I’ve been planning corporate holiday initiatives for nearly 20 years. Assembling lists, managing creative, developing timelines, and overall making sure that communication does not go awry. When I was in-house, the challenges were slightly different than they are in my own company, but the skills I learned early in my career are very applicable today and for the past 3 years I have run almost on autopilot.
Enter in 2020 and the reminder that even good processes need to adapt and there is always, always room for improvement. Here are the steps to get you started in this process if you have never done it before. If this is not something new for you, I hope that you are able to streamline it a bit more this year.
Step 1. Consider your options.
Physical or electronic gifts. Physical or electronic cards. Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s focus (or a combination!). Recently I was speaking with a client who sent out electronic cards for the first-time last year. They were going to move forward with the same for this year, and the CEO stopped the conversation. He pointed out that a lot of people aren’t going to get as many physical cards this year. For this client, the convenience of electronic sending was replaced with a strategic decision to stand out by sending physical cards to select relationships as well as their electronic greetings.
Thoughtful, memorable gifts have tremendous impact, and we always work with Amy Bossov of Yes Promotions to find our perfect option. This is our fourth holiday season, and we have given away coffee sets, notebook sets, popcorn bowls, and… HA! I’m not telling you what we are sending this year! Suffice it to say, made in the USA, apparel item, super custom, super awesome. When she showed me, I knew it was exactly the right thing to send. Everyone needs more Amy in their lives.
Step 2. Create a list.
Hopefully you have been amassing a list of contacts for the entire year. Your clients (past, current, and prospective), your colleagues and referral sources, and of course the advisors and mentors who have contributed to your business. I also like to add in companies that I use for various functions. The firms who provide services to my company are incredibly valuable to me, and I view them as my peers.
My list has always had two columns – gift or card. I wish I had a million-dollar budget and could send gifts to everyone! Unfortunately, my reality is that I have to stay within a budget. I have to understand how many gifts I need to ensure I order the correct quantity of everything. This year I am adding a third column – electronic card. I am adding this option for a very specific reason: a number of my colleagues are working from home. I want to give them the option of getting a card in the mail (at office or residence) OR just an electronic variation. They may not want their home address on my mailing list, and may not be picking up the mail at the office. I will have to assure all of my relationships that if they prefer for me to ship a holiday gift to a certain address but do not want to keep that in my files permanently, that I will do so.
Step 3. Create a schedule.
I am always very cognizant of the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas. In fact, the majority of my friends in the commercial real estate business are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah. Because Hanukkah moves around each year, my schedule is accelerated or pushed back to accommodate. This year, it starts December 10th – so any mailing I do, my goal is to be done by that date.
For any physical mailings, save room for signing and shipping if you are doing those functions yourself. They take more time than you would think. My little living room holiday enterprise for 75 gifts and 500 cards takes around 16 hours. Longer if I gift wrap the items. I create shipping labels on USPS.com, or can do so on UPS.com if I need to. Labeling at home is far less painful than labeling at the post office or the UPS store.
Step 4. Execution.
Pick your card design and order it (or have it customed designed by Carlson Integrated!). Choose your gift and order it. Start creating your electronic card. Ask contacts where they want their holiday mailings to be sent. Pick your shipping platform and create your account. See if you can upload a spreadsheet of contacts for the mailing (makes things MUCH faster than typing them all!).
One final piece of advice: start filling out cards as soon as you get them. Even a few per day will help preserve your wrist and increase your thoughtfulness and creativity when you are writing. Everyone cherishes a sincere, handwritten note. Your effort will have less impact if it seems like you are implementing a canned holiday program.
This year has been all about change, and since we are somehow already at the beginning of November, let’s get rolling on the holiday planning!