Christmas Cards in July

The doorbell rang…I could see a guy through the window wearing a brown suit (not one of my favorite fashion colors)…and while I was reluctant to answer it, when I made out the “UPS” logo on his shirt and then saw his matching brown truck in my driveway, I ran to open the door.

Whatever he had for me was going to be better than any email or PDF I was reading or downloading.

And I would have felt the same way whether it was post-Thanksgiving (making it a “holiday delivery”) or if it was in the middle of the summer.

Packages are welcome on my doorstep all year round…how about for you?

Then, later in the day, I waited on a very long line at the post office behind a guy with a shoebox full of Christmas cards stamped and ready to go.

I thought it was kind of early for that…the week after Thanksgiving…but I admired his preparation.

And it got me thinking.

If you are planning on sending cards to everyone important in your life sometime before Christmas (i.e. in the next few weeks),  do you also stay in touch with those on your Christmas card list who are the most important people to you all year round?

Kudos to you if you do that…since I believe that true contribution and connection with the most important people in your life is not a one-time-a-year thing

And I also believe it’s much more powerful when we go beyond just sending cards.

More on that in a minute.

But first let me clarify.

I am not anti-Christmas or anti-New Year…but I would like you to consider a different take on all of this.

Please don’t call me a Grinch or think I don’t see the value of expressing holiday and New Year cheer in December.

However, it’s my firm belief that thinking you have deepened your relationships with everyone in your address book simply by sending a card might be worth reconsidering.

It’s not the worst thing you can do…but there are additional, meaningful things you may want to consider.

How many of the cards that you receive during the holidays are memorable?

Do you save them?

Do they enhance your life beyond that moment?

My buddy Joe Polish does something very cool: He writes a note back on every holiday card he receives…and then sends it back to the sender as HIS holiday card to THEM!

He pays for the postage which is admirable…and I think you would agree that the thought is memorable.

Hey–I remembered it enough to mention it here!

I turned the tables on Joe and his staff a couple of years ago.

After he sent a thoughtful gift (a little bag of cords for charging my phone and other devices) I sent him a box of unique chargers that are the brainchild of a former client of mine (they did a huge launch using crowdfunding)…and frankly, my gift was much better than what he sent to me.

I told him that was my “reverse Christmas card” to him.

It was February.

And this is what I want to talk about today…the beauty of thinking about everyone in your life all year round and not having to look for an excuse (or holiday) to connect.

The “lumpier” the package the better but anything is better than nothing.

E-mail is nice…a physical card is better…and something that barely fits in a mailbox is best.

Quick story to illustrate why this brand of “lumpy direct mail” is not just for folks over 50.

I was with a client a few years ago and everyone around the table was younger than me (which happens more often these days…which I love).

I asked the youngest person at the table (she was in her mid-20’s) a series of questions:

ME: Do you own a mailbox? 

Thank goodness she said “yes” because I was afraid my next question was going to be, “Do you know what a mailbox is?” Or “Are you even aware of that thing that is sitting on a post at the end of your driveway?” 

ME: When you go to your mailbox, if there is something in it that is thicker, bulkier and not in a traditional envelope (and addressed by hand), would you open that first when you get back inside? 

She said she actually opens stuff like that before she gets inside…way before checking her other mail…and way, way before she checks her e-mail or Facebook feed to catch up on all the stuff that she missed in the seven minutes since she walked outside.

Remember: 

Your least crowded In Box is the one you grew up with (assuming you are over 20 years old). And it’s not in your computer.

This “focus group of one” told me that it’s possible that sending three dimensional packages to the people we love most might not have a minimum age requirement.

I have since checked this out with other 20-somethings and my research has proved the theory that they also like big packages in their mailbox.

Imagine that!

And they all seem to still own (and know the location of) those “In Boxes at the end of their driveways” (or in the lobbies of their apartment buildings).

Lumpy packages have stuck out in crowded mailboxes for decades…and they stick out even more now in less crowded mailboxes.

And it’s fun for all ages in all seasons and they are especially powerful when personalized.

In addition, assuming that your Jolly Postman isn’t burying your mail in his backyard (as opposed to delivering it) to save wear and tear on his back (there’s a true story behind that one!), the package and the message will actually get delivered.

With impact.

And keep in mind that The United States Postal Service (USPS) is often kinder and gentler than whoever is responsible for delivering your email.

The post office might rip the cover on your current issue of People Magazine but that beats someone on high or a company that controls the flow of messages into your In Box deciding that you are not worthy of receiving an email…sometimes arbitrarily.

The USPS might be a monopoly but they rarely abuse their power as it pertains to delivery.

And if they don’t deliver something, it usually shows up at some point anyway.

I remember once sending a winning gambling ticket for over $700 to a casino in Las Vegas—I am a college basketball savant at least once a year—but  I was too dumb to insure it—and it got lost–only to have a check show up 18 months later.

Deliverability might be slow sometimes via the USPS but it usually gets to you at some point.

Getting back to using physical mail to make an impact that you can never make digitally, I like to say that “direct mail” sent to 9 million people has similarities to direct mail sent to 9,000 people…or direct mail sent to 9 people…or maybe just to one person.

