Why is it that hardly anybody writes thank you cards anymore? In fact, many times a gift will go completely unacknowledged by any form, be it e-mail, telephone, or mail. Yes, OK, now you can label me an old fuddy-duddy when I say that it was drummed into me and most other kids of my era that when you received a gift at Christmas or on birthdays, you sat right down and composed a thank you. My mother hounded me until it was done. Well, I think it's time for some motherly hounding in business.
Sure, a short e-mail thank you to a client after a big event is better than nothing. I still say, though, that there is something ultimately more classy about the written word. Maybe it's the anticipation of receiving a personal letter in the mail with your name on it and the expectation of what that letter holds. It's an expectation and an anticipation that lasts a bit longer than the time it takes to open an e-mail and that extra time is - for me anyway - psychologically positive. I guarantee you that any thank you to a client puts you one step closer to receiving repeat business. For me, the very best form of thank you is a hand-written card. Yes, hand-written.
Let me digress for a moment.
I was very disappointed to learn earlier this year that cursive (handwriting) had been taken out of some US school curricula. Apart from the well-known neurological analysis that can help to tell about someone's personaliy from their handwriting, there is something far less tangible but equally beneficial in cursive - the fact that handwriting delivers a measure of personal sincerity. A tiny bit of someone's real personality emerges from the handwritten page. It's a quality that cannot truly be delivered by a smiley emoticon in an e-mail or even by typewriting. And I don't believe that the quality of the writing is as important as some of the detractors of handwritten notes believe. Their argument goes like this. "I don't hand write letters because my writing is so bad it makes me look like a little kid." OK, but does that really matter? It is still a measure of who you really are, and that's not necessarily bad. Why are you afraid to give a bit of yourself? If you are really worried, then a typewritten letter or card would be the next best thing. By the way, there is still time to try to improve that handwriting.
So back to the matter at hand. What sort of card or letter should you use? In one word - personalized. If it's a letter, it should be on your company letterhead and of course, high quality paper. If it's a card - and I highly recommend a card - make it a customized card. My business partner used to be an artist and would hand design a unique card for every client or every occasion. I was not an artist so early on when I owned the business I went to a printer and had a couple of hundred custom cards created with my company logo (a bowing performer in a spotlight) and a note inside that said "Thank you. You've been a great audience!" There was room to write - or type - a short note on the inside cover of the card.
I sent one of these cards to all clients that gave me any substantial piece of business and even to my repeat clients, pretty well all of whom I kept for most of my nineteen-year career.
Oh, yes, always sign your card - and even your letter - using a pen. It's that final touch of connecting and giving of yourself.