Every venue of communication has a window of opportunity.   The window for generic holiday eCards has opened and shut.  Finis.  Done.   It has been taken over by the mob.  If you have clients and want to do a holiday outreach,  read on.

Why do I say this?  In my email inbox today, I had over 20 holiday eCards.  Their were some nice ones, but most, I think missed the mark.  No bah humbug intended, I love the holidays.  In the 20 days leading to Xmas, my whole family sings a holiday tune each night.  Each of my three children pick a song and put an ornament on a wall hanging xmas tree that grandma made for them.  A new tradition, with fun and meaning for a 2, 4 and 5 year old.  We put the time in.  Parenting, like a business relationship is about the time.  It would not matter what we did.  I could spend the time telling my 5 year old about the “big bang” and the origin of the universe (her favorite story).  It’s about putting in the time.

I’m not here to make a commentary on the spirit of the holidays, this is pure, good business advice.  I hope you read it in time.

First, a history lesson:  Holiday eCards emerged with the advent of email.  It was a natural fit. Easy to do and send.  You could reach out to clients that you may never go to the expense of mailing a card to.  On the receiving end, it was a new thing, unique and unexpected.

This is not the case today.  Today, if I wanted, I could send a generic holiday email to my 10,000+ linkedIN connections for less than $1.  I asked one of my engineers on the actual server time cost… it really is less than $1.  This is not taking into account the persons time to pick a holiday design, choose a generic, well wishing slogan, and click the send button.

This year, I initially thought about sending an eCard.  I’m a technology person and it seemed “logical”.  Thank you to April, Jenny & Mike from Broadlook for stopping me.  Broadlook sent out hand – signed cards this year.

The axiom that I’ve learned in this:

The impact of your holiday outreach is in direct proportion to the time and care you put in.

I like to classify things. From the cards that I got, I thought I would put together a continuum of impact.

Generic holiday eCard – These simply suck.  Stop sending them.  Few people care unless you are the only one sending them a card.    FAIL

Animated holiday eCard – These were cool and fun…3 years ago. Please stop sending these as well.  (Mom can you hear me?)  FAIL

Company branded holiday eCard – The same as Generic company eCard, except sporting a company logo on top of the usual snowflakes and mistletoe.  For the 3rd time…please stop sending these.  FAIL

Holiday Photo eCard – This is acceptable and hats off to the team at Entice Labs who sent out a great eCard. Why was it great?  It had a picture of their entire company.  For me, it was nice to see people I had met once a trade show and had talked to several times.  This passes my “time and caring” litmus test.  At some point, all business at the company had to stop so they could go outside and take a group photo. Nice touch.  PASS

Personalized eCard – When I say “personalized” I mean that someone took the time to write something.  Not a simple one liner, but a well thought out something.  One of the best cards I got this year was 3 pages from a family run business, who lost a husband and father to a tragic accident.  The card was a thank you, a year synopsis of how the business was faring and a heart felt holiday greeting.  Yes it was mass-mailed, but the content took several hours to write. They put the time in.  PASS

New Media eCards – Last year, this was cool, and for those who haven’t seen it yet, it can still be cool this year.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, see http://www.elfyourself.com.  If you wait until next year, it won’t be cool. PASS (this year)  FAIL (next year)

What did Broadlook send this year? We went with hand written cards.

Our card features our new company mascot, Captain Archer.  180 pounds of love and the chagrin to the cleaning company.  We lost Archer’s Mom & our 1st company mascot, Captain Janeway to cancer this year.  I miss her.

Igor & Janeway as a puppy in the 1st Broadlook office in 2002.  400 sq ft of fun!