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!

For a Small Business Positive Perspective is Everything

In response to my post last week: SWOT Analysis:  Exploring Your Opportunities, here’s a great example of a friend who is seizing an opportunity in the current marketplace:

Jay Riordan, President of Dream Design Builders and I were talking about how great his company is doing while many of his competitors were closing down or downsizing dramatically.  Dream Design Builders is one of the top remodeling and home building companies in San Diego, winning multiple design and customer service awards including the San Diego Better Business Bureau Torch Award .  Jay and I were discussing the unusual problem of whether he should aggressively expand his business.  The challenge was growing too fast as well as where to find good employees to handle the expansion.  So where is Jay’s opportunity you may be asking?  Because Jay is like me and absolutely refuses to participate in the negative economy, his business is growing while his competitors are closing or downsizing.  Now is the PERFECT time for Jay to expand as he will have a pool of very talented potential employees from his competitors closing and downsizing.  This is the perfect example of looking at the opportunities right in front of you based on the current trends in your marketplace.

It’s easy to buy into the negativity of the media but its your choice whether you seize the opportunity around you or allow the media to paralyze you.

Follow Up: Lessons to Learn from Obama 08

In the past week there has been a lot of buzz on the presidential election.  Many reporters were trying to figure out when the country started turning to Obama.  Many times reporters would suggest different speeches, interviews, or statements by both Obama and McCain, stating one speech made the difference or this interview really changed things, or McCain’s comment during this interview is when things started shifting.

While some of this is true, I believe Obama became the President Elect for one main reason.  Obama created a tribe of followers and created many ways for his tribe to connect with their leader!  One extreme example of the connection difference between Obama and McCain is online.  Obama’s online presence can be clearly seen by looking at his website and more importantly his hub for Social Media can be found on his blog.  Below is a snapshot of how both Obama and McCain did in regards to a few of the Social Media sites:

Looking at Social Media Sites; According to Forrester Research, Inc.:


Obama: 2,379,102 supporters
McCain: 620,359 supporters
Obama has 380% more supports than McCain


Obama: Friends, 833,161
McCain: Friends, 217,811
Obama has 380% more supporters then McCain


Obama: 1792 videos uploaded since Nov 2006, Subscribers: 114,559 (uploads about 4 a day), Channel Views: 18,413,110
McCain 329 videos uploaded since Feb 2007 (uploads about 2 a day), Subscribers: 28,419, Channel Views 2,032,993
Obama has 403% more subscribers than McCain
Obama has 905% more viewers than McCain


Obama: @barackobama has 112,424 followers
McCain: @JohnMcCain (Not sure If this is real) 4,603 followers
Obama has 240 times more followers in Twitter than McCain

Obama’s activity in Social Media sites includes: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, Linkedin, BlackPlanet, Faitbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve, and DNC Partybuilder.  Obama created tribes within all of these social mediums.

You have to look at the last eight years to really see why this had such a huge impact.  According to Forrester Research, Inc., internet usage in the United States has grown 130.9% in the last eight years.  Of the 303,824,646 people in the United States the penetration rate for internet usage is 220,141,969 or 72.5%!

By using social media Obama created a way to communicate and follow up with his tribe.  Seth Godin’s new book Tribes talks a lot about how tribes work and the importance of a leader within the tribe.  Obama was the leader of a huge tribe of followers, fans, and most importantly voters.  Obama’s tribe showed up way before Election Day and when Election Day finally arrived it seemed the entire tribe made it to the polls!

So the question to ask yourself is: Are you doing everything you can to make it easy for your tribe to connect with you?

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!

Changing One Family’s Poverty: You Make the Difference!

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day, joining thousands of other bloggers to write about one topic for a single day. This year’s topic is poverty.

I remember three years ago driving into Mexico for my first Corazon project. I was a member of Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary and we were going into one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tijuana to build a home as one of our Rotary International projects. As we were driving to the site on a dirt road, rocking back and forth from the dips and holes, avoiding random abandoned trash piles and cars, I remember looking around and taking in the environment.

