Card's Sentiment Lost in Cyberspace

Tina Haapala |

“Congratulations, “the card stated. It was from the Financial Planning Association (FPA). Time has done its thing and I’ve now been a member of the organization for 20 years. Actually the FPA isn’t even that old. It was formed when the two other organizations that I belonged to merged.

So here I am, opening an envelope reading how the head of the organization was congratulating me on 20 years of membership. No doubt they were trying to both thank me and show me how important I was to their group. Was I impressed by getting a card from the Executive Director? Nope. In fact, I was a bit turned off by it.

You see, I’m a bit old-fashioned. I think a milestone like 20 years in the FPA would at least warrant a SIGNED card. By the sender. With a pen.  Instead, the Executive  Director’s electronic signature was printed on the card. It looked to have been created by one of those Internet card sending places. Likely he never even saw my name on a list, let alone touched the card that was sent to me.

Admittedly it was better than an e-mail. I had risen above the mere level of a mail-merge addition into a previously created template and was now worth the printing and mailing costs. Success!

I understand that this is a sign of the times. Businesses want to have more contacts with our clients. In this age of social networking, we are constantly reminded of the importance of relationship-building.   We also want to be as efficient as possible. So, combining the old mail-merge technologies, on-demand printing, and the Internet, we are able to drip nuggets of what we think is connectivity gold into our clients’ laps many times a year.

But it can be fool’s gold if your clients don’t find it as valuable as you think they should.

This is not to say that you should never use e-mails, Internet mailing services, or other non-hand-personalized communication. However, you should match the level of personalization to the event. And I think 20 years deserves a signature. And while I certainly don’t think you have to make every client happy every time, this is an example of where a well-meaning gesture can backfire.

No two companies will interpret this the same way, nor should they. Announcements, e- mails, even social media posts help to create the character of each individual firm. But just as you might sit down one day and ask yourself if your appearance and demeanor  reflect the real you, so should you sit down and examine how your company presents itself to your clients, prospects, and even your own employees.

Be careful not to rubber-stamp your company’s character. Instead, imagine yourself on the receiving end of your own messages. Do you know what this company is about? You should. 

This article was published under the title "Card's Sentiment Lost in Cyberspace" in the November Times Record News  Biz to Biz.