Send Thanksgiving Cards to Follow Up With Your Clients!

There are many reasons to send greeting cards to your customers. General follow up thank you cards, birthday cards, customer appreciation cards, and of course holiday cards. All of these customer follow up greeting cards should be a standard marketing practice for any business.

thanksgiving-greeting-cardOne of my favorite opportunities to reach out to existing customers and create stronger relationships is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving after all is all about gratitude and what better way to show gratitude to your customers than by sending them a Thanksgiving card and letting them know how much you appreciate their business?

I truly believe in sending Thanksgiving cards to follow up with your customers and prospects. In fact I have recent memories of handwriting over 500 Thanksgiving cards to my clients not too long ago. This was a huge and exhausting task with each card containing two or three lines of personalized text. I spent well over two months completing this process! And while I was all gung-ho to send out holiday greeting cards to my clients as well… It was just not going to happen. I had all the holiday cards on my desk but could not get them completed in the two remaining weeks I had left. At the time I remember thinking there must be a better to get this done… Of course there is a better way and I discovered it about six months later. The next time I mailed Thanksgiving cards to my clients I sent 600 and did them all in about four hours instead of two months! I used an incredible system called SendOutCards and you can learn more about this process by visiting my Follow Up Tools page.

There are many reasons to send out Thanksgiving cards to your clients, prospects, and referral sources. The main one being appreciation. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated and when you do this your clients will do more business with you, prospects will start doing business with you, and your referral sources will send you even more referrals.

Now is the time! Start following up with your customers and prospects today with Thanksgiving cards!

Holiday Follow Up: Greeting Cards, Postcards, and E-cards

Today you have many choices when it comes to holiday cards.  The choice of holiday greeting cards is enormous, and we cannot forget holiday letters, postcards, and e-cards.  As business owners and sales professionals what are the best practices?  In my opinion, holiday greeting cards should be your only choice!

Holiday cards: You have many options here!  Sure you can go to your local Hallmark store or grocery store to pick up your greeting cards.  In fast the top two greeting card companies Hallmark and American Greetings which print most of the greeting cards on the market would love for you to do just that!  It’s fairly simple, find a greeting card selection which will reflect your business in a good light, lock yourself in your office for the day and get to work!

Holiday letters: I have already received a few holiday letters from friends and businesses.  These are nice and typically very personal when coming from friends and family.  I would not recommend these for a business greeting.  Sending a gift with a letter is a pretty common practice but in my opinion if you are spending the time and money to send a gift why not include a greeting card as well?  Skip the basic form letter and add a personal note to a greeting card instead.

Holiday Postcards: Thinking this is a great cost saving alternative to mailing holiday cards is a big mistake. When I think of postcards the first thought that comes to mind is junk mail.  It does not matter how much time you put into your postcard design or the amazing copy you have come up with, in the end it’s just a postcard and it will leave a neutral or negative impression.

E-cards: The crazy popularity of e-cards has come and gone.  Some may say this is a great alternative to sending holiday greeting cards in the mail.  I would encourage you to consider the conversation I had with Jeff Hans real estate agent on Team-Q at Re/Max Realty.  Jeff mentioned a conversation he had with another business owner just last week.  The business owner asked if he had received his e-card.  Jeff had to think about it for a minute and then acknowledged he had received it.  The business owner asked what Jeff thought and his response was the following: “I receive over 200 emails per day so receiving your e-card was just another email”.  Jeff suggested that next year he mail holiday greeting cards instead of sending e-cards!

My last thought for your holiday cards choices.  I mentioned the top two greeting card companies Hallmark and American Greetings so I thought I should mention the greeting card company I have used for my holiday cards, birthday cards, thank you cards, and just everyday cards for the last two years.  The company is called SendOutCards and it just so happens SendOutCards is the number three greeting card company.

I think the most important thing to remember is to get your holiday cards out.  It is by far the easiest follow up touch you can do this week and with each follow up touch you do you increase the awareness your customers and prospects have with you.  This increased awareness will result in increased business and referrals!

