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Hallmark adds "personal touch" to business communications

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In an increasingly digital age, it’s all too easy to rely on remote means of communication. A number of companies—Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., CVS and Midwest Airlines to name a few—have turned to the classic greeting company Hallmark in search of a convenient, cost-effective way to personalize contact with employees and customers, retain business connections and give workers a personal pat on the back.

StraightLine spoke to Hallmark Business Solutions Marketing Director Clarke Smith about the company’s new line of cards that’s set to meet that challenge: Hallmark Business Expressions. Released this summer, they’re aimed to streamline Hallmark’s warm and fuzzy sentiment to speak to a professional market.

StraightLine: How was the development of the new Business Expressions Line different than developing a consumer line? Clarke: It’s about understanding what businesses wanted to say when sending a card. It’s very different from consumer market in that it’s not a me-to-you basis. [Consumers] buy cards that say just the right thing, but businesses send cards on a one-to-many basis. Typically the message inside the card is much less personal and much more professionally oriented. They typically want it to be a short and sweet message that’s appropriate regardless of who receives it. And it’s the same thing with the actual look of the card—it can’t be too masculine or feminine. And they tend to look for visuals that they think reflect who their business is—sophisticated or contemporary, for instance.

StraightLine: How do the managed programs work? Clarke: It’s pretty simple, really. There’s a centralized corporate program that allows salespeople and other individuals to go online and choose from a predefined set of cards that can be sent directly to customers, typically straight from Hallmark, though some go to individuals so they can sign them. For instance, a financial agent could go online through his corporate intranet, upload every month a list of policy holders who have a birthday, choose from seven to eight cards that were approved by corporate and then we mail cards to each agent’s policy holders at the first of the month.

StraightLine: What niche markets do you expect to be the early adopters of a program like this? Clarke: We’ve seen a lot of interest from financial services and investment firms. We’ve also seen a lot of interest from pharmaceutical companies. Our managed card programs are most appealing to companies with really large field sales organizations, though we do see businesses from across the board—contractors, realtors and individual insurance agents.

StraightLine: What sort of client feedback have you received so far? Clarke: Typically our clients do the analytics where it’s applicable—you wouldn’t have feedback rates for say, thank-you notes. But we can create inserts that can go along with the cards, an invitation to an event or some kind of discount or an offer that can be tracked. What we hear most often is that it’s a tool that can help businesses build more meaningful relationships. It’s something that a lot of businesses have neglected to do.

For more information on Hallmark Business Expressions, visit www.businessgreetings.com.

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