There is significant debate in law firms about whether to produce electronic holiday cards or mail a printed card to clients. People want to know what works best so, in the absence of any definitive research, I took an online poll to find out what lawyers, themselves, like to receive.
The result? Of the 140 lawyers and law firm professionals surveyed, 62 percent said they preferred receiving printed holidays cards. That’s right, printed.
Only 10 percent said they would prefer to receive an e-card, and 28 percent reported it didn’t matter what kind of card was sent. We got responses from corporate, transactional, defense, family law and plaintiff’s attorneys who work in local, regional and national firms.
We then asked if the lawyer should personally sign it when sending a printed card. It was no surprise that 79 percent said yes. Is the impression made on the recipient also better if it is personally signed and includes a brief personal message? Yes, said 81 percent.
The last question in the poll was about the cards or gifts you don’t receive. We asked whether the lawyer had ever taken mental note when they realized someone with whom they have a referral relationship did not send any sort of holiday card or gift. Yes was the answer given by 28 percent.
Do you want to have nearly one-third of those lawyers from whom you receive referrals taking mental note that you did not send them anything at the holidays? Probably not.
You may be thinking that it was just older attorneys — technology snobs who like printed materials and dislike all things digital — answering the survey. Wrong. We analyzed the responses by years in practice and found that 63 percent of lawyers in practice for 1-10 years said they preferred receiving printed holiday cards — as did 60 percent of those who were in practice 11-19 years, and 66 percent of those who had been practicing 20-plus years.
Lawyers of all ages prefer printed holiday cards over e-cards.
A Few Holiday Card Best Practices
Whether print or digital, holiday cards should always contribute to a lawyer’s personal business development, and fit into your firm’s overall marketing plan. Over the years we’ve learned from our clients what works, and what doesn’t. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Avoid cookie-cutter greetings. Do you want to convey that you treat clients in a cookie-cutter fashion? If you buy an unimaginative standard card with a tired message, you run that risk. What’s more, the recipient will feel your wishes are only obligatory.
- Rethink the mass signings. Not everyone in your office needs to sign the holiday card. And if you are going to have anyone who ever said hello to the client sign, make sure at least one of them writes a personal message. Also, I’ve received cards from firms with signatures from lawyers I’ve never met, or even heard of. That’s a bad mailing list!
- Make it human. One of my favorite cards had pictures of firm members as they worked on various pro bono and charity projects during the past year. On the back, it explained each event and the nonprofit’s mission. Classy.
- Be original. Try custom cards printed with a holiday scene painted or illustrated by someone in your firm. Another route is to feature art commissioned by the firm that is then donated to a nonprofit to be sold to raise funds.
- Let pictures talk. Group photos of your firm’s lawyers (or, in a big firm, of a practice group) are popular and often lead to emails from clients. People like to look at pictures.
- Hold a signing party. You may want all the lawyers who regularly work with a particular client to sign the client’s card, but getting the signatures can prove difficult. Card-signing parties are a tactic used by several law firms I know. Schedule a couple of specific times when attorneys can come in to sign — most firms do it during lunch hours. Decorate the room a little to make it somewhat festive and have seasonal music playing. Otherwise, the room will be silent and somber. Feed people, too. It’s amazing how motivated some people are by adult beverages (afternoon events only, of course) and light snacks. And here’s a tip for making sure people sign the cards they are meant to sign: Group cards in advance by signer. Then, in pencil, write the initials of each signer in the postage stamp area or on a sticky note. As each person signs, they erase their initials.
Bob Weiss writes law firm marketing plans, coaches lawyers and speaks regularly at retreats and legal conventions nationwide. He helps attorneys develop dockets of intellectually challenging cases at desirable rates. Considered one of the pioneers of professional services marketing, Bob founded Alyn-Weiss & Associates, Inc. in 1980 and is the author of Marketing in Brief.