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts When Mailing Holiday Cards

Do’s:

1)  Do send a quality card with a nice seasonal image
This is not the time to send a naked Santa because you think it’s funny.

2)  Do hand write your cards and envelopes
There is nothing like getting hand written cards in the mail, it shows you have taken the time to really reach out to your customer

3)  Do sign your cards
Your signature on the holiday card makes it personal

4)  Do write few lines of thoughts in each card
You might say something like “I have truly enjoyed working with you this past year.  I hope you have a fantastic holiday season and a great start in 2009!”

5)  Send your cards out with an actual stamp
This is not the time to save time by running them through the meter.  Take the time to place a stamp on each card as this small step makes a big difference.

Don’ts

6)  Don’t send holiday cards with just your signature
Saying Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukah above your signature will not make this better.  Add a few lines to make them personal!

7)  Don’t enclose a business card with your holiday card
I find there is nothing tackier than opening a card and having a business card fall out.  It takes away all positive impact from the card.

8)  Don’t add your logo to the card
Sending holiday cards should be an opportunity to appreciate your clients.  This is not the time to promote your brand!

9)  Don’t use mailing labels on the envelope
Mailing labels take away from the personal experience of the holiday card.  Take the time to hand write the envelopes or have someone in your office do this for you.

10)  Don’t send e-cards
No matter what you believe or what someone has told you, e-cards are not the same and actually create a negative impact with most receivers.

Hopefully you will avoid some of the don’ts and remember all the do’s!  Do you have some top do’s and don’ts to add to this top 10?  Leave a comment so I can add to the list!

Where did the idea of sending holiday cards come from anyway?  If you are interested check out the history of holiday card sending.

Look for tomorrows post about e-cards vs. real printed cards, and handmade cards.

Increase Referrals and Attract More Clients by Sending Holiday Cards

For years I have been sending holiday cards.  I remember back in my corporate days signing hundreds of cards to clients and vendors.  The process then was to have a stack of 300 to 500 cards passed from one office to the next as we attempted to have all the employees sign the cards.  I admit some years I signed the cards and at times my assistant signed them for me.  I did not fully understand why I was sending them to begin with.  What difference is one holiday card going to make?

After completing my corporate ladder climb and realizing I no longer wanted to work for someone but instead wanted to build my own company, I began the journey of owning and building a promotional marketing company.  Through this process I had many great experiences.  One that comes to mind is sending holiday cards each year to my clients and prospects.  One of these prospects never actually purchased my services but I sent them a holiday card anyway.  The result of this simple holiday card came six months later.  The prospect called me for a new project and became a new customer.  I remember asking her why she decided to call almost one year later.  Her response was surprising!  She said she received my holiday card and actually kept it for months after the holiday as she was so impressed I would spend the time to send her a card even though our project never materialized.  She called me because I sent her a holiday card!

Here are few of the most important reasons why you should be sending holiday cards:

  • Holiday cards are another touch in the connection process with your customers.
  • Holiday cards give you an opportunity to express your appreciation to your customers.
  • Your customers will receive holiday cards from your largest competitors!
  • Customers will not always remember who sent cards but most will remember who did not!
  • Holiday cards put you at the top of your customers mind, this allows for more business and referrals.
  • Sending holiday cards is an example of great customer service.
  • Sending holiday cards gives you an opportunity to touch people within a company that you may not have access to.   An example of this could be the CEO of your best customer whom you have only met once.

Holiday card sending used to be a huge time commitment; this is not the case anymore!   Holiday cards can be very expensive however now you have very cost effective options which you cannot afford not to take advantage of!  (Future posts will have some great time saving and cost effective services for holiday cards.  If you need help now let me know by leaving a comment and I will send you my favorite resources.)

If you are one of those companies who have already mailed your cards I congratulate you!  Sending holiday cards should be a part of every companies marketing plan, it’s one of those personal touches you must do.  If you are in the procrastination stage of holiday card sending, I encourage you to get it done.  Get it done today!  Commit to yourself to mail all of your cards out this week, it will be worth it I promise!

