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9 tips for great business holiday cards

This is a business holiday card Margot Lester designed in high school

If you’re like me, every year you put the business holiday cards project on the to-do list sometime in the 3rd quarter. And then you look up and it’s practically Thanksgiving and you have done zip. (I just emailed our design partner this morning to get started!).

My dad ran a printing company, so I teethed on paper samples and palette books, and grew up working in the type-setting and paste-up/composition departments. At one point I though I might major in commercial design and ran a little holiday card design racket in high school and college. I know just enough about design to be dangerous.

9 Tips for Business Holiday Cards

After years of designing holiday cards for local small businesses, and sitting on teams charged with creating or buying them for larger companies, I’ve got a short list of tips for creating pretty and appropriate B2B holiday greetings.

General Advice for Business Holiday Cards

Here’s some advice for creating a great business holiday card, whether you go with pixels or paper:

  1. Personalize it. Make there’s plenty of room to include something personal, like a brief message from you and your signature. Creating a business holiday card with a personal message takes a little extra time and attention, but that makes your clients, customers and partners feel special.
  2. Choose a color. The obvious choices are red, green, gold, silver and blue. You can’t go wrong choosing these colors – unless you tweak the hues too much so the red pinks out, or the silver disappears. If you want to branch out, create a business holiday card with your logo using a color scheme that complements your brand colors.
  3. Select photos or illustrations. If you want to design a business holiday card with photos, convey the feelings of the season, like optimism, gratitude, warmth and evergreen. If you’re using stock photography with people in it, be sure the image is representative of the population. If faith is a daily part of your business, go ahead and use religious symbols and imagery. If not, I suggest focusing on more seasonal images like candle or fireplaces, winter scenes, etc.

Tips for Digital Business Holiday Greetings

Follow this advice for digital holiday cards for your business:

  1. Check your tech. Seems obvious at this point, but every year I still get digital holiday greetings that don’t work on my phone, or come in a format that’s incompatible with my OS. Before you do a digital card, make sure it works with popular browsers and device formats. And not to get transactional about the holidays, but remember to set up some analytics so you can track open rates, etc.
  2. Avoid attachments. This bears repeating -- with so many email scams out there, many companies scrape or quarantine emails that are from mailing lists and/or contain attachments that look suspicious. Instead of attaching your e-greeting, paste the image in the email (assuming it's not huge -- see below) or provide a link to a landing page where the greeting is displayed.
  3. Add video or animation. There’s nothing wrong with using a static image for your card, but if you want to kick it up a notch, include animations or videos to add a little more interest. These tactics do add a little time to the process, so if this idea appeals to you, the time to start planning is now! Oh, and remember that for video, audio quality outweighs video quality for your audience. We forgive a slight jiggle on the camera more than we pardon you for low volume or crackling sound.

Tips for Printed Business Holiday Cards

Use these tips to buy or design a paper holiday card for your business:

  1. Pick a paper. Glossy paper shows off photos. Matte papers can enhance illustrations. Textures can make text come alive. These coatings and textures can also interfere with or distract from the image and text, so make sure you check carefully before going all in. And it’s never any fun to try to write on coated or deeply textured paper, so the inside should be matte. If you want to save a few bucks, create a postcard, but make sure you choose a very sturdy paper that will stand up to the rigors of holiday mail volume.
  2. Explore special effects. Increase the bling factor of  business holiday cards by adding metallic ink or labels, sparkly “ink”, embossing or debossing, or even super-fancy die-cuts and pop-ups. These techniques do add a little time to the planning and production process – and to the budget. You can even create a custom holiday stamp to reflect your branding or your card design.
  3. Select envelopes & labels. Despite all the time you put in on the card, the first impression is created by your envelope. Consider putting a detail from the card or creating a custom motif for envelopes and labels. Lined envelopes send an extra message of quality and festiveness. Addressing by hand is always nice, but often not practical. Transparent labels let your envelope show through. A white label is easiest to read and carries images well. If you want a splash of color, choose a label hue that complements the envelope.

I’d write more, but I’ve got to think about my own business holiday card!

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