’Tis the Season to Keep It Simple
HOLIDAY CARDS AS a client gift might initially ring of predictability. But in an economy where everyone is looking to tighten belts and knot purse strings—not to mention one in which corporate culture has gone digital and receives less personalized mail overall—greeting cards might be the answer to keeping clients in end-users’ sights during an economically challenging holiday season.
According to the Greeting Card Association (GCA), the greeting card industry rakes in over $7 billion a year, and 90 percent of U.S. households purchase cards for a variety of occasions. The GCA also reported nine in 10 people welcome the feeling of importance attached to the arrival of greeting cards. The charm of a holiday card brings with it nostalgia and tradition. But with an item so ubiquitous and often so routinely sent, what’s the product’s “road less traveled”? With homemade touches and innovative selling techniques, blazing new trails with greeting cards is the easiest thing a distributor can do this holiday season.
Despite a technologically obsessed world, Charley Johnson, vice president of Salt Lake City-based SnugZ USA, believes in the heightened value and novelty of handmade products. The ImpressionZ line, which the company introduced in October 2007, offers handcrafted cards, complete with embellishments that add dimension, such as paper Christmas trees or ribbons. Johnson asserted such personal touches are not as likely to face the doomed fate of most holiday cards: the trash can.
“Why not increase the odds of that card getting opened, and why not show your customer you care about them a little bit more,” Johnson asked, and added that homemade extras, such as a handwritten note, are often a good way to go the extra mile. Usually, “People just generically get a thousand of them made up with the same signature and the same saying, and they just send them out and get it over with,” he noted. “It’s more of a hassle, instead of an opportunity for them to get in front of their clients and show them how much they care.”
SnugZ USA dove into handcrafted greeting cards due in part to its Salt Lake City location. “Lucky for us, Salt Lake City is the absolute Mecca of scrapbooking,” Johnson contended. The birth of the ImpressionZ line was the result of a casual brainstorming session with a few friends who happened to be immersed in the scrapbooking business. “Someone made a joke, ‘Why don’t we do handcrafted greeting cards?,’ and they said, ‘That’s it,’” he exclaimed. Six months later, the company introduced its new line.
While SnugZ USA is new to the greeting card game, Carlson Craft, North Mankato, Minn., has been manufacturing cards since 1948, and still adds new products to its line. According to Brenda Boyer, promotions specialist and graphic designer at Carlson Craft, the company added 300 new greeting card offerings for 2008, including recycled cards and the company’s Identity Greetings line, which integrates company names into the card’s design.
Like Johnson, Boyer believes in the ability of holiday cards to charm clients with personalization. “It keeps the business in touch, attracts new customers, enhances business relationships and shows appreciation to those that have supported the business during the year,” she noted.
The holiday season certainly brings good cheer, but it also comes with more than a few decisions to make regarding gifts and recognition. Getting ahead with holiday cards relies on smart strategizing, and perhaps a little help from supplier partners. Warwick Publishing Company, St. Charles, Ill., maintains a consistent product line to keep it simple for clients at the holidays. “We try to introduce some new ones every couple of years,” said Phil Martin, sales manager. “We also drop some of the low-selling cards in order to keep the line reasonable in size. We feel that if you offer too many [options], that the client cannot decide as easily.” He advised offering unique customization as a way to rise above the competition, or offering another product along with the card, such as a calendar. Boyer also mentioned that the inclusion of a logo is a good way to enhance brand identity.
These marketing “extras” are necessary, yet as with everything, timing is a huge factor. In order to maximize the impact of a greeting-card business opportunity for an end-buyer, work with season, not against it.
According to Boyer, mailing Thanksgiving cards instead of the typical December greetings is a good way to get noticed. “A card received in November will stand out in the crowd of cards that arrive for the December holiday[s],” she said.
An early mailing date isn’t the only way to get a jump on things. Manufacturers and distributors can avoid some of the scramble as the season snowballs by promoting product lines early, and presenting them often. This is the first big holiday push for ImpressionZ, but Johnson has already observed the importance of the sensory experience when selling handcrafted cards. “Show them, show them and then show them again,” he advised. “Once [clients] touch and feel [the cards], they’re sold.” Martin also stressed the importance of visually marketing a selection
And like those enviable holiday shoppers whose gifts are wrapped and ready to go in September, Boyer suggested early ordering. “Many distributors request our holiday card line in March,” she explained. “It is a benefit to their clients and any business to order early before the busy holiday season. Having their holiday cards signed, sealed, addressed and ready to send by mid-November makes a hectic time of the year easier to handle.”
If only the rest of the holiday season could be as simple as preparing its promotions.