It’s common for many law offices to send out Holiday cards.  It’s even more common for law firms to scramble every year to get together their mailing list, order their cards and get them out on time.  How it is that Christmas sneaks up on us each year and catches us unprepared, wherein we “reinvent the Holiday card wheel” year after year.  Our Ninth Day of Christmas suggestion is to stop now, while it’s fresh in your head, and clean up your Holiday card process.  If you put it aside “until you have time”, it will be Christmas again before you know it!

Helpful Hints for Crazy Card Clean Up

1.  Use your database management system to organize your mailing list.  Most database management systems, such as Time Matters, Goldmine, Abacus, etc., allow you to create Codes.  Simply create a code for “Holiday Card list” and code the people you send cards out to.  This will let you easily sort, merge and print labels or address lists.  It also lets you get an accurate, current count so you don’t over order cards.  Note that some programs limit the number of “codes” a person you enter can have.  If this is a concern for you, instead use one of your available fields as your “Holiday Card field” and standardize the answer to either a checkbox or YES/NO.  If you don’t standardize the answer, it will be filled in inconsistently and mess up your report and mailing list.  As always with data entry, garbage in – garbage out.

2. Go basic, use Excel.  If you don’t have a database management program or don’t know how to customize and use your codes or custom features, go basic and use Excel.  An Excel spreadsheet can more than accommodate your need to track your mailing list.  You can also mail merge labels or envelopes directly from Excel.

3. Create an EASY system for keeping your list current.  Creating your Holiday card list is only half the battle.  Keeping it updated is the other half.  Create an easy system for adding people to the list throughout there year so come December, its ready to go.  Here are some suggestions:

– Literally write a code (CARD) on a person’s business card, evaluation, or whatever piece of paper lists a person’s information.  Hand to your receptionist, assistant, scan in and email to your VA – do whatever you need to do to immediately hand this OFF to someone else who will add this person to the list.  In fact, in the law firm I worked in, our attorney had no idea what happened to the information after he wrote “CARD” on it and left it in the receptionist’s Inbox.  He just knew the system worked.  Since the receptionist was the person who usually sent out the cards, we let her create the tracking system.  (Just make sure whoever creates the system types up instructions and adds it to your Office Operations Manual.)  Point is, this doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, a “hands on” project for the attorney.

Create standards on who gets a card.  For instance, all referral sources that send us a client who hires us or all new estate planning clients.  As this person is added to your database, the team member entering their data can add them to your list.  This removes the “having to stop and think about it” from the attorney’s mind. 

Make the “Holiday card” field required in your database system.  Many database management programs will let you with the click of a button make a field ‘required’.  This means that it has to be filled in before you can Save and Exit the screen.  If you make “Holiday card” a required field it forces people to stop, consider, and answer this question while the person is fresh in their mind.  This lets you avoid the “who is that?” question at the end of the year.  Another great ‘required field’ is “Referred By” – this is SO critical to track it should literally be required.

4. Delegate it and get out of the way.  Your team probably knows your database management system, how to mail merge and what it takes to send out your cards as well as, if not better than you.  Define what you ideally want your Holiday card system to be and then get out of the way and let them create it!  Then you can focus back on your revenue producing activities and know your team’s got this one handled for you.

5. Schedule time now to create a custom card.  If you are going to spend the time and money on sending out cards – do something unique that will stand out.  Most graphic companies can also take your team’s photographs and Photoshop them into a holiday scene.  The years we did this we received allot of client compliments.  We even found cards stuck inside our clients’ estate planning binders so they could use it as a reference when they called us to see who they were talking to. 

A few hints:

– Ask your graphic person or photographer for suggestions – they do this all the time and can help you.

– Choose your scene and discuss with your photographer ahead of time.  You want to have everything you need to get it done in one shot.

– Be crystal clear with your team on attire.  I mean crystal clear!  Things like one person having open toed shoes or shirts tucked in or out can make a big difference in how professional your picture turns out.

– It’s sometimes easier to choose an image that allows each person to have their picture individually taken and Photo shopped into together.  It’s harder to get one shot with everyone smiling and their eyes open!

– Stick with a “feel” that represents what clients love about you.  If they love your humor, be funny.  If they love your compassion, be sentimental.  Be you!  Clients will love it.

To your continued success,

Molly and Laney