The festive season seems to be upon us earlier each year, certainly as far as shopping malls are concerned. But what does it mean for channel members trying to break through the Christmas chaos and make an impact on customers? Reseller News sought out some sound advice from those responsible for bringing good cheer.
Talkies creative director Richard Carter recommends people don’t send Christmas cards.
“Yours will be lost in the wash. Like Seth Godin said: No one notices black and white cows. Instead, become a purple cow. In the Christmas context, this means being different.”
His advice is to concentrate on the stomach.
“The stomach is closely connected to the brain, where people remember things. Buy a very large honey-smoked ham, wholegrain mustard and fresh bread. See, your mouth is watering already. Bundle it up and personally deliver it to the smoko room of your favourite client. Deliver similar bundles to all your other favourite clients. You’ll be praised, back-slapped and, most importantly, remembered. Whereas the Christmas card senders will be lightly fingered and discarded.”
To identify your most valuable customers in less than five minutes, Carter suggest asking the accountant.
“He’ll tell you. And if he can’t tell you in five minutes, fire him. That’s his job. Wagging a finger at your biggest stack of beans.”
He also says to look out for your referrers – those nice people who so generously direct traffic your way.
“They secretly hanker for recognition, so give them both barrels. Buy a box at the ASB tennis open, or whatever it’s called, fill it half and half with referrers and favourite clients. Leave enough room for yourself, then click your fingers for Heineken and club sandwiches.”
Peter de Wever, country manager at Anyware Computer Accessories, says his company values clients’ loyalty and looks to reward accordingly at Christmas, whether the customer is big or small.
De Wever says the accessories distributor will still send cards to the dealers it works with, but makes them stand out by personally writing the message and addressing the envelope.
Some dealers receive both a card and a gift. “All our clients are valued no matter what the size,” he says. “It depends on the relationship we have with the dealer as some get a card and a gift, some get one.”
He also says there is no such thing as a gift that is too big or small. “It is the thought that always counts,” he says. The company finds it easiest to select a standard gift in November and sends them out in the second week of December.
The tried and true Christmas ham ranks among the best gifts Anyware itself has received from a supplier. “It was novel but practical,” de Wever says.
Natalie Hilterman, marketing coordinator at Axon says the company bypasses the silly season events rush by having a St Patrick’s Day party instead – its biggest event of the year.
“Our customers return from holiday to an invitation in the mail to the party, which is organised especially for them, as a thank you, for their continued support. The St Patrick’s Day date is ideal as it avoids the clutter of Christmas commitments and gives our customers a fantastic opportunity to network with Axon employees and industry peers.”
However, the company still gets into the traditional festive season spirit by sending Christmas cards.
“At Christmas we keep it personal, every customer gets sent a Christmas card with personalised messages from all Axon staff who they have a relationship with.”
This personal approach is essential, as cards and gifts can be easily overlooked, says Hilterman. “Christmas isn’t called the silly season for no reason. Just sending a card with a signature isn’t enough – it’s too impersonal. Personalising each card with a small message would be better received than a card with just a signature. More thought has been put in to that card; it’s the thought that counts isn’t it?”
But, one tradition Axon does not engage in is sending gifts – rather opting for a more novel alternative. “Instead of sending gifts, we ask our staff to nominate charities to make a donation to the less fortunate. We advise our customers which charity we choose through our relationship managers and our customer newsletter,” says Hilterman.
From next year, with Axon’s new website, customers will be able to vote for their favourite charities online.
And just trying to stand out over Christmas is not good, says Hilterman. “Axon stands out year round because of our excellence in customer service.”
Reseller News picks gifts to send customers:
Hamish Barwick, reporter: If you don’t want to send something too cheesy, but want to stand out how about an MP3 watch? Your logo could be branded on the strap and it makes a good unisex gift. People will appreciate listening to their own music and block out those annoying Christmas carols. www.corporateitgifts.com/products/mp3/watch.htm
Rodney Fletcher, sub-editor: Instead of sending a card, send clients a decorative angel to put on the company Christmas tree. Include a small hand-written card attached to the angel wishing the recipients ‘Merry Christmas’. Your Christmas greeting will stand out from the plethora of cards companies receive.
Amanda Sachtleben, reporter: The Christmas-related USB device is an oldie but a goodie. Once your customer puts the device on their desk it becomes a constant annoying reminder of your company name if you brand the product with a logo. Lights and sound are always good too – check out this confused, cheesy example available at www.usbgeek.com/prod_detail.php?prod_id=0701
Sita Narsai, designer: Movie money vouchers is a well-received gift – it’s not technology related, but it still lets your customers have fun.