The Art of the Handwritten Note

Author: R Stell Date: January 04, 2008

Last month, we hosted a small get-together at our home. We grilled in the backyard, visited with family and friends and shared party-favor mementos with our guests as they left. A week later, I received two thank-you notes about the party: One came via e-mail, and one -- handwritten -- came in the mail. The e-mailed thank you was deleted 1.2 seconds after showing it to my husband. The handwritten note is going into a scrapbook with pictures from the party.

Now, I know you don't expect your clients and customers to keep a scrapbook of your correspondence with them, but the handwritten note does have more staying power than a click of your mouse.

There are many occasions related to your business where a personal note would be appropriate and have more impact than a quick e-mail message:

The anniversary marking a client's business. Take a moment once a year to thank each client for their business and reiterate the pride you feel working with their organization.

Meeting potential clients or vendors through networking. Sure, you exchanged business cards with potential vendors at a conference last week, but are you going to just let that business card pile up with others? Take 10 minutes and grab your pen. Tell them you enjoyed meeting them, that they're idea about XYZ sounded like a great fit for your business, and that you'd like to talk more about it.

Sympathy and concern. Perhaps a regular weekly customer hasn't been into your business for three weeks, and you find out a family member has taken ill. Send a quick note simply to let the customer know you are thinking of him or her.

Don't forget your employees. You're the boss, and your employees probably hold you in high regard. When an employee goes “above and beyond” or reaches a milestone anniversary with your small business, send a personal note of gratitude.

Some tips to consider:

    • Keep it short. The three-page letters you received from pen pals in high school are not appropriate for business. Three or four sentences will get your point across while demonstrating that you took the time and effort to write.
    • Use notecards with your business' logo. Sure, it’s a personal note, but you don't want the recipient to keep your small business completely out of their mind. Seeing your logo and business name will help keep you and your business in mind.
    • Watch your penmanship. Your first-grade teacher won't be looking over your shoulder, so if you tend to lean toward "chicken scratch" just be patient. Take your time and practice if you need to.
    • Don't wait. If you've met a potential new client at a local Wednesday evening mixer, be sure to drop your note to them in the mail by Friday. Try not to wait any longer than 48 hours.
    • Keep it clean. I don't mean watch your language. I mean use black ink, not the fancy hot pink or purple that is so popular and easy to find in the office supply stores.

So, your handwritten notes may not be compiled and sold in book form like many of our past presidents. And maybe your children won't have these business notes to look through in 20 years. But your clients, vendors, customers and employees -- today -- will know that you cared enough to make the time and effort just for them. A click of the mouse can't beat that.

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