Christmas Cards in July

I first thought about writing this post as I waited on a very long line at the post office last December, behind a guy with shoebox full of Christmas cards stamped and ready to go.

But I wanted to wait a bit so we would be far enough away from Christmas so I could ask you the following question:

“Have you sent lots of follow up cards, letters and/or gifts to at least some of your favorite people in the last three months since you sent out your Christmas/holiday cards?”

Kudos to you if you have done that…since I believe that true contribution and connection with the most important people in your life is a year round proposition.

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

More on that in a minute.

But first let me clarify…

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

And 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 recently: 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 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.

One more tip: The “lumpier” the package the better. E-mail is nice…a physical card is better…and something that barely fits in a mailbox is the best.

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

I was with a client last year and everyone around the table was younger than me (which happens often to me…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? Are you even aware of that thing 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 35)

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

I have since checked this out with other 20-somethings since and they also like big packages in their mailbox. Imagine that!

And they all seem to still own “In Boxes” at the end of their driveways or in the lobbies of their apartment buildings too.

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

And assuming your Jolly Postman isn’t burying 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 Google…a ripped cover on your current issue of People Magazine beats having your business shut down doesn’t it? 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 also like to say to anyone who will listen:

  1. Direct mail is not dead;
  2. Nothing scales like direct mail; AND
  3. Direct mail sent to 9 million people actually has similarities to direct mail sent to 9,000 people…or direct mail sent to 9 people…

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

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.

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 might inspire you to think of ways to deepen your contributions to heroes in your life without going to the store.

Hopefully you will see that it still is “the thought that counts.”

But you will also see that the gift is the critical part of the guaranteed delivery system of the thought.

Simply put, think “presence” over “presents”…but do both:

  1. Reading is fundamental: Or–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: Just last week, as 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 asking for feedback and advice from the group about their charity and giving.

    These “re-gifts” were presented in public (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. Hey…I love this kind of “direct mail” but I don’t love standing on line in the post office.

  5. Nothing is a “throwaway”: This is not about “one man’s or woman’s garbage is another’s treasure”…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 account in your portfolio”

And the 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. I want to thank everyone who sent feedback and support (and constructive criticism too) on the foreword to the new book I am working on with Craig Simpson.

I received more e-mails than I have to any previous post…in the hundreds…and over time I will try to respond to as many of you as I can.

And I am working with our editors to incorporate many of the changes and ideas you sent. I am very appreciative.

The Advertising Solution will be out in the fall and I will let you know as soon as it’s available…plus I am cooking up something exclusive to send as a free gift to all of you on this list (if you are kind enough to buy the book).

I don’t think I can afford something “lumpy” mailed to each of you…but it will be valuable and relevant.

Unfortunately it will be in that “crowded In Box”…not the one at the end of your driveway…sorry about that!

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