Christmas and the holidays are fast approaching and the USPS is running feverishly to deliver the approximate 1.9 billion Christmas and Season’s Greetings cards that are sent out this time each year in the USA. That’s right … the number is 1.9 billion, and the expense is roughly the same number of dollars if you figure that the average cost, including postage, is about a buck a pop!

And what about the environmental cost? Indeed, many in our industry are becoming accustomed to measuring not only the financial cost, but also the environmental cost. What is the carbon footprint associated with producing 1.9 million cards, and what about all of the trees that were sacrificed to produce these proclamations of good will? This is perhaps one reason why we are seeing an increasing trend toward e-cards.

So, with the economy not being everything it should be, this year finds many of us reflecting on the value of sending out all of these cards and the impact this process has upon our business. Do our customers really appreciate these cards? What affect do these cards really have upon our customers and their desire to want to continue to do business with us?

I have found that one thing all customers have in common is that they want to feel special. Just so I don’t end up on a greeting card company stockholder’s hit list, I must say, that to some extent, cards do accomplish this, especially if they contain a handwritten personalized message within. But one additional, or shall I dare say alternative thing, that one can perhaps also do to really make customers feel appreciated … is to pick up the phone and call them!

A phone call to a customer is a very special and personal way of delivering your holiday message. Sure, we call them all year long … to ask for orders, to check on their satisfaction quotient and to ask for more orders. But what about calling them for no other purpose but to thank them for their business and to wish them a great and safe holiday! Sure, we may end up getting voice mail much of the time, especially this time of year, but one can always leave a message, and the result will be the same – the customer will feel very special!

Don’t forget that existing customers are very special indeed. It is ten times harder to win back a lost customer than it is to pick up a new one, and in a typical year with a mature business, existing customers account for two thirds of the business growth. In tough economic times, customers are always looking for alternatives to help them cut costs or add value to their product offerings. Their susceptibility to change is now at an all time high. So, it very important to let them know how much they are appreciated and to make sure they feel that they have an open line of communication with you. That way, if they decide that they need something new, you will be the first one to find out. This puts you first in line with an opportunity to fulfill these needs and gives you a greater chance of keeping your place as the incumbent supplier! Some of this may sound elementary, but I have seen salespeople and corporate executives so caught up in trying to woo new customers that they oftentimes forget about the one’s they already have, which are equally, if not, more important!

So, if you can do both, then by all means send out a card, hopefully a recycled or e-card, and also follow it up with a phone call. But if you find yourself short on time, as most of us do this time of year, and cannot do both, then consider taking the phone call route and call as many of your customers as you can. It can mean so much more!

Now, speaking of a holiday mailing that may have fallen short … CLICK HERE to take a look at what I just found in my mailbox!

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