“The question used to be, ‘Is it appropriate to send holiday wishes with an email?’” says Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, sales trainer and author of How to Say It To Sell It. “With the economy the way it is, and the need to build stronger relationships more important than ever, now it’s, ‘What can I say that will make a difference?’”
Be meaningful — from their viewpoint
Hershkowitz-Coore says the most important thing to remember is to make the message meaningful to the other person. Sending a generic email saying “Wishing you a happy holiday from all of us at fill-in-the-blank” can actually backfire. She says, “Customers know this non-personal message has been copied to everyone in your database. It’s like mailing a pre-printed card that no human hand — or pen — ever touched. Meaningless!”
How exactly do you make it meaningful? Hershkowitz-Coore suggests you select something from the relationship that you can mention and make it “professionally personal.” The goal is to make the other person feel good about themselves and your relationship. “Mention how they’ve helped you or what they’ve supported about your product or idea. Talk about something they’ve accomplished that you’re sincerely proud of them for, something you accomplished together that made an impact on their company, something that touches them and reminds them that you have a successful relationship.”
“Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to ask for future business in your holiday greeting,” says Hershkowitz-Coore. It’s in poor taste to pretend you’re sending a thank you when in fact, you’re creating a sales piece. The closest you can come is to say, ‘Looking forward to our paths crossing again soon,’” she says.
Sound like yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the holiday and start “waxing philosophical” says Hershkowitz-Coore. Make your message heartfelt, conversational and concise. Don’t copy a message someone else wrote. If your company style is edgy, use that edginess in your holiday greeting too. There is no rule that says you have to be serious, she says.
Don’t sip and send
If you haven’t yet started making your email holiday list and checking it twice, don’t start it after a few glasses of egg nog. Drinking and sending email don’t ever work well together and at holiday time with its party atmosphere, that can be easy to forget. “So many of us become friends with our customers and after a few drinks, it’s easy to forget that they aren’t our best friends forever.” It’s much smarter to avoid getting carried away with your sentiments, and think of your email holiday writing just as you would any other business project.
Whether you choose Happy Holiday, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah or Happy Kwanza, you’re likely to offend someone. The smartest choice is the one that is most political and that is, Happy Holidays, according to Hershkowitz-Coore. Be cautious of including motivational quotes that might be offensive too.
“Keeping church (temple and mosque) separate from business is good business, even in a holiday message,” she says. Religious messages should be kept for family and friends outside of work.
Consider another holiday
If you don’t like these guidelines, send your message during another time of the year. December may be the typical time to send holiday greetings and that is exactly why Hershkowitz-Coore says it may not be the best time. “Your customers aren’t likely to be sitting at their desks checking off which of their vendors and suppliers sent cards. To stand out, send a meaningful New Year’s greeting, a Happy February note, or even a Valentine’s message. Sending an authentic message full of gratefulness and good wishes is perfect anytime of the year.”