Christmas cards and gifts — an annual dilemma. As business owners, we have to address this issue every year. But many years ago, my company established some strategies that have worked for us, and I would like to share them with you.

We’ll start with Christmas cards. Personally, I love Christmas cards. And with all due respect for political correctness, I like a Christmas card that says “Merry Christmas.” Unfortunately, very few cards we receive at our office say Merry Christmas. In our family, we have a very long-standing tradition regarding Christmas cards. My wife, Carol, has personally designed and made our Christmas card every year since the Christmas of 1963 — the first Christmas after we were married. Her cards are always unique and include appropriate pictures. First it was us, then the kids, and now the grandkids. Her cards always attract a great deal of attention, with us receiving many, many compliments each year. In addition to all of our friends, relatives, and employees, we also send those cards to the home’s of the owners of the companies that are our company’s best customers. But we still send those cards from Butch and Carol, not from Welsch Heating and Cooling Co.

As a company, we do not send Christmas cards for several reasons. The first is that, during that time of year, there are just too many cards. In addition, I feel that most of the time, the Christmas cards are opened by a receptionist or secretary responsible for opening the mail. That individual then posts the cards on the wall for everyone to see, but in reality, for no one to really read. If I send something, I want it to get to the correct individual.

Our company takes a different approach to cards. For many years, we have been sending a Thanksgiving letter to every customer who we have made a replacement or commercial installation for between Nov. 1 of the previous year through Oct. 31 of the current year.

This is a simple letter on nice Thanksgiving stationary. It says “We thank you for your support of our company.”

However, the thing that makes them unique is the fact that I personally sign every one of the letters.

In addition, to anyone who is someone I know or who is someone I know has been a long-time customer, I put an extra note — something to the effect of: “We sincerely appreciate your business over these many years.” We have found this personal touch to be very effective. Since the card comes at Thanksgiving, we know that it will be one of the few received at that time.

Regarding Christmas gifts for our major customers, we have another long-standing (about 40 year) unique tradition. We give out sets of glassware, usually four glasses, and we have given all types of glasses: wine glasses, tall glasses, beer mugs, coffee mugs — you name it and we have given them.

There are two things that make them unique. The first is the fact that each glass has the first initial of the customer’s last name etched on it. The second is the fact that we hand deliver each set of glasses to personally meet the major customers. This allows us to not only thank them for their business but to spend a few moments talking to them about their prospects for the upcoming year. “Oh, and by the way — here is a gift for you …”

Think about it. As much as we like our logo and company name, no one is going to have a dinner and put out glasses with our logo on them. However, they will use glasses with their own initial and will likely think about us each time they are used.

We all know of some of the Christmas gifts we have received where it appeared the salesman cleaned out their advertising specialties closet and brought you five things with their company’s logo. Not very personal.

A set of glasses with a customer’s own initial is a surprisingly low-cost way of making a good impression. The best compliment occurs in succeeding years when those customer’s tell you how they have kept and use the glasses they have received.

Publication date: 11/5/2018

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