It’s no secret that I am a paper lover. I often tout the benefits of using paper business cards, and can’t see myself replacing paper holiday cards, invitations and thank you notes entirely with e-cards anytime soon. There is just too much power in the smart use of paper, even if technology has given us some amazing ways to limit our paper consumption.

So, it shouldn’t surprise you that I am mailing holiday greeting cards to my contacts again this year. In fact, as a contributor on the FedEx Out of Office Blog, I recently shared a peek at the business holiday greeting cards we will be sending out through the Small Business Bonfire.

There is plenty of time to get your own business greeting cards created and out the door for this year’s holiday season, but you have to be smart about it or you could just be wasting paper (and time and money). Here are four ways to make your business greeting cards memorable.

Design a Custom Card

There is nothing wrong with using stock cards, but it can be difficult to find the right kind of card that gives the right kind of message, unless you have the time and desire to search through thousands of options. Designing a custom card guarantees that your messaging is on-target, and than your brand is represented accurately. And you don’t have to start from scratch. There are a number of services like FedEx Office that let you start with a template and customize until your messaging is perfect.

Avoid the Rush

The first few Christmas cards that arrive every year are exciting, but by the middle of December, as you continue hanging or displaying the cards and it starts to get crowded, the novelty wears off. Consider sending Thanksgiving cards, New Year’s cards, or even middle-of-the-year cards to avoid the rush and limit the number of competitors you have vying for the attention of your recipients. Plus, it’s nice to get cards when they’re unexpected.

Include a Surprise

A card can be effective on its own, but you can ramp up the usefulness by including something that’s relevant to your brand, products and target audience. In my FedEx post, you can see that I included a recipe card for S’mores Pie with my Thanksgiving cards (Thanksgiving is the season of pies, and s’mores fit the Bonfire brand perfectly). You can include anything, though — coupons, photos, gift cards, calendars, or even a relevant article or newspaper clip — to make your cards more meaningful.

Personalize Your Cards

Even if you customize the design of your cards and have them printed professionally, make sure you don’t overlook the importance of personalizing your cards before you send them. Write a personal message inside, and even consider handwriting the envelope to make your cards more personal. The goal is to tell your recipients that you are thinking of them and that they are important to you, and a personal touch is the most effective way to achieve this.

Those are just a few of my favorite ways to make holiday greeting cards memorable. Do you send paper cards to your clients, colleagues and staff? What do you do to make them stand out in the sea of holiday cards?