Holiday Marketing Tip #2:   Research shows holiday gifts and signed cards show how much you value your client relationship

Nov 24th, 2015 | Company News, Law Firm Marketing, Legal Marketing in Brief

If you haven’t started thinking about sending holiday cards and gifts to your key clients and referral sources, you are already falling behind in your holiday season marketing.

“Bah, humbug!” you say?

Well, consider some research I found about cards, about signing them and about gift-giving.  If you agree with it, and I think you will, my best practices for both then follow.

“Cards and gifts are a regular occurrence, even expected, for heads of state. They create and cement allegiances and partnerships,” according to The Psychology of Persuasion.

But cards and gifts also are the “red-hot center of holiday hell,” says the Journal of Consumer Research.  Why?

Cards and gifts are a torturous endeavor because they are anxiety-creating.  The reason:  senders are generally “highly motivated to elicit desired reactions from recipients,” the Journal said.

The key is that whatever you do must “reflect the recipient’s perceived value of relationship,” the Journal concluded, adding that the proper gift must surprise the recipient and demonstrate familiarity with their tastes.  (Give a wine enthusiast a subscription to Wine Spectator, the leading vino ratings magazine, for example.)

If you’re convinced now that gifts and cards are a good idea, here are suggestions for proper distribution.

First, create a list of your top clients, balancing them in terms of fees paid, potential fees, referrals made and potential referrals they could make on your behalf.  Also, list your existing and potential co-counsel and referring lawyers.  Add in other professionals and advisors and you’re off to an excellent start.

Send them all a holiday card.  Under no circumstances should your card have just your firm’s name at the bottom or lack a signature and personal note.  Recipients will judge your card, and how you value your relationship, in direct proportion to the effort they think you put into sending it.  Your first name in pen simply at the bottom doesn’t do much good and may hurt you.  It shows you have no idea when you were signing the card who might get it, that you treat clients en masse, not individually, or are too busy to take a moment to reflect.  Is that the message you want to send?

Martin Nowak, director of Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, points out that thanking is a form of cooperative reciprocity with roots in primate behavior.

Writing in Forbes, Micah Solomon, a noted customer service consultant, says thank you notes are important “because beginnings and endings have disproportionate power to affect your customers. The brain selectively chooses which events to store in memory.  All things being equal, the brain ‘guesses’ that the beginning of an interaction (the hello) and the end (the goodbye) are worth taking a mental snapshot of for future recall.”

Notes, as opposed to ecards, texts or emails, say “that you’d like the customer to come back,” Solomon says, adding “Reference the actual interaction or reason that you’re thankful. ‘Thank you for being a customer’ doesn’t cut it.”

One year, I was sent a card with signatures of attorneys pre-printed on it.  Unsigned cards are nothing but ads in the guise of holiday cards. How cold and disappointing it is to receive them.

Another I obtained had the lawyer’s name signed with auto-pen software.  That’s an all-time low in my experience.  It’s how politicians send their self-serving direct mail to constituents.  If you want your clients to think of you as they do a politician, I guess that will work, but I can’t imagine that’s the response you want.

Does this mean you have to take time when it comes to holiday cards?  You bet.  I know lawyers who spend an entire day at it.  And, every one that does is highly successful.  It’s worth every moment because a card or gift is far more than just a card or gift, as the research shows.

Still thinking “Bah, Humbug?”

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