As the holiday season fast approaches, businesses around the world are scrambling to get their holiday cards and collateral together – and with good reason. A greeting card is a great way to for businesses to promote their brand, connect with customers and generate new business.

That’s good news for us designers. Through the end of the year, holiday-themed greeting card design needs are booming and will offer a lot of creative opportunities. Here’s a few key things to keep in mind that can make the difference between a holiday win and an epic fail.

1. Tie your client’s message to their mission

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Pureform snow scene: M&M Web Solutions

Who is your client as a brand? That question – and the way you answer it – will determine the message and tone of your seasonal greeting card design. Consider the primary assets of your brand in your message. Do you want to emphasize the brand’s speed, innovation, low cost or customer care? Does the brand provide a benefit that no competitor offers?

Make the main aim of the brand clear in your greeting. You only have a few seconds to make an impact on their recipient, so make it count. In this Pureform snow scene above (promoting a pediatric radiology services), a wintery cityscape featuring a friendly doctor with a smiling snowman aims to ease children’s apprehension.

2. Give your card character

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Kaya Media Group card: Bueaka

If you want your greeting card to attract attention, give it some character – something memorable and maybe even mantle-worthy. Provided you keep it simple, quirky and funny can be good.

Korea’s Kaya Media Corporation mixed their publishing and advertiser brand logos with iconic holiday images from candy canes and holly to snowmen and gingerbread cookies, creating a fanciful design that ties their brand with the season.

3. Let your design reflect the brand

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Premiere Produce: jeni

Your greeting card design, while not strictly advertising, is certainly a type of brand promotion. It establishes a personal relationship between the client and the customer, and so its design should reflect their brand. You might choose a color palette that mirrors the brand’s logo or incorporates their logo into the design.

Consistency goes a long way toward establishing brand recognition and customer recall. Premiere Produce uses a simple Christmas tree design with a twist—the tree is composed of fresh produce items and the trunk is a delivery truck. Everything the consumer needs to know about the company is there in the design, and is presented in a clever and memorable way.

4. Think about the card’s recipients

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Nutrex Hawaii: ier.eirik

When designing a seasonal greeting, consider the recipients. They are likely to be getting bombarded by commercial messages, and their schedule is likely filed with holiday plans, obligations, travel and parties. They may be looking forward to a few days when they don’t have to think about work at all.

Also, consider their buying habits in relation to the product or service. These days an increasing number of purchases are being made from mobile devices. So if you want your client to connect with customers, add a link to their website, mobile app or social media. A simple Twitter handle or “Visit us on the web” invitation takes up little space, but can deliver big results.

5. Keep it simple

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Left: Seasonings Greetings by Kovalaski; Right: Solid Optics by mbrekke

Like an ad, a greeting card’s greatest impact is experienced in the first few seconds. So keep the design simple, eye catching, and memorable. A lasting impact can be achieved with a few bold images or a simple logo if well composed.

Seasonings Greetings is a great example of a simple design with a simple message. The word play between “season’s” and “seasonings” is heightened by the font being composed of delicious seasonings— from cinnamon to chili peppers.

Solid Optics uses the universally recognized snowflake and incorporates their products into the design. The message is immediate, impactful, and easily recognized.

6. Finish on time

It goes without saying, but this is no time for dawdling. Whether you’re working on a direct mailing or an e-mail blast, the holiday greeting will probably need a quick turnaround. Timeliness is not only important for your client (they’ll need additional time to address and mail these greetings), but makes a statement about your professionalism. If you want to impress your client, it’d best not to be late.

Do you have any other tips for making great greeting card designs? Share them in the comments!