The dirt road, lined with trash, dogs running all over, and in the center a small steady stream of really dirty water I would later find out was the main sewer line for the neighborhood containing everything from runoff to human waste. Riding in the comfort of our cars was a bit surreal. We purchase our cars to drive to and from work, shuttle our kids around, or to keep up with our lifestyle, not really thinking much about it. Here in this neighborhood the cost of most of the cars in our caravan could provide five homes and completely change the lives of five families. The nice homes on this street were stone block or a simple wood design similar to what we were building this day. The average homes were made of old garage doors, wood pallets, and random materials, combined all together turning into some kind of complete structure. The worst of the homes were made of anything they could find, wood, cardboard, plastic sheets, a complete hodgepodge of materials, open and exposed to the environment around them.

When we finally arrived at our site I saw a stack of wood piled high in the center of a just set cement foundation, and a family standing to greet the group of people who were going to build a new home for them. The family is receiving their home through Corazon which has an amazing program where families earn their home by volunteering in their own community.

Our first step is to sort all of the materials so the assigned teams could start their projects of painting, cutting, and building. As the hours pass you start to see walls being formed, and then placed into position. By lunch the roof is framed, plywood is being handed up, and just as this is complete you hear the constant humming of hammers as the shingles are put into place. While this is going on another group is painting inside and out, a small counter for cooking is being tiled, and windows are installed.

It amazing to think about this process of building homes with Corazon, 50 people coming together to build a simple home, most have no construction skills, yet here we are, the day is over, and the home is finished. All of the volunteers gather around as the family has written a letter of gratitude which is now being read to the group. The last and best step to this process is handing the keys to the family for their new home.

Driving back home, slowing with the Tijuana border traffic, in front of me I have a perfect view of downtown San Diego, beautiful skyline, Coronado Bridge, all the city lights, my comfortable life awaits. Behind me, just an hour away from where I live is all this poverty, the poor neighborhood, where we just changed the lives of one family. For me I get that feeling in my gut, in my heart, in my mind, I have so much more to do. It’s not about one family for me one time per year. My path is leading me to many more experiences as I know one person in this world can make the difference to millions. I know I will positively affect the lives of millions of people through humanitarian projects I personally create, fund, or participate in. Projects like this home in Mexico are just one small step on my path, on my journey.

My last thought are for those who are most likely not on the same path as me. Follow Up Success is about attracting clients and increasing your referrals. I write about follow up strategies, marketing, sales, relationship marketing, networking, client retention, and resources for your business. Building homes in Mexico accomplishes many of these topics. It does not have to be homes in Mexico, any type of service projects in and outside of your community will help your business. By pulling clients, customers, and friends together with other people from your community you will forge strong relationships. These relationships will create many opportunities for you and your business. The benefits from helping others are endless! If you have experiences where helping others through service has helped your business, please support this post by making a comment and sharing it with everyone.

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

In my last post, SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business, I gave an overview of SWOT and talked about a few of the benefits of applying a SWOT Analysis to your businesses or to yourself as a business professional. As I mentioned in my previous post I am part of a small group of business owners and sales professionals who have committed to SWOT exercise for the next four weeks. The format for our SWOT exercise is fairly simple. We meet each week prepared to discuss the current element of SWOT as it pertains to our business or ourselves. We then discuss our findings with the group getting valuable feedback from the other participants in the exercise.  This allows us the ability to further refine our SWOT Analysis.

Today I will review our discussion on Strengths (the “S” 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 Strengths was led by Kerry Klindtworth a realtor with Keller Williams. Kerry started out the discussion with a brief description of SWOT using sites like Mind Tools as references and discussed examples of different strengths from the site. These included the following ideas:

  • What advantages does your company have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What unique or lowest-cost resources do you have access to?
  • What do people in your market see as your strengths?
  • What factors mean that you “get the sale?”

Kerry started engaging the participants asking them to share their strengths with group. Once they were complete the group would question, add, and help refine the Strengths of that person. Here is some of the discussion:

  • Paula Sassi, Certified Graphologist and owner of Handwriting Consultants International listed her strengths as; 28 years of experience, knowledgeable, timely response (responding to client requests within 24 hours), very easy to contact, great speaker, and entertainer for special events as well as tradeshows. Kerry added “Paula is an expert in her field”. Rufino Autus, Financial Advisor with Autus Financial Group added “Paula is a straight talker and has a unique business for her market”.
  • Justin Stewart, Customer Service Supervisor with San Diego National Bank listed his strengths as; builds rapport with customers quickly, passionate about what he does, thinks outside of the box to find solutions, privately owned local bank, 11 years in banking, and constantly expanding his banking knowledge. Rufino added “Justin loves what he does”. Jexter Isip, IT Consultant and Principal of Dedicated Network Solutions added “Justin is amazing with followup insuring his customers know he values them”.
  • Cathy Peterson, Insurance Agent with Farmers Insurance listed her strengths as; great followup, vast insurance knowledge, and a personal passion to insure her clients have the right coverage. I added “Cathy not only has great followup, she has great follow thru! Always keeping you up to date with referrals she has received”. Jexter added “Cathy has great communication during and after the process of buying insurance”.

