The New Business Power of a Snail Mail Thank You Note

I received two thank you notes in the last month that were different from all others: neither was sent via email. One was an “old-fashioned”, hand-written note from a friend. The other was from a prospective vendor, typed on personalized business stationary, personally signed. Both made a lasting impression. Both have implications for ad agency new business.

The note from a friend came after I made the effort to visit him, his wife and 9-month old daughter in Seattle, on the way to the 4As conference in San Francisco. While it wasn’t exactly on the way for me, it was at least on the same coast, as I was flying West from Atlanta.

His hand-written note expressed his appreciation for my visit and what my friendship means to him. But more importantly, and this is the new business implication, here’s what it said about him:

  • I care enough to take the time to write a really well-written note, by hand (not dashing it off in an email);
  • I care enough to say really heartfelt things – on paper – even if (as a typical man) I may not verbalize it.

The note from a vendor came from a potential landlord. We tend to outgrow our office space every four or five years, and I’ve been through two moves in the last 10 years. Never before has the owner of a building taken the time to write and express his personal interest in our becoming a tenant.

At the time he wrote the note, his building was one of six properties we’d narrowed down into a consideration set. It took this owner just a few minutes to separate himself from dozens of other commercial real estate people we’d been interacting with. Here’s what he did:

  • He showed that as the owner, he cared enough about his building (i.e. his business) to meet prospective tenants.
  • He discovered that we live in the same neighborhood, though had never met, and related that in his note – i.e. he personalized it, revealing a connection that neither one of us previously knew was there.
  • He made himself available to answer any questions as we proceeded through our selection process.

I kept his note and commented on it to others. His thoughtfulness made an impression. In fact, we’re going to have lunch together in a couple of hours and his building is one of our two finalists. Is that just a coincidence?

You may fall into the “it’s far easier to send an email thank you note” trap as easily and often as I do. Note to self: get out of the trap!

Taking the time to think about and craft a well-written thank you note can be an incredibly powerful new business tool. It can quickly separate you and your firm from everyone else who doesn’t bother to write, as well as from those who do, but who will resort to email.

If your note strikes the right cord, you have the opportunity to elicit the ideal response: “I’d like to do business with this person. They care. They have good manners. They’ll do good work on my account.”

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