Jack's Vermont: Holiday Cards & Your Brand

Posted by Lynton Web Team on Tue, Jan 11, 2011

Yes, there's lots & lots of snow at Stratton
Yes, I will be snowboarding this Saturday.
Yes, the Mountain is almost fully open
Yes, I'm always available to do some turns.
Of course, I'll be there for the ACG event on the 30th

First, and most importantly, I trust that everyone had a very enjoyable, relaxing and comfortable holiday and is looking forward to making a big impact in 2011. Having spent the last two weeks of December in Vermont, I know I'm looking forward to this year and what is already scheduled out to be a very busy January and February with last minute business and sales planning going on in high gear. For me and the business, an exciting time of year.

It was a perfect holiday filled with work, some time off, a lot of snowboarding and, of course, the blizzard of December, 2010, which might pale by today's. Well, actually, almost a perfect holiday since each Christmas, I go through angst over my annual pet peeve: business holiday cards.

Christmas & Holiday cards really frustrate me. Deep in our now heavily snow-filled valley in Vermont, my wife dutifully takes wonderful pictures of our cats hiding among Christmas ornaments and boughs of evergreens. With quick uploads to Shutterfly that night, Christmas cards magically appear in two days from FedEx which begins the process of short hand written notes to friends and family of stories about the ocean and now the return to VT after her recent knee replacements. Although I regard all of this Christmas activity from afar, given that I spend my non-work, non-snowboarding time in Vermont doing manly chores like hauling in the daily wood and snowblowing, I do enjoy the Christmas rituals and getting into the holiday mood. And, for me, sending and reading Christmas, holiday and New Year cards is part of the process.

Ok, so now comes the frustration. Other than cards from personal friends, most business holiday cards come in the mail simply stamped by the printer. "Happy Holidays", stamped "Big Law Firm". No signature, no semblance of a signature, sometimes the stamped name of the sender and sometimes an indecipherable squiggle that looks something like a signature. One of my service providers, who I know very well, simply signs the initial of his first name, "F", from "The Big Bank". Where's the love in that, plus what's the branding that that sends?"

And most online cards are not any better. "Wishing you a Happy Holidays" with a printed signature from "ABC Manufacturing" does not make me feel warm thoughts about doing business with the company. One firm to whom we provide very large fees each year expresses their sincere warmth and thanks with "Season's Greetings" and a few signatures of all of the office staff. Not much sincerity in that. An accounting firm we know very well, simply says "Happy Holidays". No personal touch like "Thanks for the audit fees last year and looking forward to charging you more in the upcoming tax season". Nothing, nada, zilch. Online cards, without much effort, could at least digitize what might look like a personal signature and do a mail merge on the card of the recipient's first name to say "Hi Jack,"

The real question is "Why bother?" What's the image that you're trying to brand? My own feeling is that if you can't take the time to write out even one sentence that's personalized, just don't send anything. Hard for me to believe that anyone is out there keeping a checklist of who sends and who doesn't send cards. This is one of the only times of the year when you can connect with customers, business partners and associates, and it's a great opportunity to brand who you are and your business with a short personalized note. Or, if you don't want to do that, then think about an online card that is mass mailed to say that in lieu of your normal practice of mailing holiday cards, you've decided to make a donation to the Boys & Girls Club, or something similar, in your local community.

There are a few people who really do create their own brand from such activities as their annual update letters sent out by Ken Goldman, CFO at Black Duck, and Walter Wright at Trinity Law. Each year, I'm reminded of the solid sales management work that Bill Reich does as a result of his Christmas thank you to me. Just the fact that Tom Fissler at IDP Investments takes the time to write out "Keep Selling" at the bottom of his card with a real signature, means a lot. I also look forward each year to see what highly imaginative cards Doug Wolf and his staff at Wolf Greenfield come up with. And, it was great to have Craig Devino write an actual note about his latest gig. And there are more examples where other of our business associates take the time to pen one personalized sentence on a card or type out an online comment about Vermont or my passion for sales and business planning.

It's just that small personal touch that not only gets remembered, but, most importantly creates a branding moment for either you or your business that stands out in a sea of stamped, roll-em-off-the-printer, get-em-out-the-door cards which actually end up sending the absolute wrong message and brand. As in, you really don't care "to send the very best". Definitely not the message that you want to subliminally send to anyone for 2011.

Which is an interesting question to think about at this time of year: "What's the message for your business for 2011?" "What's the brand that you want to leave 2011 with not only in the eyes first of your customers, but also for your new prospects and your associates who refer you business?"

Personally, I'm looking forward to this year with great excitement and a new energy. 2010 was a very good year for the firm, and we believe that 2011 should be even better. We've just signed up for HubSpot and hired a firm for a total redo of our website which should be completed in Q2. We're further expanding our reach into Canada and upstate New York and making other growth investments-especially in marketing.

Similarly, we've found over November and December that most of our customers have shaken off the uncertainty of 2010 and are approaching 2011 on a more even, well planned out basis than they were certainly a year ago or even back at the beginning of September.

By the way, as a means of helping you figure out 2011, I would strongly recommend attending ACG's Annual Outlook Conference on February 3rd at the Park Plaza in Boston. You can click on to the note just below and join me and hundreds of other business managers who will be there searching for answers and talking to one another about our own outlook for the coming year.

We believe that it's going to be a great year, so Keep Selling!

At this time of year, most of us are working on our sales planning for this year. As a result, we put together two detailed documents to help you through what is sometimes a difficult process.

The first is a lengthy 2011 Sales Planning Guide. Hope you find it useful-even though it does take some time to get through. We just could not find a way, given the importance of this year’s annual sales planning process, to make it shorter.

Our second (shorter) sales document is on the details for creating successful quarterly Key Account Plans. Hope you find these useful, and any comments and edits would be greatly appreciated.


-and the rest of the managers on the team-
Jan Olmstead: Marketing & Customer Voice Surveys,
George Pilla: Early stage interim CFO
Frank Porter: Operations & Manufacturing
George Simmons: Finance, Sales Optimization, Senior management

Tags: sales tools, business tools, business planning, business coaching