The best way to address your holiday marketing needs may be to send holiday cards to your customers. This is, after all, the time of year when any sales message from a contactor is simply a waste of money. We recommend no "sale mail" from Dec. 10 to Jan. 12, since it usually goes in the trash unread.

This leaves a sizeable gap in your year. Many contractors panic to fill it by over-spending on advertised price cuts, not realizing most homeowners don't want you near them during the holidays. Other contactors don't do anything, which is even worse crime, especially during a time of year when relationship building is at an all time high.

But two things are overlooked with these approaches which just happen to drive most of your sales: relationship and credibility. How can you accomplish both of these painlessly during the holidays?

Simple, effective holiday cards are a great choice. They enable you to send an inspiring message to your customers when it really helps to hear it. They also allow you to express appreciation for their business — and keep your name in your customers' top of mind awareness.

The trick is to get your card to stand out from all the other cards. If it doesn't, it's a waste. Here are some tips to help your card stand out from the rest:

  1. First of all, the "regular" sized cards blend in to the stack and may not get read. Go oversized so people will see it, usually a 5 ½-in. x 8 ½-in. is perfect. It's large enough and inexpensive.
  2. Next, the stock cards with a picture of an ornament, or some cartoon Santa, with over-used holiday phrases may be very common, but that's the trouble: they're common. They don't stand out or hold a customer's interest. The message is either worn out or just plain goofy. Your message should be unique, inspiring, and thoughtful.
  3. For postage, we recommend going First Class. Why? Well, these should go to your complete customer list, which means you'll get back the undeliverables, allowing you to clean your list. If you go standard rate, trying to save a few pennies, you'll never know who's moved. Plus it'll take them far longer to get there and time is of the essence. The holiday card approach gives you a great "once a year" list cleaning with a very inexpensive piece. Makes sense.

All in all, a great Holiday Card to your customer list gives you the opportunity to say "thanks" to the people who are keeping you in business. customers do all the buying and all the referring; they pay for your employees — and they pay you. This is the time of year to say thanks with a nice holiday message. And, your competition probably won't send one, so you'll stand out even more than before.

Where ever you get your cards, just make sure you send this important message to your customers: Happy Holidays. And that goes for you too!

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. CB readers can review holiday card selections at www.hudsonink.com or call 800/489-9099 for more information. For a free marketing newsletter, contractors can fax their letterhead with the request to 334/262-1115 or email freestuff@hudsonink.com.