I still remember my first time.
I was in college, and when it happened, all of the giddy rumors that led to my passionate curiosity and anticipation were not a let down. I even remember where I was when it happened -- hunched over a worn-out PC, late at night, deep in the bowels of the ASU computer lab.
My first email.
There was something glorious and magical about that first electronic message, even in all the awkwardness of Windows 3.1. I was so excited, I printed it, as well as the next 10 or so I received. I thought email was awesome (please do not judge), and even then, as a young college student, I could see the potential it presented.
No more hand-writing letters.
Fast-forward to today. My email inbox fills with dozens of emails -- every hour. They are completely unmemorable, and I shuffle through and delete them with the speed and fluency of a late-night gambler on an electronic poker game. I almost always forget them all.
Instead, what I remember these days are the occassional and rare handwritten notes I receive via “snail mail,” such as the "Thank You" cards I received a few weeks ago from a group of university students who visited our warehouse for a tour and chat. I was pleasantly pleased, though somewhat surprised, that I did not receive the thank you messages via email, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Heck, I would not have been shocked to receive them by text message.
These days, I find that a gesture as simple as a handwritten note has a much greater and memorable impact than any electronic message I send. Though the task of hand-writing cards may seem time consuming and hardly worth the effort, it does not need to be.
Here are a few tips and resources to help you become more fluent at delivering an impactful handwritten message.
1. Keep it simple. You do not need to get overly aggressive with stationery. Opt instead for simple "Thank You" or blank cards, which provide you room to leave your message. You can find any number of cards in the clearance area of an office supply store, or you could opt to really make an impact with your stationery through companies such as Sweet Jane Paperie, a high-end stationery manufacturer that hand-stiches fabric cards.
Sweet Jane’s founder, Janine Durso, points out that creating an emotional connection by going the extra mile with your notes demonstrates that you are attempting to create long-lasting relationships with its recipient.
2. Make it memorable. While the simple gesture of sending a handwritten card to a customer or partner can make an impact, put forth the extra effort to make it absolutely memorable. Consider sending small gifts, such as product samples or coupons.
If your gift is larger than an envelope, consider using a company that specializes in “greeting boxes,” such as Greetabl. Greetabl’s co-founder, Joe Fischer, suggests including something from your meeting to remind the recipient of how and where you met.
3. Be personable. As much as you’d like to make a sales pitch, it is best to take a personal approach and allow yourself to add character to your message, suggests Matt Richardson, co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co., a subscription-based service that sends you highly unique greeting cards each month from a variety of artists and photographers.
Richardson also suggests using a favorite pen (he uses a purple one) with each note to add an additional level of differentiation to each card.
Related: Are Business Cards Still Relevant?
4. Include a business card. To keep your note personable and simple, do not waste valuable real estate describing again who you are and what you do. Instead, simply include a business card (or two) as a subtle reminder. Make certain, however, that you have a business card that is equally as memorable and useful.
You can make yours stand out with companies such as Moo, which creates high-end, beautifully-crafted business cards (and other stationary). You can and should also use the back to add a note about your meeting, since the business card is what will be kept and filed.
5. Prepare ahead of time. Keep a set of cards and pre-stamped envelopes (use real stamps) with you at all times. After a meeting, do not create an electronic reminder to send a follow up note, which inevitably will be postponed so many times as to become late and ultimately obsolete. Instead, at the very moment you think of it, reach in your bag, grab a ready-to-mail card and complete it. The details of your message will be fresh in your mind.
6. Go online. If you are still intimidated by the effort required to send a simple handwritten message, or you have just forgotten how to write after years of email, you can use services such as Handiemail to hand-write your messages for you.
Handiemail's founder, Kyle Eertmoed, describes his staff as "talented, meticulous, self-motivated individuals who love to write things by hand." Your typed message will be transcribed by hand into an elegant letter on your behalf -- confidentially, of course.
You can also use the iPad app Felt, which allows you to hand-write your message directly on your mobile device and have it sent immediately. You can even hand-write your envelope.
Using handwritten notes to make an impression with customers, partners or even friends and colleagues has become a lost art. With these tips and resources, there is every reason you should start leveraging them to differentiate yourself and your business.
And, if you want to try one -- thank you cards can be addressed to Peter Gasca, c/o Entrepreneur.com. Cheers!
Do you have more tips for making an impression through hand-written notes? Please share with others below in the comments section.