For professional development I read many marketing and writing blogs.

On January 6, 2017 Callie Oettinger published a post on writer Steven Pressfield’s blog entitled “Common Sense”. In it she wrote:

“If you operate every day in favor of Future You, you’ll eventually achieve your goals.”

Her words inspired me. They made me feel better about the days when I could find only a few minutes to write or work on my business. I printed the quote and put it on the white board in front of my desk.

Then I handwrote Callie a thank you note.

A few weeks later I received a handwritten envelope in the mail. Callie had written me back!

During the next 18 months I commented a few times on Callie’s blog posts and sent her a New Year’s card.

This past August 17th I was lazily scanning Callie’s weekly email blast when my eyes nearly jumped out of my head.  Callie had written:

“Thank you to Evelyn Starr for her many kind comments and for her hand-written thank you notes. Too few take the time. Thank you for being among the ones who do. Means a lot.”

Among the thousands of subscribers to that blog, Callie knew who I was. My thank you note had made a lasting impression.

Handwritten Thank You Notes Set Your Brand Apart

Will I ever do business with Callie? Who knows. I am happy to be connected and to get to know her.

I handwrite thank you notes often. I don’t expect business to come from them and I never ask for anything. My focus is on expressing gratitude and building a relationship.

As you can see from my interaction with Callie, handwritten thank you notes are relationship-building power houses. They get you on someone’s radar fast and keep you there. I have seen them displayed in clients’ offices when I visit.

What makes handwritten thank you notes so powerful? And why are they better than thank you emails?

First, they stand out. According to technology research firm The Radicati Group, office workers receive an average of 121 emails per day, 49.7 percent of which they consider to be spam. By contrast, the average American household receives just 10 pieces of personal mail per year, not counting holiday cards and invitations. While email inboxes overflow, a handwritten envelope in the mail grabs attention.

Second, they show you care. A handwritten thank you note represents thought and effort on the part of the sender.

Third, they elicit a positive emotional response from the recipient. Saeideh Heshmati, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Claremont Graduate University led a study on what makes people “feel loved.” Among the findings were “small gestures in everyday life” like people showing support without expecting anything back.

You’ve heard that the best brands establish an emotional connection in their marketing. Business owners often focus on the wording of their tagline or the storyline of their ads to do this, and that is important. A handwritten thank you note can be as effective.

Handwritten Thank You Notes Boost Your Business

About now you may be thinking “Well that’s all good but my time is limited. What’s the return on investment (ROI) on handwritten thank you notes? And do they scale beyond the single recipient?”

While exact results will vary by brand, handwritten notes’ ROI comes in the form of customer retention, repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing.

Wufoo, an online form-building company, takes time every week to send handwritten thank you cards to customers. Customer Ops team leader Renee Morris reports that “out of the roughly 800 customers who received handwritten cards from us last year, 50% fewer folks left our product than those who did not receive cards.” 

A 50 percent better retention rate means steadier revenue.

Online non-profit firm Donors Choose makes it easy for donors to help classrooms in need. Founder Charles Best conducted a study to measure the ROI of gratitude. He had his staff send handwritten thank you notes to half of their first-time donors. The other half received no thank you notes. The group who received the thank you notes were 38 percent more likely to donate again.

Handwritten thank you notes can increase the likelihood of repeat purchase or donation.

Beyond customer retention and repeat business benefits, handwritten thank you notes can generate positive word-of-mouth. Thanks to social media, that can scale to thousands of people.

I experienced this first hand a year ago when brand expert Denise Lee Yohn raved about a thank you note I sent her on Twitter. Denise has 17,100 followers.

Just this week author Crystal King tweeted about a card I wrote to thank her for writing a book I enjoyed. I did not write to Crystal expecting this, but I don’t mind getting in front of her 23,500 followers.

My own experience supports the business case for handwritten notes. In a quick review I found that thank-you-note-recipient referrals have led to four speaking engagements, six new clients, thirty research and consulting projects and a three-year consulting stint on retainer.

I hope you can see now that handwriting thank you notes is a powerful marketing tool.

But the benefits don’t stop at your brand. 

Handwritten Thank You Notes Are Good for Your Health

Handwriting thank you notes not only makes your recipient feel good, it can make you feel happier too.

Associate Professor of Human Development Steven Toepfer at Kent State University conducted a study where the participants were asked to write three “letters of gratitude” over the course of a month. Results showed that after each letter participants experienced higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depressive symptoms.

There is no downside to handwriting thank you notes and the upside benefits you and your business. The trick is to work it into your routine.

To get started:

  1. Buy a supply of thank you cards. Cronin Cards, Paper Source and Papyrus are three places where I find great cards. 
  2. Buy a supply of stamps.
  3. Make a list of people to thank. If you don’t have ideas, consider your top 10 customers, your best suppliers, your referral sources and your employees.
  4. Set a recurring appointment to write thank you cards and then honor it like you would an important meeting. My recommendation is to start with a goal of one thank you note per week. While that may feel low, it will add up to 52 at the end of the year.

I hope you enjoy writing thank you notes as much as I do! 

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