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Are You Sending a Generic Unsigned Holiday Card?

Here’s the rule:  If you won’t sign them, don’t send them.

I always get a year-end holiday card from my best friend, a terrific lawyer I’ve known for 40 years. We shared our first beer together. I refer him lots of business. The card, his 17th-consecutive snowy Chicago skyline, wishes me “Happy Holidays from [his law firm],” signed with a badly pixilated low-res scan of his signature, “John.” (Not his real name.)  No note. I’m going to have to talk to him about this. Again.

I know he’s busy but, frankly, I think those types of mailings do more harm than good. Few people have ever said, “My lawyer didn’t wish me a generic “Seasons Greetings” this year; I’m taking my business elsewhere!” That is, if you’re going to do it badly, just don’t do it; no one will notice its

But if you can find, that is, make, the time, a personal handwritten note is incredibly powerful.

In our instantaneous era of smartphone texts, click-and-send email notes, and 140-character tweets, a physical handwritten card with a personalized note creates an enormous impact. I might get 250 emails and 25 generic holiday cards that I’ll forget the next day, but 18 years later, I still have the handwritten, 15-word “Congratulations, Ross!” note in a thick, blue, felt-tip marker I received from one of Chicago’s best lawyers and nicest guys, my former Coffield Ungaretti & Harris partner, Mike Coffield. 

Even though I knew he dashed off at least 25 short cards each week in a stack organized by his secretary, it still felt special to receive one. It’s the difference between sincerely caring about people and doing the least amount necessary because you’re “supposed” to send cards. The recipients can tell the difference. It’s quality, not quantity.

And if your firm’s lawyers can’t be bothered to personally sign the cards, don’t send them.

Nothing says “I care about you and deeply value your business and our relationship” like a generic, unsigned card with the firm’s name foil-stamped on them. You ever get one of those from your accountant? Don’t they make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

I always get that special feeling, knowing that my accountant took the time out of his busy schedule to have his secretary include me on the same mass-mailed list as hundreds or thousands of his other clients and prospects. Oh, if he’d only send me a pleather calendar with his firm’s name embossed on it, then I’d know for certain that he’s going to do his very best for me in 2017.

In the past decade, email versions of holiday cards have become extremely popular. They allow more creative freedom, with holiday-themed items zooming and spinning and morphing needlessly into each other. The high-minded explanation is that they’re green and save paper. Internally, they’re thinking that the lawyers have any excuse for not signing anything. That is, it’s easy.

Because a simple click can effortlessly send cards to tens of thousands of recipients, electronic cards are arguably even less personal than unsigned paper cards where someone, somewhere, at least had to lick a stamp.

Make sense?


Ross Fishman Speaker intro