Every year from mid-December onwards, mailboxes and email folders are filled with Christmas greetings. A tradition that varies widely depending on the company and individuals involved: from a small gift or a handwritten card to printed cards and personal emails and newsletters.
In this blog article, I want to, admittedly controversially, discuss whether all the effort is really worthwhile and whether Christmas greetings in the business world serve their purpose. And I want to explore alternative ways to show business appreciation during this time - with varying degrees of effort.
Reasons for sending Christmas greetings
The sending of Christmas greetings usually has three motivations: relationship building, marketing, and/or tradition.
Relationship building: Advocates of Christmas greetings often emphasize the value of relationship building. The festive season provides an opportunity to show appreciation and deepen business relationships.
Marketing: It cannot be denied that business Christmas greetings also have a subtle marketing aspect. Branding is presented in festive colors, and cards often bear the company logo.
Tradition: It is no news that traditions have a special place in the business world. Handwritten cards and festive emails have been part of the festive protocol for decades.
The repetition of the same ritual year after year carries the risk of routine. Business Christmas greetings can become an automated task, where genuine appreciation and gratitude are sidelined. This routine falls into the category of "It has to be done" and, with this routine, the recipient only pays brief attention to the card or email, and the impact is limited.
Positive examples and alternatives
Christmas card with a truly personal message: Often, Christmas cards are sent with a standard printed text and a short additional greeting or just a handwritten signature. This is certainly better than a purely printed product. But it can be more valuable: If you take the time to add a handwritten message, write one or two sentences expressing gratitude or share your joy about a specific shared experience or outcome.
Personal meeting: Instead of relying on mass card mailing, a personal gesture could have a greater impact. An individual meeting, a call, or a customized attention could be more authentic and sustainable. Granted, it's more time-consuming than sending cards, but here quality takes precedence over quantity. In recent weeks, I've had numerous meetings and calls with people where we embraced the festive mood, reviewed the year, and, of course, wished each other happy holidays.
Christmas greetings with added value: Two companies from the DiWiSH network have chosen a standout approach with their respective Christmas greetings. In 2022, the software company UXMA from Kiel sent Christmas greetings, allowing recipients to access their set of method cards for creative techniques through a QR code. Following a similar approach, the advertising agency New Communication from Kiel sends Christmas greetings every year with a gadget that aligns with their sustainable business approach (this year, a fitness band with exercise instructions for the workplace).
Advent calendar tailored to the company: Another more sustainable example is an Advent calendar tailored to the company for customers and partners. The engineering company Centerline Design did this during the Advent season: with its own corporate identity, a prototyping labyrinth as a theme to find the right door, and a personalized distribution approach to recipients. The advantage here is the longevity of the approach throughout the entire Advent season.
Christmas event for customers and partners: Significantly more elaborate but with great added value are the "Christmas Tree Cutting" events by companies like HWB Unternehmerberatung or the IT security company NetUse. In both cases, these were large events with over 500 or 200 guests, where attendees could take home a Christmas tree of their choice. Conceived as full-day events, there was ample time for in-depth conversations in a festive atmosphere. From the perspective of business relationship building, these are the Champions League in the Christmas season.
A completely different alternative: Ensure that you nurture relationships throughout the entire year and not just during the time when everyone wants to grab the customer's or partner's attention for the same occasion. It's akin to the message or call on the business contact's birthday. Don't get me wrong: Feel free to send Christmas and best wishes or convey them verbally, but what remains memorable from the 500th Facebook wall post, the 100th personal message or email, or the 30th 2-minute phone call?
The intention behind Christmas greetings or more elaborate, relationship-building activities during the holiday season is clear. In a highly connected business environment where personal relationships are as important as business facts, Christmas greetings serve as an opportunity to bring a personal-emotional touch to relationships. The festive season creates a framework in which companies can demonstrate that they see their business partners not only as customers but as valued individuals. Building personal connections can, in turn, bring long-term business benefits by facilitating communication, building trust, and laying the foundation for future collaborations.
Despite these efforts, business Christmas greetings face challenges in the digital age. In a world of emails and social networks, handwritten cards may seem old-fashioned, while emails risk getting lost in crowded inboxes, and purely printed cards receive very brief attention.
To stand out from the crowd, more creativity, more effort, or a counter-cyclical approach like continuous relationship-building outside of regular occasions is necessary. In any case, personal addressing and a unique approach make sense.
In this sense, this article is my personal approach to capturing your attention on this occasion, even if it is quite unusual in this case.
Although I have expressed critical tones about Christmas greetings in this article, I conclude by wishing you and your families a Merry Christmas and a successful start to the new year.
I thank everyone who has shaped my year 2023, supported and challenged me, and I look forward to an exciting 2024!