Last Holiday season I received cards, emails, and promotional gifts from several vendors and business associates. Two stood out in my mind, but for different reasons. One was memorable for its sincerity and the other for its crassness. How do your business partners and customers perceive your holiday business correspondence?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Sweater

The Good

A company I had done business with sent me a Holiday Card through the mail. Just the idea that they would take time to mail me a card meant something to me, but there was more. The envelope was hand addressed, the card was a tasteful winter scene, and there was a handwritten note inside. The handwritten note thanked me and referred to specific interactions between myself and the company. It went on to wish me happy holidays and invite me to an open house with snacks and entertainment in appreciation of my patronage. I was impressed. I recommend their company to others. It was an effective holiday business greeting.

The Bad 

In Mid-November, I received an email from a company I had done business with. The subject line pretty much said it all. It was “Holiday Savings!” the email shared an image of a rosy-cheeked Santa next to their product surrounded with ribbons and bows. The copy shouted the special offers, only for select customers, and limited time only. It was an impersonal form letter that had little or nothing to do with the holidays. It was strictly marketing. Okay, I get that. I’m in marketing. But which do you think is the better marketing campaign for long-term customer loyalty the good or the bad? It wasn’t an effective holiday business effort as far as I was concerned. It didn’t motivate me to buy their product or advocate their organization.

The Ugly Sweater

At TKO we hold an annual ugly sweater contest. It’s competitive. The top sweaters win prizes. It’s a lot of fun. The cheer and laughter carry over to our interactions with customers. Holiday cheer spreads—so spread the cheer. Decorate, play holiday music, and let personnel wear holiday garb (not only ugly sweaters). Your customers will notice. They’ll see the smile on your teammates faces and hear it in their voices.

The Office Party

I remember a Christmas party I attended with my wife. I had been with the company (not TKO) less than a year, and it was the first event we had attended. There were many adult beverages. It got loud and bawdy. My wife and I left early. When I asked my wife her thoughts, she said, “It was a lot of people desperately trying to have fun.” The party was about holiday business not the business of the holiday.

At TKO, we have an annual catered, holiday luncheon at our office. The president thanks everyone for their contributions and gives individual recognition. And there are door prizes! I look forward to this event every year.

Close it up

This post is about B2B not retail. I worked in retail, sales, and marketing for most of my life. My first Christmas with TKO was the first time, as an adult, that I got home on Christmas Eve before 7 pm. That was 2010, Christmas was on Saturday. Our luncheon was Thursday. After the luncheon everyone was sent home for the holidays. I had the entire Christmas Eve day off! TKO may not always be able to do that. We may have urgent jobs that we need to complete. But I know this, If we’re open there’s a good reason. Are you open? Do you have a good reason?

Give back

The single most memorable gift I’ve ever received was from my eldest daughter. It was over 20 years ago yet it’s still fresh I my mind. She had moved out of state and was on her own. The gift was a simple card, but the note inside was the gift. It said, “Dad your present this year is a coat I gave to a homeless lady. I’ve passed her on the street several times, and she didn’t have one. ”

Contribute to a customer’s charity, get behind employees initiatives, or donate in an employees or customers name.

He’s Checking it Twice

Will your B2B be naughty or nice this year? Will your company use the holidays to send thinly veiled marketing pieces or sincerely reach out to your customers?