Here we are on the cusp of another holiday season. It's the time of year when it is better to give than to receive, and many business owners decide to mail out holiday cards letting people know how wonderful they are and how appreciated their business is.

Before sealing all of those envelopes, however, stop and think. Why mail out hoards of holiday cards? Is it because of thankfulness, or is it a blatant promotion piece? And since everyone else does it, no one wants to be left out.

Not being left out is why the presence of advertising is greater in November and December than any other time. Businesses feel that without heavy advertising, loyal customers will do business with competitors advertising the latest special. So, is generosity really the motivation?

Let's analyze the issue. First, set aside the notion of whether mailing cards is out of thankfulness or if there are ulterior motives. The real question is; should contractors mail out a holiday card this year? As a contractor, I can see how it would be easy to stand on either side of the fence on this issue.

When choosing not to mail out items, contractors often worry people will think they don't care about their customers or appreciate their business. Customers, however, may not even appreciate that holiday card contractors invested hard-earned money in to mail out.

In fact, promotional product salespeople will try to convince contractors that their customers want the company's latest gadget with its name stamped across it. Now, as good as this may sound at the time, customers might perceive that the contractor mailed it out as a blatant company promotion and are looking for something in return.

Beyond that, there's the simple issue of quantity. Imagine a hamburger connoisseur. This person loves hamburgers. He knows the fast food jingles by heart and all the words to "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Even as a hamburger junkie, however, he'd lose some of his hamburger fondness if he ate them every day. There are very few things in life people don't grow tired of when overexposed to them.

With this in mind, consider the holiday season. People often start receiving three or four cards a day. "Oh great, another card," customers might sigh opening another holiday card. It's not always a high priority for people to open these holiday cards, but they often feel obligated. In some cases, they're even irritated.

Customers may also receive a box of candy, a small token gift, or a promotional item. The box of candy sent might be made with the finest ingredients in the world, but if they just received two other boxes of candy, it isn't going to taste as sweet as the contractor may have intended. Unfortunately, many of these promotional items are thrown away or passed on to someone else.

No, I'm not a holiday scrooge. Actually, I'm quite the opposite. I love the holiday season, and I love spending time with friends and family. I also love being in business during the holiday season because people are friendlier and more willing to do business.

I am a scrooge, however, when it comes to oversaturating and irritating customers while wasting money. What's the answer? Well, if contractors feel compelled to mail out a gift, they should be different. Why not mail the gift out in July when the customer least expects it?

If contractors mail out a special gift at a time when no one else is sending gifts, they'll likely receive a tenfold return on investment and the customer's appreciation should be substantially greater.

July may be long gone, but there is still time to get holiday cards and gifts out before Thanksgiving. Put them in the customer's hands before the onslaught of cards and gifts fill the mailbox. Waiting until Christmas could simply be a waste of money. Do it early and reap the rewards of appreciation and loyal business. That's how I make money every day.

Terry Nicholson is president of AirTime 500. For more information on AirTime 500, call 800-505-8885. Nicholson can be reached by e-mail at

Publication date: 11/21/2005