A special note to those who have already decided not to mail holiday cards this year.  I challenge you to rethink your reasoning.  Many people have decided to cut this out because of time, cost, or just clear laziness.  You cannot afford not to connect with your clients and vendors.  Take the time to mail out holiday cards!  Consider sending cards to your top 100 clients and referral sources.  Sending holiday cards is one of my favorite follow up methods because it is an opportunity to create a personal touch in your business s relationship.

Look for my post tomorrow on the do’s and don’ts of holiday card sending!

Remember if you need help with your holiday card or gift sending options this year make a comment and I will respond to you with a few great resources that I will be covering this week.

Today is a GREAT day for Follow Up

Yesterday I was thinking about all the different long holiday weekends from the past.  Often times I would dread going back to the office after a long holiday or I would have a hard time getting back into the habits of production.  Holidays are very different for me now!  Many people think I am always working but the reality is I really enjoy what I do.  So coming back to work for me is just doing what I love.  For those of you that are not in love with what you are doing here is a simple way to get back into work mode:

Take today and focus on follow up.  Reach out to your customers and prospects and ask the question “How was your Thanksgiving?” and then follow up with “What can I do to help you this week?”.

The reason why I bring this up is today is a great day to follow up with new and old customers as well as all those people in your pipeline.  After completing this post the majority of my day will be spent on follow up.  The reason I enjoy doing this after holidays is it allows me to ask the question “how was your Thanksgiving?”.  This simple question starts the conversation on a personal tone and allows me to create a bridge from a business conversation to a more personal conversation.

The rewards from creating personal relationships with your clients and prospects are enormous and this week is another opportunity for you to further these relationships!

If you choose to use today for follow up please let me know how did!  Simply leave a comment and share your experience with me and your fellow readers!

Attracting Positive Experiences Starts With Gratitude

Tomorrow will be a wonderful day spent with family and friends as those in the United States spend the day talking, eating, and celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.

For me this is a time of reflection.  Thinking about the things I am grateful for in my life, reflecting on the moments in time which have created the memories that will last a lifetime.

Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to create a positive discussion with the ones you are spending time with.  My favorite part of the many previous Thanksgivings is the thought of gratitude.  What am I grateful for in my life right now?  What do I have in my life to be thankful for?  I encourage you to take a moment right now and reflect for yourself on this last year.  Search for something to be grateful for.  Think about how that makes you feel.   It can be something big like a new baby, getting married, a new home, a new job, or a promotion at work!  It can also as simple as getting together with family tomorrow, spending time with your children, or having a working car.  Whatever you choose to be grateful for focus on the feeling you have when you think about it, carry this feeling for the entire day.  No matter what happens keep this positive feeling all day.  The result of you doing this will by default put the people around you in a mood of gratitude as well.  By doing this you will inspire a positive attitude in those around you and it should make for a fantastic day!

For the business owners that happen to read this today.  Many companies will allow their employees to leave early today.  Some companies will work half the day; others will send people home a few hours early.  Before you let your employees go today why not create an exercise of gratitude.  Send an email or create a memo for the employees in the office to meet 30 to 45 minutes before the workday ends.  At the meeting let everyone know you will be doing a simple exercise of gratitude, just one sentence on what you are grateful for right now.  Let them know you do not want anything that has to do with work or their job, just something in their life they are grateful for.  As the business owner or manager make sure you go first and keep it really simple.  Quickly go around the room having everyone express something they are grateful for and skip anyone who can’t think of anything (you will have at least one).  At the end thank everyone for sharing in the experience and send them home for the day to spend time with family and friends.   This will have your employees leaving with a positive attitude as well as a positive reflection on you the business owner or manager.  Remember your employees are an extension of your company both in and outside of the office.  The benefits from doing this exercise will be different for everyone but will surly lead to more positive experiences.