List segmentation rules…whether it’s a huge subscriber list or buyers list or a list of business VIP’s or just friends and family.

In short, sending thoughtful gifts and small, targeted mailings is just another form of segmented, personalized direct mail that anyone can use effectively–even if you are allergic to paying postage.

And sometimes you can make a huge impact without paying anything except the postage…

 

The Power of Re-Gifting (to get you started)

So you think you look like a cheapskate when you re-gift?

Let me give you some examples of why the opposite is true–and these examples might inspire you to think of ways to deepen your contributions to the VIP’s in your life without ever going to a store or logging into Amazon.

Hopefully you will see in the examples below that it is always “the thought that counts”; and that the gift can simply be part of the guaranteed delivery system of the thought.

Think “presence” over “presents”…but do both with your gifting and re-gifting.

 

1. Reading is fundamental:  Every book you receive as a gift which you own already is thoughtfulness ready for a mini-direct mail campaign.

When I receive a duplicate book, I immediately think, “Who in my life would this help, enhance or create value for?”

And then it’s the note with the book that shows how much you care and how much you were thinking about them…and if you need to admit it’s a “re-gift,” feel free.

2. Sugar is sweet but not for me: I often receive a lot of food that I don’t eat or can’t eat (e.g sweets).

I recently received something sweet and delicious from an exotic place (which was very thoughtful–I still sent a thank you note)–but unfortunately the delicacies in question were not on my “diet.”

But I remembered a good friend of mine had just vacationed in that exotic place where the sweet treats originated from–so I sent him them to him with a special note saying how much he meant to me.

3. Promote the heroes in your life:  When I was hosting my first Titans Master Class meeting, I presented two (clean and new!) T-shirts I received for supporting a wonderful volunteer organization–to two of the members who sat on Hot Seats during the meeting asking for feedback and advice from the group specifically about how they could add more charitable giving into their business models.

These “re-gifts” were presented in public and in person (I saved on postage too!)…and I included personal notes so I could tell each of them how much I admired their missions and commitment to giving.

4. The Endorphin rush: The walk to the table in my office where I pile up my gift packages every day for different people in my life may not register as “exercise” on my Fit Bit; but every package makes someone else bigger and stronger…with care and intention.

And there is no bigger achievement for me each day than figuring out how I can touch someone with something special just for them.

The reason I needed to hire an assistant who could come to my house once a week (no virtual assistant in The Philippines for me!) was precisely to take those packages to the post office once a week.

I love this kind of “direct mail” but I don’t love standing on line in the post office.

Here is a picture of that table right now…one week’s worth of “Titans direct mail.”

 

The clerk at the post office will love us on Monday morning!

 

5. Nothing is a “throwaway”: This is not about “one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure”… and of course giving your unwanted goods, clothes etc. to charity is always a good thing to do.

But at least once a day, if I have not created a package for someone, I walk around my office or check my bookshelves or go to my storage closet and see what reminds me of whom…and a “Christmas card in July is born.”

 

As the great Jay Abraham taught me:

“Your relationship capital is the most valuable asset in your portfolio” 

 

And one huge way to achieve “compound interest” on that account is to touch everyone in your life in the most meaningful ways…do it as often as you like or whenever the mood hits you…or whenever you’ve got some “junk” lying around.

 

Warmly,

 

Brian

 

P.S. The timing of sending this post was intentional…the week after Thanksgiving (and “giving Tuesday”) and the beginning of the Christmas giving season.

I had the privilege recently to spend time with someone who, in the spirit of “Christmas cards in July,” gives all year round.

Scott Harrison is the hero who startedcharity:water which is dedicated to helping bring clean water to everyone on the planet.

I give to many charities…many of which focus on a single disease that has hit someone in my family or circle of friends.

But when you think about how many diseases or causes of death can be eliminated by simply making sure everyone has clean water to drink, an organization like charity:water is one of those missions…kind of an “Uber Charity”… that is so easy to get behind.

I also love charity:water because 100% of the money donated is used to bring clean water to people around the world. They have a completely separate fundraising division that finances the overhead of the organization.

Every dollar donated by folks like us builds wells in places that currently have no clean water. 

Scott then looks to bigger businesses and large benefactors to fund the overhead.

I’ve decided to try as best as I can going forward to only support charities using this model.

Scott set up a page just for me and my fellow Titans to give you more details and to make it easy for you to bring clean water to places around the world that need it most.

I hope you will join me in donating any amount you can on a monthly basis.

Something else that is unique about charity: water is that they have technology in place so you can see your donation at work.

They tell you where your money is being used each month and you can even get updates on how much water each of their projects is producing and how many people are being helped.

My monthly payment this month went to Rwanda…I just received an email…this is what they sent me.

You will receive something similar every month if you become a supporter.

At this link there is a video telling you more about charity: water and the impact they are having in the world.

Please join me during this special time of year and become a supporter.

If you can even donate $5 a month tocharity: water you can help change 6 people’s lives per year by providing clean water to them.

Remember: 100% of your donation goes directly to digging wells in order to bring clean water to people who need it most around the world.

Thanks for reading and considering..and happy “giving Sunday!”

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