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Christmas Cards
    Well, the holiday season is here again.  Soon every mall and outlet center is going to be overrun by shoppers trying to get all their shopping done before Christmas.  And a question many doctors have during this time, is what should they do as far as Christmas cards are concerned.

    I know that many chiropractors send holiday cards, postcards, or calendars out to their patients, and this is what I'm going to talk about - ways to get the most bang from your Christmas mailings.

What Not to Use

    The first thing we're going to talk about, is what NOT to use.  I've seen many holiday cards and postcards with a chiropractic theme to them.  Most of these are useless.  I can tell you for a fact, that whenever I receive a Christmas card from my dentist or a company that I do business with, and the card is about their profession, I just throw it away. And the same is probably true of you too.

    The reason is that the holiday card does not come across as being sincere.  It is obvious that the card is being sent out to tons of other people, and that the person sending the card is not thinking of me, or for all I know, even realizes that I'm still alive.

    On the other hand, if I were to receive a card that looked personal, like it was sent to me as an individual, then I would keep it and place it with the other cards I receive from friends and family.

    But how do you know if your holiday cards are having the effect of being sincere, or are just ending up in the trash can?  Well, one method that seems to hold water is the number of cards you receive from patients.  The more cards you receive (after sending out your own), then the more sincere and personal the cards you sent were.  Of course, another factor that can contribute to the amount of Christmas cards you receive are how much your patients like you.

    You'll find that doctors who are well liked by their patients tend to receive more holiday cards in relation to the number of patients that they have.  So this could be a very good way to quantify how you are liked by your patients, especially if you keep a record every year as to the number of patients you have versus the number of holiday cards you receive.

    Anyway, from experience as both a marketing guy and a person who receives a lot of Christmas cards, I recommend you stay away from postcards and Christmas cards that have to do with chiropractic.

What to Use

    So what kind of cards should you send?  The same exact type that you send to your family and friends.  These are the most personal, sincere, and effective.

    Another type that is also effective are the blank cards.  I've seen these sold in Staples and OfficeMax.  They're basically cards that are not folded and do not have any writing inside.  Other than that, they are like all other holiday cards, with a nice texture and colorful pictures.  You would then run the cards through your laser or ink jet printer and print out whatever message you want.  The really great thing about this kind of card is that you can do a mail merge with your patient records, and customize the patient's name and personal information in the card itself - it doesn't get more personal than that!

    Either way, you want to have a brief message in each card wishing a happy holiday, and the card signed by you and your entire staff .  The envelope should be either hand addressed, or computer printed - no labels!  You will also want to use a "live" first class stamp.  Don't use metered mail or bulk mail; they don't look personal.

Whom to Mail to

    A question that I get frequently about Christmas cards is who should you mail to?  Well, everyone in your database.  Current patients, inactive patients, and prospects.  Even if a patient hasn't come to you in years, you should still send them a holiday card.  You see, different things work to bring in different people.  Some people react to a great sales letter, other people to a phone call, and some by a sincere show of caring, which your Christmas card accomplishes.  So you might just be surprised to see some of your inactive patients and old prospects coming to you for care, even if you don't make any offer in your Christmas mailing.

What About Making an Offer?

    Should you make an offer in your Christmas mailings or not?  I would recommend that you do.  It's true that making an offer will cause your Christmas card to lose some of its sincerity, but if you do it right, that will only be to a very small degree, and the return on investment will make up for it.

    My advice to you would be to enclose two gift certificates.  Please notice that I said "gift certificates" not "coupons."  There is a world of difference between the two.  A coupon is worthless, it has a very low perceived value since it is assumed that all it is, is a discount where the issuer is just using it to get more new customers.

    On the other hand, a gift certificate has a high perceived value.  It gives the impression that it's something that someone had to pay money for, and it's held in much higher regard.  Also, people give and receive gift certificates for the holiday as presents; they do no such things with coupons.

    You will want to include one gift certificate for your patient (preferably offering a free exam and adjustment), and a gift certificate for them to give to their friend or family member (offering a free exam).  You want to print the gift certificates on index stock paper, so it looks and feel important.  In the headline, you want to mention that it is a gift certificate.  You will also want to mention the normal value of this gift certificate, and include a deadline (oh, say close towards the end of January).

    If you do it right, you will give the impression that you care about your patients and appreciate them as friends, while at the same time making a great offer via the gift certificates that can really work wonders in getting you referrals and reactivating inactive patients.
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