With a late Thanksgiving, it’s hard to believe that we’re already two days into December – and just three weeks away from the start of holidays. So if you were planning on ordering and sending out personalized holiday cards, time is growing short. And believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing.
I don’t want to sound Grinch-like, but personally I’m not a big fan of holiday cards – either sending or receiving. As for sending, I rarely plan ahead and for me, the end of the year is usually hectic with family responsibilities and work matters that need to be finalized. As for receiving, the majority of cards that come my way are utterly generic – with the name of the firm or company printed inside so at times, I can’t even figure out the actual person responsible for putting me on the list. And the hand-signed cards aren’t much better either. They rarely contain personalized notes and as such, evoking images of the firm’s staffers forced to stay after hours huddled around a conference room table scarfing down cold pizza as they affix their John Hancock to an assembly-line stream of cards.
Still, it’s always nice to end the year on a strong note – and so I’ve for other ways to mark the holidays. And one of my favorites has become the holiday phone call where I’ll pull together a list of contacts who I haven’t checked in with and pick up the phone to wish them a happy holiday. And even though my sole purpose in making the calls is to reconnect and either congratulate them on a recent accomplishment or thank them for their help, holiday phone calls almost invariably lead to invitations and business referrals.
In contrast to most types of marketing where even the most hardened of us can feel a little desperate, the holiday phone call always makes me feel good. Most people – though initially surprised – are genuinely pleased to hear from a colleague reaching out with no motive other than to spread cheer or share gratitude. And because that’s really the point of the holiday call, there’s no pressure – no quota to fill or sale to make.
So if you decide that you’d like to try making holiday calls, here are some tips:
- Pick a one or two day window for calls when work begins to wind down for holidays, but before people have left for vacation. For 2019, December 19 and 20 – the Thursday and Friday before Christmas week are good options. You can wait until before New Years’ too, but you may miss out on folks who take the full week off.
- Choose a diverse group of colleagues – maybe your colleagues at a former firm, an opposing counsel or two, former law school classmates, experts or other professionals you’ve done business with and even a few people who you know from social media but have never connected with by phone or in person. The point isn’t to make 50 rote calls, but rather to have a dozen genuine conversations.
- Do a little research before the call. Has your colleague joined a new firm or won a major victory? You’ll want to be sure to congratulate them on their accomplishments. Also, if you know for sure that your colleague prefers certain holiday greetings as some people may be sensitive about being wished Merry Christmas. Best to keep your greetings generic – with just Happy Holidays or Happy New Year.
- Turn on the holiday cheer in your voice when you pick up the phone. You want to at least sound happy even if you’re not feeling it. Once your colleague picks up the line, explain that you understand that they’re probably busy at this time of year, but you just wanted to take a minute to wish them a happy holiday. Keep the conversation light and personal – inquire about your colleague’s family or holiday plans and share congratulations on recent wins or just how much you’ve enjoyed working with them and hope to do so more in the coming year. That’s it.
- Of course, if your call turns to business and your colleague suggests getting together in the new year or references a potential referral, you’ll want to follow up. Make a note on your calendar or CRM system to connect after the New Year – or sooner, if your colleague’s needs are urgent.
If you enjoy sending out holiday cards, by all means, continue your firm’s tradition. But if you want to give something meaningful like the gift of renewed connection and personal gratitude, pick up the phone and make some holiday calls. In the short run, they’ll make you feel good and in the long run, they are the gift that will keep giving throughout the year.