When I was part of the team growing a company from 6 people to 100, we wanted a personal way to thank our clients and overall community each year. We wanted it to coincide with sending Christmas or holiday cards, but we wanted ours to be distinctive and reflect our company values and personality - a way to reinforce our brand.
The first year when we had 10 of us all located in one office, we bought some nice looking cards that had nature images (we were a watershed sciences company), and that supported a similarly like-minded charity, addressed the envelopes for about 60 clients and friends, and put the cards with a bunch of different coloured pens around a big table and anyone who knew that client could write a little note and sign the cards.
After a couple of years doing that, we decided to make our own cards and looked around for suitable images. We could have had an internal competition for designs as we had some fantastic artists on staff, but we decided that would get a little complicated, and might cause bad feelings for those not chosen. Not to mention we were fantastically busy and didn’t want to distract too much staff time. We ended up finding a non-profit group that supported children around the world learning about and creating images of the watersheds in their own backyards, which reflected exactly what we did: study and improve watershed ecosystem health. It was a perfect match - we donated to the charity in return for the rights to use one of the beautiful images created by the children each year.
We continued to set up a table with all the envelopes addressed and a bevy of colourful pens, and all staff were encouraged to write personal notes to the recipients. Our clients loved the personal notes, and many said they kept the cards up on their desks for months as the artwork was so gorgeous and thematic of their work.
But as everything grew, it got more complicated! We grew in size (up to 100 staff), we grew to five offices in three states, plus several satellite home offices. We also grew our clients and friends who deserved cards, well into the several hundreds. The logistics became pretty complicated, but our clients had come to look forward to these personalised cards, and it happened to coincide with the industry trend towards electronic very impersonal ‘ecards’ sent en masse by our competitors in the name of saving trees and energy. However, we continued our old-fashioned practice because we believed the very personal and handmade quality of our cards spoke to the careful and very personalised service our clients expected from us.
And it worked. Our cards were found on many desks, and most of our clients mentioned their delight in the personalised notes, and how much they looked forward to seeing what picture we would select each year. They became such a statement of our company that when we moved to bigger offices and were selecting artwork for our colourful walls, we had a series of our favourite images from the cards made into wall-sized posters and framed for the hallways. Staff and visiting clients alike were delighted to see them on our walls.
So when thinking about how you communicate both internally and externally, remember that every connection you make with your clients will make an impact. You can use that connection to reinforce your ‘brand’ values: what you stand for and how you want your clients and staff to think about you.