So here it is, Merry Christmas!

Almost every one of us will have been inundated with ‘season’s greetings’ from companies this holiday season.

This subject was discussed on the latest edition of Media Hacks (#22) and the consensus was summed up as “[it’s] time to kill these impersonal Holiday Greetings by email.” To underscore that, sometime Media Hacks co-host Chris Brogan’s newsletter mentioned something similar:

“My gosh. Has your inbox suddenly filled up with holiday messages about how thankful companies are that you’re their customer? I’ve received dozens and dozens of messages today alone from a bunch of software that I’d forgotten I’d even installed. Gushy gushy messages with lots of love and cheer.

And yet, it’s all mostly an effort to sell me something. Every one of those holiday wishes offered me a discount on something else. Wow, now there’s the spirit. Let me hook you with something else to buy while I’m thanking you.”

So what’s a company to do?

Sending individual ‘hey, John, thanks for shopping with us through this tough year, we hope you’re still getting lots of fun from that comedy DVD box set you bought from us in August’ messages doesn’t really scale.

Not every company has the resources of a digital marketing agency at their fingertips to create an interactive Christmas card (with added points for making it share-worthy).

Sending a bland holiday greeting seems like a waste to your average brand manager – you’re loading up the email cannon, why not throw an offer in there to get more business? Oh and call it ‘a present from us’ so people won’t see it for what it really is.

Here’s a dictionary definition of gift:

“Something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.”

That doesn’t really cover discount coupons now does it?

You want to give me a gift? Give me something I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself. You value my custom over the past year(s)? Show me, by actually giving me something, not giving me money off a future purchase.

Virtual presents

If you deal in electronic goods (software, music, subscriptions) then giving me something is easy – an extension on my license, a free upgrade if I’m a laggard and still on your previous version, 9 months after the release of the latest version. Even if you’re atoms rather than bits-focused don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of things that you could give people that are virtual. Subscriptions to websites, newspapers and online services could all work. E-coupons that can be exchanged for real-world stuff like coffees or donuts are a ┬ánice gesture too.

Schwag and tchotchkes

You’ve got a brand and a logo right? Design a selection of branded items, they can be t-shirts, stress balls, a beach ball, anything. When you’re sending out these emails invite your valued customers to choose their gift. Tell them that you’ll send it out after the holidays, or if they prefer (and are feeling environmentally conscious) you’ll hold on to it for them till they order next time.

Unconditional love

Don’t, whatever you do, make that gift conditional on a future purchase.

Merry Christmas One and All.

Charles

Image credit: Alice Harold via Creative Commons on Flickr