While writing this my mind keeps wondering off to my positive experiences from the last year.  I have so many things to be grateful for!  The positive experience for me and the one moment in time that keeps coming up is an event that happened just last month.  As it rains in San Diego this morning I keep thinking about the family I helped build a house for in Mexico.  Right now this family is in a home where they do not have to worry about a makeshift roof leaking as they sleep.  This family is experiencing the comfort of shelter, something so many in this world do not have.  I am grateful for the experience of building this home and I am grateful for the home I am sitting in while writing right now.  Need help feeling inspired?  Start your day by visiting Inspire Me Today.  Gail Goodwin, founder of Inspire Me Today offers amazing high-quality daily inspiration which is a great way to start each day.  Make sure to visit the Inspire Me Today Blog which also has great inspiration and positive writings by Gail.

Please share with me what you are grateful for by adding a comment to this post!  If you are a business owner and take advantage of the gratitude exercise please comment on your experience with your employees.

For those outside of the United States I hope you have a wonderful week full of positive experiences.  For those in the United States I wish for you the happiest of Thanksgivings!

Follow Up Success: Top 10 Marketing Blogs

Last week I was asked to create a Top 10 blog list for blogs.com.  I thought for a brief moment on what segment of blogs I would include and decided to focus on Marketing Blogs (and a few distractions).  These are blog s that I read on a consistent weekly basis for many reasons…  Some of them for the great content, a few are friends, and of course Gary Vaynerchuck for great ideas, content, and the constant reminder to be passionate for what I am doing!  So here is my Top 10 Blogs showcased on blogs.com:

Find the best blogs at Blogs.com.

Top 10 Marketing Blogs (and a few distractions)

  1. DoshDosh – written by, Maki
  2. Duct Tape Marketing – written by, John Jantsch – founder of Duct Tape Marketing
  3. Gary Vaynerchuck – written by, Gary Vaynerchuck – founder of Wine Library TV
  4. Life of a Founder – written by, Jimmy Hendricks – founder of Collar Free
  5. Never Eat Alone Blog – written by, Keith Ferrazzi – author of Never Eat Alone
  6. Profit Minute – written by, Rod Moore, founder of Profit Minute
  7. Seth’s Blog – written by, Seth Godin – author of many best selling marketing books including his newest must read: Tribes
  8. Six Figure Moms Club – written by, Angie Swartz – founder of Six Figure Moms Club, author, and Executive Coach
  9. The Big Idea Blog – mirrors The Big Idea show on CNBC by Donny Deutsch
  10. copyblogger – written by, Brian Clark – copyblogger is one of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs

Take a look at my Top 10 blogs and let me know what you think.  Do you have a favorite Marketing Blog you read?  Do you have a must read blog not on this list?  Make sure to leave a comment so I can see one of your favorite blogs, it might just become one of my favorites as well.

A few last thoughts on my Top 10 Marketing Blogs.  Last week when I was given the opportunity to submit my Top 10 list I could of easly decided not to.  I was in the middle of many projects and really did not have the time to take on anything more.  At the last minute I made it a priority and sent in my list for review.  As a result my Top 10 list was selected and featured on blogs.com.  By taking action and giving priority to this simple project I have received more exposure to my business and blog not to mention each of the blogs in my Top 10.  The benifits to the added exposure will lead to stronger relationships, referrals, and clients.  My questions to you are, “What simple tasks or projects are right in front of you?  What projects could you complete that might give you more exposure and potential clients?”.  You have opportunities in front of you right now!  Look for the easy to ignore and simple tasks in front of you and make a point to complete them today!

Reasons and Excuses to Insure Your Business Fails

Last year at I woke up at 4am with my phone ringing and a slight sound of sirens in the background.  My house was smoky and as I ran into the living room ash was flying inside my house through the skylights.  This was the morning of the 2007 San Diego fires.  At the same time thousands of my neighbors were evacuating from their homes in Rancho Bernardo.  This is a day I will never forget!    One of these neighbors was my friend Jay I mentioned earlier this week.

