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So? What do you think of today’s holiday cards?

I’ve been railing about holiday card do’s and don’ts for over 20 years (click here for more detail).   Sometimes I think the word is getting out.  Other times I just sigh.  Usually I rant about the cover, the branding page, which is what sets the tone and tells most of the story.  Does it convey something positive about the sender or their firm?  Or does it cause recipients to think, “Nothing here.”

Remember, your card will be subconsciously judged against all the other cards the recipients received around that same time. 

Here’s a representative cross section — four cards I received in a single typical day in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  How do they compare? 

Below is the one from my friend and client, Allan Slagel.  A great guy, outstanding litigator from Chicago’s Shefsky & Froelich, and relationship-oriented marketer, he took the time to use my name and write a brief but meaningful and legible note.  Just eight simple words, but it’s enough.  In fact, in the ultimate act of personalization, he hand delivered it to me when he bought me a nice holiday lunch.  (Shefsky’s a terrific middle-market firm that just merged with Taft Stettinius & Hollister.)  I’m sure Allan is sending a lot of cards this year, but this still shows how to do a holiday card the right way.

Contrast that with the card below from another firm I know VERY well.  In fact, I know the firm SO well that it could have come from at least a dozen different lawyers and other professionals there.

Who sent it?  I have absolutely no idea – I can’t read the hurried name/initial/signature.  What name or letter is this?  What does this card indirectly say to me?  Basically, “You’re just one of 1,000 cards I’m sending this year, and I’m too busy to care.”  I’ve cropped out the firm’s embossed name to protect his/her identity.  I’m not really feeling the Joy that the card invites.

It’s better than a completely unsigned card, but by not by much:

Or how about this one, from the staff at the Legal Marketing Association (LMA)?

Every single person hand-signed it, with intentionally different pens.  It’s not specifically personalized to me, but considering they had to coordinate eleven different people, it’s still nicely done.  (The signatures might be pre-printed onto the card, but I don’t think so.)

Below is an example of how to do it right:

Now let’s analyze the card I received from Jennifer Smuts, Director of Marketing at Drinker Biddle & Reath:

Neatly written, dated, relevant, personalized to a particular project, a warm sentiment, looking forward to next year, and a legible full name.

Just 20 words, but a perfect 10.0.

And bonus points to Drinker Biddle for having the card come from “the lawyers and staff.”  The best law firms understand the importance of a great staff, and find ways to show them that they’re valued.  (It didn’t come from “the lawyers and non-lawyers…”)