To Holiday Card or Not To Holiday Card - Is That the Question?

To Holiday Card or not to Holiday Card – is that the question?
Will it remain an eternal question revived every spring and conveniently swept under the rug by early autumn?

For the past several years, there has been an ongoing battle as to the value of the annual law firm holiday card.  Fellow members of the Legal Marketing Association, for example, have decried the process as costly and of low ROI value.  Yet, our own organization lauds the (cards) with an annual award.  And, we are not alone.  Above the Law has dutifully gathered and measured entries for its recognition of the best creative efforts.  Inside Counsel used to publish its own list of top choices.  A search for “law firm holiday” on YouTube brings up several e-card videos.
 

QUESTIONS:

  • Should you….do a card?
  • Should you…choose print or video?
  • Should you….spend more or less than last year?
  • Is it too late for 2016?

ANSWERS:
You MUST be creative.  Ideally, you should capture creative ideas for the coming year (e.g. 2017) on the heels of last year (e.g. December 2016 or January 2017), when creative ideas around the topic, and the improvements you’d like to make, are fresh in your mind.  

You MUST plan early.  As noted above, an initial step in planning should be made on the heels of the preceding year.  Then, I recommend you hold three separate meetings to focus fully on specific intentions.  (By separating the purpose of the meetings, you enhance the activity to be achieved.)

  1. A meeting to solidify the firm’s purpose with the card.  In addition to the annual greeting, perhaps you also want to showcase charitable and community efforts; show off the culture of your office; highlight growth in practices, personnel, or in new office space/locations, etc.
  2. A meeting to brainstorm on the creative aspects of the message you want to create (yes to snowflakes, no to snowflakes).  Keep this as general as possible, don’t try to execute the details of the ideas fully at this one meeting.
  3. A meeting to consider execution:  will this be mailed, if so – will you require a specific type of mailer, costs around that, will a mailing house be engaged to expedite, and so on; or will it be a video card -- live-action, animated, or combined video and sent via email?

Within this time that you make the above decisions, you’ll also want to screen for creative agencies to help you with execution – unless you have the capacity to produce completely in house.  (Most firms endeavor to use an outside agency to expand on the creative ideas and to bring a fresh outlook to ideas generated by the firm.)  The extent of oversight and management required by an outside agency will depend on the amount and sophistication* of the marketing support you have at the firm.  I have seen firms whose creativity was limited, thus they relied more on the outside agency to develop, manage, execute, and follow up on the complete project.  Conversely, I worked with a firm that had strong creative capacity.  That firm used an outside agency to finesse the firm’s strong concept, and the marketer (Flip Cat) managed the majority of the project as it went along – including cost management.  

*(Sophistication regards the knowledge of your marketing-oversight manager, whether from the agency side or someone working on behalf of the firm, to anticipate the various sources contributing costs of time and money, and to make efficient use thereof.)

 It may be too early for snow...yet, almost too late on holiday card planning.  Almost...

It may be too early for snow...yet, almost too late on holiday card planning.  Almost...

Video or Print?  

This year, with the exponential growth of video in general, I expect more firms may consider a holiday video.  As with the mailing of a physical card, a video mailer requires that you have a clean, current mailing list.  You also want a system for sending the video, managing bounces and bad addresses, analytics around open and click rates, and a follow-up strategy.  To extend ROI, consider whether your holiday video, or a portion thereof, could be re-purposed as a regular item on your website and/or used for recruiting.

Costs

As with most things, costs can range.  GENERALLY SPEAKING:  A printed piece, including production, printing, and postage, will likely run $4.00-$5.00 minimum for creative that is a step beyond perfunctory.  Of course, costs can go higher.  Thus, for 3,000 to 5,000 contacts, total cost could range from $15,000 to $20,000, plus or minus.  Keep in mind – the lower the quantity (e.g. 500 contacts), the more costly the per-piece pricing will be.

Video costs range by the quality of the agency producing the work and by the simplistic or elaborate work required to produce the story.  And – you definitely want to seek to tell a story when using video.  Costs range from $5,000 to $30,000.

A holiday card will cost you if you send your messages with no follow-up plan.  

It can ignite or re-engage relationships when handled properly.

My recommendations:  
If you haven’t communicated much in recent months, you should take advantage of the opportunity presented at the holidays to do something.

Have someone manage your interests to ensure a) details are tended to in a timely fashion, b) chief decision-makers are not bogged down with minor details, yet involved in benchmark decisions, c) the firm is kept well-informed of progress, d) costs are managed, and e) the firm’s objectives are met.

What do other firms do?  I have seen several firms that have vacillated between print and video year over year.  Some have tried both in the past and recently stuck with strictly print or strictly video.  I encourage you to review the list of three meetings above.  If you succeed in developing a solid purpose for the effort and a good, initial creative impetus, you will likely have a sense of whether your story is best told through print or video.  Then, you can more efficiently direct the ways your internal and external marketing agents manage the project.

But...IS THERE STILL TIME?  

Yes.

  • IF you determine your message, the vehicle (print/video), and who will help you execute by October 1.  (Generally, it should be possible to produce your card during October and early November in order to arrive in mailboxes or inboxes prior to the third week of December.)
  • IF the materials to produce your creative can be sourced in time.  (You might develop creative in time, but a particular paper, packaging, or other material may not be available in time to meet your deliver-by date.)
  • If you act now.

Whether you want to initiate, develop, or finalize a holiday greeting, Flip Cat can facilitate with partial or complete support.  If you act now!  Contact us.