So why am I bringing up the San Diego fires today?   In my last post I used my friend Jay Riordan as an example of a business having a positive perspective in the current marketplace.  Today I thought I would share with you another part of the story.  Jay’s business, Dream Design Builders is doing really well, at the same time Jay’s competitors are downsizing and closing.  Jay’s positive perspective in the current marketplace is incredible but maybe you are thinking to yourself “I am different” or “this is great for Jay but I have had this happen or that happen this year”.

Jay Riordan, Holding a charred photo rescued from the ashes
Jay Riordan, Holding a charred photo rescued from the ashes

So here is the rest of the story…  After the fires went through Rancho Bernardo my neighbors and I started finding ways back to our homes.  I was one of the lucky ones…  My home was standing with no damage, my friend Jay was not so fortunate…  When Jay was able to get near his street he was seeing smoldering homes everywhere including his own home.

The reason why I mention this is for you to think about your reasons or excuses you might be using right now.  Jay had every reason to buy into the negativity of the media.  Jay could have been fully consumed by the emotions of his recent losses.  Jay could have placed all of his attention on rebuilding his home and letting his business suffer.  All of these reasons would have been completely justified!

Next time you think about the reason why you are not succeeding or why your business is not growing at the rate you would like, think about the reasons you are using to justify your story.  Think about the possibility of just changing your thinking.

Think about my friend Jay, who chose to package the emotional charge around losing his home to a fire, into an amazing energy focused on building an even more beautiful home and a thriving business.  Isn’t that better than anything even small bit of negativity might bring you?  The power of how you handle negativity in your life is truly yours.

Creating a Great Customer Experience

Have you ever really thought about why customers decide to buy? What are you doing right when talking to customers? How can you improve on your customer experience to win them over? Let’s look at a general example when it comes to customers calling your business:

A new potential customer may call you inquiring about one of your products. Let’s say you are a new sales representative for the company and are eager to help any new potential customers. You are friendly, respectful, and really do everything you can to help. The customer responds and makes a purchase.
At the same time another potential customer calls inquiring about the same product. A different sales representative interacts with the customer. This seasoned sales representative has already met their sales goals and is excited as the day is ending! While the representative is pleasant, the customer can hear them organizing their desk, moving stacks of paper around, packing their bag, and not really listing to what is being asked. The customer assumes their business is not wanted and the call ends with the customer saying thank you and no sale is made.

What is the real difference in these two examples? It’s really about listening, fully engaging in the conversation you are having, and finding ways to connect with your potential customer. It’s the excitement of really wanting to help the customer which will lead the customer to a purchase.

I have had many experiences just like this. My first interaction with a company is fantastic and I think to myself “wow, this company is great”. My next interaction is a complete disappointment as I don’t receive the same level of service. Creating consistency with the customer experience is not easy but can be achieved.

Whether you are a large company with hundreds of representatives, a small business with a few sales people, or an entrepreneur handling everything on your own here are few tricks to keep the customer experience positive:

  • SMILE – On the phone or in person make sure you smile often! Teach this to your representatives, remind them in sales meetings, smiling changes your tone of voice, this change caries over in person and on the phone. Need to see the study? Check out: Smiles Really Do Boost Sales.
  • STAND UP – If you are on the phone and are feeling off, having a bad day, or just don’t seem to be connecting with your customer standing up will add new energy to the conversation. This works for all types of sales inbound, outbound, or cold calling.
  • REMINDERS – Add a note to your phone or computer screen with a key word. For example if your focus is to enhance the customer experience you might just write “best friend” as a reminder to talk to the potential customer with the same passion you would as if you were talking to a best friend.
  • POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS – Create a list of 5 or 7 possible positive experiences you would like your potential customers to have. Add the list as a screen saver, background, or just post it where you will see it as a reminder when you are talking to customers.
  • LAST QUESTION – Get into the habit of asking each customer “is there anything more I can help you with today?” It’s a pretty simple question and will add to the customers overall experience. Not mention you may possibly receive more sales my simply asking.
    Remember, creating a positive customer experience allows you to start a long term relationship. As you follow up with the customer the relationship will grow into additional sales and referrals!

