When being in business for awhile, like being in any relationship, it can be easy to get into a rut. You find what works and do more of that. You get into a routine and go along your way, nose to the ground.

Problem: We have had literally hundreds of clients from people who came to one $25 workshop to people who have collectively spent over $10,000 with us throughout the years. In just doing what we needed to do (i.e. our routine), we hadn’t reached out to these people in awhile.

Some of the local sentiments we sent out.

Solution: For less than half the cost of a direct mail campaign (yes, we did price one out), we sent all our our past and current customers a copy of some custom drawn greeting cards. We worked with local illustrator Jill Lee and local printer Print Bangor to come up with some fun ideas and packaged them together with some bright envelopes that were not only in our brand colors, but would stand out in someone’s mailbox or on someone’s desk when clients sent them out.

We did one pack of ‘local’ greeting cards with local and one pack of ‘internet’ greeting cards. Included was a standard letter and a handwritten sentiment from me. I tried to make each one personal. “I’ll never forget those flowers you brought us.” or “You and Sandy are doing such a great job on the blog.”

Here is the artist’s portfolio of the ‘local’ cards.

Here is the artist’s portfolio of the ‘internet’ cards.

I honestly sent these out with pretty low expectations. I knew that, since this was a package, everyone who got it would at least open it, unlike a sales flyer. I thought if we got some business out of it, great. I thought if I could sell the spare prints of the internet cards online, double great. But honestly, it was just fun to send out a gift. Really.

I didn’t hear from everyone, nor did I expect to. But the right people ‘got it’. And several people loved them.

And that’s all I wanted.

Additionally, we have one scheduled meeting and some potential work that’ll pay about half of the costs to send. (I am clearly not including my time putting them in little cute cases, etc. but anything I can do while watching Pride and Prejudice I can’t in good conscience count as ‘work’.)

Cost breakdown (approximate):
Design fee: $2
Envelopes: $0.50
Manila envelope: $0.10
Clear jewel cases: $1
Printing fee: $1
Postage: $3.25 (I delivered some by hand, I paid more than this internationally for others, this is average)
Paid staff time packaging/processing: $2-3
Total cost: $9.85-$10.85/package

As you see, since it was designed, printed, and packaged/processed locally, almost half this money stayed locally (with either BEC employees or subcontractors/service providers) and I’m as happy about that as I am at how cool the cards turned out.


Values Demonstrated: collaboration, creativity, generosity, love, thoughtfulness

How Could This Story Be Better: Normally, I am the kind of person who always has a reason for doing something. People who like me would call this logical and people who don’t would call it having an agenda. But this utilitarian approach has honestly kept us in business (and growing) mid-recession in an industry that’s considered icing on the cake rather than the cake itself.

This project was one of those rare times I let myself act on a gut feeling. To me, spending about $3000 to make people happy was an okay thing to do. I’ve bootstrapped this business for eight years and it was nice to give a little something. The only way I can think of this story being better is finding more ways to make people smile and understand just how grateful I am for their patronage.

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