by Steve Adubato, PhD

With Christmas behind us, yet the holiday season still in full force, seasons greetings are being communicated all around us.

However, it is getting harder and harder to get through the holiday clutter and connect in a meaningful way with clients, sales prospects and others who matter in our business world during these hectic times. Here are some observations about holiday communication.

Much of what we send around the holidays gets ignored. Let’s face it, we get dozens of holiday cards with pictures of kids from clients and business associates, and half the time we aren’t sure who the kids are in the picture until we read the fine print. It is nice that people send such family cards (I’ll admit that I send a picture of our three youngest children.) but one does have to wonder how much value they really have. Further, at what point are the pictures of our children in holiday cards just weird? For example, I got a card from a business associate with his four children, except the two oldest were 26 and 27. I am sitting there thinking; “You are kidding, right? These aren’t kids, they are adults.” So what is the appropriate age cut off for sending pictures of your children in holiday cards? Most people I speak with agree that once your kids graduate high school, that’s it for the holiday card.
Let’s talk e-holiday messages. They are easy to send and they are inexpensive, however, they are also incredibly easy to ignore or delete. I know that people often think it is a smart and efficient way of communicating during the holidays, but a quick survey of how many of these e-messages are actually opened or remembered would yield some surprising and disappointing results.
Most holiday communication is meant to stand out and be memorable so that when we do reach out to these business associates during the year, there is a feeling of connection that is more personal. However, sometimes what we communicate over the holidays is too personal. I am not a fan of people sometimes sending out an oral history of what their family has done over the past year. It is simply too much information regarding things most people don’t care about.
Consider this example of effective holiday communication. I recently spoke about this topic with Patrick Dunican, the Chairman and Managing Director of Gibbons PC, where I have conducted leadership coaching in the past. His firm came up with the following strategy; “We decided to ask each attorney to send out ten handwritten notes to clients letting them know they appreciate their business and their friendship. In addition, between November 15 and January 15, each attorney was told to take five clients and/or prospects out to lunch. We have found that a handwritten note is one of the most powerful tools in business dating back hundreds of years.”

Dunican said he did get some push-back and resistance from a few folks at the law firm, but most people responded in a positive way. In fact, while the practice was not mandatory, Gibbons stopped producing an e-card and they did not make printed cards available to their attorneys. In fact, according to Dunican, his firm has seen some positive results from this more personal holiday communication approach with folks responding with a personal thank you e-mail. In addition, some of those same respondents started a conversation about transacting additional business.

Like I said, holiday communication is about standing out from the crowd, being remembered and being on the radar when those receiving your communication are looking for someone to service their needs. In 2014, why not take a more strategic and thoughtful approach to the way you and your business communicates around the holidays? The payoff could be significant.