I have had many people ask me how I am always so positive or always in such a good mood. I would love to say I am always happy and positive 100% of the time! My intention is to have this be my reality and by using these tricks I come pretty darn close!

SWOT Analysis: Acknowledging Your Weaknesses

Last week I talked about strengths, following up from my post on SWOT Analysis:  Simple Tool to Improve Your Business.  If you missed one of these previous posts it may be best to go back and review them in order.

SWOT Analysis:  Simple Tool to Improve Your Business

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

Today I will review our discussion on Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise.  The discussion on Weaknesses was led by Alan Underkofler Blogger for Follow Up Success and Consultant on follow-up strategies for your business.  (that’s me!)  I started out the discussion just like the previous week.  A brief description on SWOT, and discussed how are we going to interact as a group, as well as setting some guidelines for the discussion.  I really stressed to everyone not to take the feedback personally but really look at the feedback and decide it it’s you or not you, is the weakness real or not real?  The more real and honest the weakness is the more value you will have with the SWOT Analysis.  The group had the following ideas to think about before our discussion insuring each person was prepared with at least four weaknesses:

  • What could you improve?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
  • What factors lose you sales?
  • What would your clients say your weaknesses are?

I then picked a few people in the group to start sharing their weaknesses.  Here is some of the discussion:

  • Rufino Autus, Independent Financial Planner for Autus Financial group listed his weaknesses is as, organization skills, time management, procrastination, prioritizing call backs, and at times when meeting with clients he tends to over educate or give them too much information.  Kerry Klindtwoth, a Realtor with Keller Williams suggested hiring an assistant and committing to a calendar system.  The group also talked about the perceptions we have of Rufino and making sure they are in line with who he is or wants to be.
  • Owen Fabert, Consultant for Pampered Chef listed his weaknesses is as lack of organization, lack of self confidence, uncomfortable in a leadership roles, follow up, easily distracted, and listening.  Paula Sassi, owner of Handwriting Consultants International added “What you perceive of yourself is not how we perceive you” .  The group all agreed Owen is a leader and we could see no self confidence issues.  Angie Swartz, Executive Coach and Blogger for Six Figure Moms Club quoted Howard Schultz Chairman and CEO of Starbucks on the challenge of facing obstacles and doubt while working through something unfamiliar and uncomfortable, “There’s a fine line between self-doubt and self-confidence, and it’s even possible to feel both emotions simultaneously.  Back then, and often enough today, I could  be overwhelmed with insecurities, and at the same time have an abundance of self-assurance and faith.”  Angie points out most people striving for greatness have this same feeling.  It’s not that you are not a leader it’s that you are striving to grow yourself at all times.
  • Ted Pittman, Owner of T.L.E. Promotional Products listed his weaknesses as organization, some limits on capabilities, small size of company, procrastination, awareness of his company in the market.  I added one of the products Ted provides is corporate apparel and suggested he should be wearing logoed apparel to promote his brand and business.  Angie asked about sponsoring events and suggested donating products with his company logo on the products to create more awareness.

With this discussion on weaknesses, I found myself looking at different areas of my life, both business and personal, where all of these weaknesses have come up for me at one time or another.  Time management, clients and potential clients perception of me, talking too fast, and even working too much are all areas I am currently working on.  Listening to the other members of the group really allowed me to identify weaknesses from my past, reflecting on these past weaknesses is a great way to insure they do not show up again.

My last thought on this discussion of weaknesses is no matter what your weakness is you can change it.  If it’s truly a weakness you cannot change the easiest solution is to surround yourself with people that excel in your weakness.  If organization is a weakness for you, hire very organized people.  If time management is a weakness for you, identify your highest priorities and schedule them into your day.  We have solutions to each of our weaknesses, most times right in front of us.  Quoting my friend John Assaraf, founder of One Coach “hire people that play at things you are not good at”.

As we move along in our SWOT Analysis reflect on your newly discovered strengths and weakness.  You can start amplifying your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses anytime.  If you have started making changes in your business from reading about SWOT please share them with us by leaving a comment.

Next week our discussion will be on Opportunities (the “O” in SWOT).