or a sign, with holiday imagery. Famous for this type of manipulation is Google, which regularly changes its logo for various holidays to the coordionating color scheme. (Undoubtedly the “Google” alpha characters will be orange and black for Halloween and are red and green on Christmas.) So a simple adjustment that doesn’t break the bank is a quick color change for your logo or products.

What’s the Most Successful Holiday Makeover?

Your client appreciation (slash) holiday greeting imagery needn’t be stressful to determine. First, decide how you want your clients feel about your business:

  • Serious, grateful, elegant
  • Fun, humorous, uplifting
  • Creative, thoughtful, remarkable

None of the above combinations is exclusive of the others. You can easily portray a business as humorous and elegant. Your greeting can be serious and uplifting.

Second, once you’ve determined the outcome–the feelings–you desire, you can turn to choosing the imagery you’d like to use to generate those feelings in your customers. If your goal is to create something so beautiful your clients will put the card in a frame on the wall and talk to all their friends about it, you’ll want to invest in some serious customization, perhaps commissioning an illustrator or other artist to create a one-of-a-kind piece for your business. This may be appropriate if you’re commemorating a milestone in your business, such as ’25 years of fabulous service.’

If you’re hankering for a custom card without the custom price tag, you may want to consider the logo makeover in holiday colors. Or add some holiday symbolism to the logo or artwork that conveys the outcome you desire. Here’s a list of holiday imagery to consider:

  • Winter wonderland / snowflakes / Snowman
  • Star of Bethlehem / 3 Wise Men / Camels / Manger
  • Santa / Elves / Reindeer / Sleigh / Red Nose / Jingle Bells
  • Red fur suit with White trim / Santa hat / Snow hat, Muffler and Mittens
  • Ornaments / Glass balls / Tin Soldier / Nutcracker
  • Presents / Toy train / Teddy bear / Toy Alpha Blocks / Rocking horse
  • Mistletoe / Holly / Evergreen Garland and Swags
  • Christmas Tree / Christmas Lights / Wreath / Candles
  • Dreidel / Star of David / Menorah / Torah
  • Gingerbread House / Gingerbread Man / Christmas Cookies / Fruitcake
  • Dove of Peace / Snow Angels / Stained Glass Windows
  • Ribbons and Bows / Wrapping Paper / Gift Boxes
  • Stovepipe Hat / Coal Eyes / Carrot Nose / Christmas Songs
  • Bing Crosby / Eggnog / Fireplaces / Stockings Hung by Fire / The Grinch!

Here are a few off-the-cuff ideas to make use of the above imagery:

  • A fireplace with a huge stocking labeled “You!” (for your customer) next to a smaller, more modest stocking, labeled with your logo
  • Three wise men each carrying a different photo of your products
  • A wreath surrounding a photo of you and your staff
  • A photo of your front door decorated for the holidays. (NOTE: This is where my Photoshop skills come into play!)
  • A picture of yourself with a Santa hat, wire-rimmed glasses, white beard, etc.
Here’s one I did awhile back for a client combining their logo, holiday ornaments and the Star of Bethlehem:
[Season's Greetings from Bayou Closets]


Holiday Greetings with Digital Delivery

A brief word on sending your greetings via email:

  • There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sending your gratitude to customers via email!
  • Remember large attachment or embedded artwork files may not be delivered (particularly to recipients with Gmail or AOL addresses).
  • Large images may not display onscreen as you expect (and may not display at all if your recipient retrieves his/her email via smartphone).
  • An option is to send a thumbnail of your holiday image with a link to the large version stored on your website.

If you wish to include sound with your greeting, online delivery is a great way to go. And don’t forget the possibilities of a holiday greeting by video. Done well it can go viral!

Finally, don’t forget to set aside time to update your snail mail or email list with current data. After all that work, you don’t want your efforts to get returned to you marked “Bad Address”!

How do you plan to appreciate your customers? What greetings will you extend this year? Comment to share your creative holiday ideas.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]