So how did I do in this process? What are the strengths of Alan Underkofler, Blogger for Follow Up Success, Consultant on followup strategies for your business, quickly becoming a go to person in the world of Social Media, Speaker, and soon to be published Author. Like everyone else in the process I took time to really reflect on my strengths in regards to my business. The strengths that I listed were; simple tools, unique solutions, cost effective, ease of implementation, 12 years of marketing experience working with both Fortune 500 companies and brand new at home startups, passion for followup, and enthusiasm to help clients achieve desired results. The group confirmed my strengths and added passion and enthusiasm.

Passion and enthusiasm have been strengths of mine for a long time! Passion and enthusiasm has always propelled me to my next challenge in business. Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to go after clients that everyone said were impossible to get, I was blind and deaf to the reasons they gave me! Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to commit to writing inventory and category management software that was unprecedented in our industry, I was blind to the fact that this was not possible! Passion and enthusiasm is what pushes me now… Right now! Pushing to be a blogger, pushing me to complete my book, pushing me to be a better speaker, pushing me to be a top producer in everything I do! I am blinded by my passion and enthusiasm! For me passion and enthusiasm allows me to be blind to failure and negativity, when you can’t see failure or negativity you can’t fail and you have no choice but to be positive! No choice but to be positive!

Obviously I got a bit more out of this than I ever expected! Hopefully you did too! This last paragraph was not about this post. It was about me and what I needed to hear! So, thank you for being a part of it!  What are your strengths, what inspire your passion and enthusiasm, what propels you to succeed?

Look for next week’s post as we take a closer look at Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT).

Are You A Multitasking Follow Up Extremist?

In an effort to follow up with new contacts and customer requests I often find myself multitasking, I am sure you can relate! Managing multiple projects and tasks is not new to me by any means. As a Sales Professional either in a corporate environment or as a business owner multitasking becomes an art! I find myself always exploring new ways to get more things done!  I tend to create new habits to squeeze just a few more minutes from my day. As with all new habits and processes we create to achieve more, sometimes it’s good to reflect on the cost these new patterns have.

Yesterday I found myself driving down the road talking on my cell phone, answering a text, switching to my email to respond to a request and just for good measure checking in on Twitter! All of this reminded me of a recent email forwarded to me from Harvard Business Publishing regarding texting while driving!

Is texting while driving really worse than driving under the influence?

A recent study by the RAC Foundation based in London found the average reaction times slowed by 35% while writing or reading texts!  Compare this to the 21% slower reaction from those who had taken cannabis and 12% slower among those who had drunk to the legal limit! A January 2007 survey by U.S.-based Nationwide Insurance suggested 19 per cent of motorists said they texted while driving.  I am sure among my network of friends and colleagues this number would increase to well over 50%!  Are you thinking to yourself…  “this is great but I am an amazing multi-tasker!”? Look at this video of Richard Westcott testing the effects of texting while driving using a simulator.

Take a moment and really think about the urge to read or respond to a text while driving.  Is it really worth the cost?  Can it wait until you arrive at your next destination?  I am all about great follow up and have definitely been known to be an extremist but even I am rethinking some of my habits in regards to multitasking.  Having reviewed the study, I think about a few close calls I have had over the last year while driving on the phone and texting, reading emails, and checking twitter.  For you this might be checking the news, sports, stock market, or the weather.  Whichever other activity you are choosing while driving, hopefully this post will allow you to reevaluate the possible cost!

Take a moment and really think about the urge to read or respond to a text while driving.  Is it really worth the cost?  Can it wait until you arrive at your next destination?  I am all about great follow up and have definitely been known to be an extremist but even I am rethinking some of my habits in regards to multitasking.  Having reviewed the study, I think about a few close calls I have had over the last year while driving on the phone and texting, reading emails, and checking twitter.  For you this might be checking the news, sports, stock market, or the weather.  Whichever other activity you are choosing while driving, hopefully this post will allow you to reevaluate the possible cost!