Services have opened to help businesses customize yet automate their card-sending processes|
By JAN NORMAN - The Orange County Register
When Cap Poore was a salesman, he started sending cards to prospects and clients.
"There were a hundred of us selling the same stuff. I had to figure out how to stand out in the crowd," said Poore, who lived in Laguna Hills.
Poore found that customers needed continual reminders of his existence. Just as important, he discovered that sending cards for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or even Columbus Day made the recipients feel special. And positive relationship building always benefited his business.
Former independent book publisher Diane Fallon of Irvine said, "I love sending cards. It's fun. But I'm amazed how many businesses don't stay in touch with their customers."
A recent survey by Hallmark Business Expressions, the business-to-business subsidiary of the greeting card giant, found that 69 percent of respondents had received a birthday card from a company and of those people, 47 percent said the card made them more likely to do business with that company.
"Customers notice and appreciate when a company sends them good wishes around their birthday
.Cards make a lasting impression and encourage repeat business," said Hallmark spokesman Marc Wagenheim.
The impact isn't limited to birthday cards, said Jane Saeman, owner of Aim High Tutors in Dana Point. "I periodically send out unexpected thank yous for their business," she said. "I think receiving a card without reason is more heartfelt and better received than the expected birthday card from a business."
While birthday cards are big sellers, many companies buy cards to send employees on the anniversary of their hiring date, said Glenn Richards of Intergreet.com, an Anaheim Internet wholesale distributor for American Greeting cards.
The core of Intergreet's business is gift shops and florists. It doesn't sell to the public. However, it has a corporate division for companies that buy in quantity. "We don't promote it, but people find us, and they buy cards for 50 percent off the retail price," Richard said.
"They have various reasons to send cards. Macy's just placed an order for sympathy cards," he said. "Real estate companies buy 'welcome to your new home' cards. Not so much now; we're affected by the housing downturn."
Other types of businesses that buy large quantities of greeting cards for customers or employees include insurance agents and car dealers, he added.
"The majority want a card that looks like one that you'd find in a store rather than a bulk item printed with the company logo," Richards said.
The hardest part about sending cards is, well, sending cards.
Poore, who sends out about 700 cards a month plus 4,000 Christmas cards in December, used a New Mexico service called CardSenders that automated the process for him. When the owners wanted to retire in 2003, he bought the company and is changing the name to CardSenders/Client Touch.
One reason for the name change is to avoid confustion with a fast-growing direct marketing company is named Send Out Cards. Also, Poore emphasizes a client appreciation program that is broader than just sending greeting cards.
"Communicating with people is important in business," Poore explained. "You should 'touch' your clients every month and you want to do that in different ways: newsletters and phone calls as well as cards."
He still sends out large numbers of greeting cards to set a good example for his clients.
Send Out Cards exemplifies the growing business value of staying in touch. It is now the nation's third largest greeting care company behind American Greetings and Hallmark.
Users of Send Out Card services "are aware how important it is to remember people in ways other than 'hey, your bill is due,'" said Barry of Anaheim Hills.
Fidel helps individuals and companies set up automated reminder and card sending programs, and cards are important marketing tools. They can merely be card senders who like the discount cards average $1 each or become distributors.
He practices what he pitches sending about 2,000 a year. "If I hear somebody got a new job, I send a card. I send lots to friends and family."
Like CardSenders/Client Touch, Send Out Cards has recognized the importance of having a huge selection, Fidel said. "When I started with them three years ago, they had only 1,000 card choices. Now they have 14,000 images in eight super categories and 80 subcategories. Plus I can send motivational books, brownies, gift cards."
Former book publisher Fallon has also jumped on the Send Out Cards bandwagon, but mostly for fun.
"I do help businesses keep their name out there with customers," she said. "Many of them send a bulk mailing once a year and it's thrown away. If they send a card with a heartfelt message, people tend to hang onto it and they remember you."
Fallon personalizes her own cards with photos she has taken of the recipient and uses software that captures her handwriting when composing the message. "What I love is personalizing my cards. A business can do it too. A caterer can put a recipe in the card. A Realtor can take a picture of a client in front of the house he just bought and put that in the card."
Poore recommends personalizing the card as much as possible, from the message written specifically for the recipient, to commemorative stamps, not just standard American flag postage stamps and definitely not a postage meter imprint.
"All this says to the person, 'You're important to me,'" he said.