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What Can Holiday Cards Teach Us About Prospecting?

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Plenty of people send Christmas and holiday cards. They come in many varieties. Some are custom made. Others are sold by the box or individually at card stores. Some arrive immediately after Thanksgiving, while others arrive three days after you mailed that person a card.

What can the behavior of people who send cards teach us about prospecting? Before you box this year’s cards up or throw them away, take one last look.

Perhaps you feel Christmas cards have gone the way of rotary phones and cameras loaded with actual film. Keep three facts in mind: 

  • There are plenty of baby boomers. They are sitting on plenty of assets. You might not send cards, but they often do.
  • Teach your children. The habits of boomers become the habits of their children, especially if they are wealthy and into tradition.
  • Name recognition. Let’s include telling your story, too. You might rarely see these people, but you know who they are and what are they are doing.

Now lets relate holiday card habits with prospecting strategies.

The people who keep a mailing list.

These folks send out their cards in a batch in early December. They arrive at your home unsolicited. The person sending them might keep a list of cards sent and cards received. If they don’t get a response for a few years, your name gets taken off the list. On the upside, if you send them a card, you are likely added to their list.

Prospecting: Some advisors have a proactive prospecting strategy. It might be through social media, the phone, email, surface mail or other channels. They have designed their own outreach program, follow-up and harvest.

The card that arrives after you sent them one.

My wife calls these “guilt cards.” They sent one because they got yours. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad strategy. They are being reactive, saying “If you reach out to me, I’ll return the compliment.”

Prospecting: Some advisors say they grow their business exclusively through referrals. Let’s assume they have a strategy proactively asking clients to refer people they know. If someone calls and says “I was referred by Bryce,” they leap into action. If a client says “You should talk to my friend Bryce,” they act on it. They are being reactive, since they aren’t conducting an outreach program targeting strangers.

The card untouched by human hands.

You’ve gotten these cards. They are magnificent. The interior of the card has a traditional message and the name of the sender in type. The card has a typed address and perhaps a postage machine imprint. The sender supplied a list and hired a company to do the rest.

Prospecting: Some people outsource prospecting. They hire a company to make calls or do mailings for them. Interested prospects make an appointment by phone or through your scheduling app. Maybe the advisor just gets a list of interested names. The advisor’s initial connection with the prospect is that first conversation. Like the holiday cards, it’s an expensive process. 

The photo card.

You have probably received plenty over the years. You can get them made up at the office supply superstore, photo counter at your pharmacy or on websites like Shutterfly.

The card often shows family members or pictures from vacations. The envelope might be addressed, but the card is rarely personalized. The connection is through family values, although mailing a picture of yourself can be a little vain.

Prospecting: The analogy is the advisor who seeks to develop prospect relationships through social prospecting. They belong to organizations with other like-minded individuals. They might be active at their children’s school. They are sharing part of their personal life to develop a social relationship that might expend to include a business relationship. People do business with people they like.

The annual holiday letter.

You’ve received these, too. They are often a single typed sheet enclosed inside the greeting card. The card might be personalized and signed, but the letter is usually an insert. They come in all styles. Some talk about the lives of their children and grandchildren. This requires knowing who these folks are! Others talk about their activities of the previous year. They are usually upbeat, but not always.

Prospecting: This is similar to the strategy of posting content on social media on a regular basis. Facebook might be the place to post about your personal life while LinkedIn has more of a business focus. Your posts seek to establish you as successful, communicating the message you are good at your job. The business related posts establish you as a resource, a subject matter expert.

The emailed greeting.

Some people don’t send cards, choosing the email route instead. They are often personalized, yet many are the same text, regardless of recipient. Some might be an entirely personal message in response to something you sent. (I loved your card!) Others might be more general.

Prospecting: This advisor has relegated surface mail to the past and decided email (or social media messaging) is a good vehicle. The key here is the targeted approach. They have built a list and either sent individual messages or targeted different segments with different messages.

The blanket email.

You’ve gotten these “From all of us at (firm) we would like to wish you a happy holiday.” They are often from a business. Some firms still send physical cards through the mail. You give them credit for making an effort and appreciating their customers, but the lack of personalization is a turnoff.

Prospecting: This brings us back to the days of blast emails. You are a customer at different stores. They might send you an ad via email a few times a week. The advisor version might be the e-newsletter. It keeps your name in front of the client or prospect. It contains information they might consider valuable.

Here’s how we do it.

Yes, my wife and I send Christmas cards. For the past 40 (yes 40!) years, we have commissioned an artist friend do draw a cartoon version of us along with our pets. The background ties into what we’ve done that year. We also enclose a one sheet holiday letter, detailing interesting highlights of the year. The letters are often self depreciating, like me spending days spreading several square yards of mulch around the property and two vultures flying overhead wondering if I’ll make it. They were ready, just in case!

Prospecting: LinkedIn is my primary prospecting channel. I’ve built several lists and send individual messages to each name on a schedule. My messages are short, personalized and often include a little personal news in addition to a link to one of my articles. Measured over a year, (and including other messaging) my response rate has been slightly under 38%.

The message is the more personalized the outreach, the more likely people will engage.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)