As a child, my mom always made me write a handwritten note to people who did something nice for me, gave me a gift or made a difference in some way. It’s a trait that I carried into adulthood and one that I’ve passed along to my children. I recently saw that Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning does the same thing, sending notes to retiring opponents he respects and admires.
He also credits his mother for instilling the handwritten habit in him. (I guess I’m in pretty good company.) I’m struck by the thoughtfulness, humility and respect for his profession that Manning has. Can you see yourself handwriting a letter to your competitors when they retire to let them know you appreciate the fact that they conducted themselves with class and integrity?
In today’s instant, on-demand fast paced high tech world believe it or not: low tech wins. By low tech I’m referring to sending handwritten thank you notes and letters.
3 Compelling Reasons Why ‘Low Tech’ Wins
- It’s a nice surprise when you go to the mailbox and there’s a handwritten note amongst the bills junk mail and magazines.
- It’s different and sets you apart in what otherwise is a sea of sameness.
- It demonstrates that you invested the time to send something from the heart.
I remember the first hand written recruiting letter I received in high school. It was from Tom Gill the head lacrosse coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University. I got plenty of typed form letters from other coaches but his first contact with me was a handwritten note. He told me I’d be a great fit at FDU, encouraged me to visit their campus and wished me a great senior year. He even added a P.S. at the bottom to ‘tell my high school coach John Distler that he said hello’. It was the one letter from the recruiting process that I have kept and as the recruiting process unfolded wouldn’t you know ultimately I ended up committing to play there.
Early in my professional career I made handwritten correspondence a best practice both as a recruiter and as a sales manager. Regardless of industry, it yields results. I know from first-hand experience still do it myself and I encourage all business leaders to do the same. What the hand written note does is build equity with the recipient. Emails get deleted. Handwritten notes get kept displayed and seen by numerous other people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a client’s office and seen one of my handwritten notes or a thank you card from someone pinned to their bulletin board. Take a look yourself the next time you walk into someone’s office I’d be shocked if you didn’t see some yourself.
Couldn’t you say the same thing via Skype or in an email? Sure but it won’t have the same effect or carry the same emotion. Handwritten correspondence creates a strong level of social equity with the recipient. Sure they can’t hit reply on a note card but research indicates a physical piece of mail causes more emotional processing by the recipient’s brain. If you think about it, a handwritten letter leaves an understandably deeper impression. This is because the parts of the brain that are stimulated in the process of reading it are the same parts responsible for making an emotional connection with the sender.
9 Keys To A Successful Handwritten Note
- Weight and Quality matter. The weight brightness and overall quality of the paper are a reflection of the sender and should be congruent with the quality of the actual written message.
- Match the message to the medium. Since research indicates that paper resonates better and deeper with us emotionally, you should reserve your most emotional messages for the handwritten page. CLICK HERE for a complete case study on this.
- Consider the demographics of the recipient. Handwritten notes tend to be a more conventional and comfortable form of communication for a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer as opposed to a Millennial/Gen Y.
- Staying Power. A handwritten note is more than a note it’s really a gift. A handwritten note has far greater staying power and will be shared with other people far more than an email. Email can be deleted much easier than a letter thrown away. Nothing will ever replace a handwritten note.
- It’s personal. A well-written letter can be more intimate and moving than a conversation. It can be more touching and emotive than a phone call.
- Brand YOU. Make sure you make a brand impression on the recipient by including your logo perhaps even a photo and of course your contact information on the card.
- It requires sustained focus of thought and engagement for the writer. There’s no backspace or delete key.
- Invest in a good pen and penmanship. They can’t love it if they can’t read it.
- Don’t use a signature stamp. It’s lazy and it’s obvious. All the recipient has to do is wet their fingertip and rub it across your signature. If it smears right away they will know you cut that corner and used a stamp.
Include a P.S. Nothing adds value quite like that one final statement. In psychology there is a concept called the recency effect which essentially states that your mind will find the last thing you see, hear or read to be most memorable. It’s only trumped by the primacy effect which refers to the first thing you read. In other words our brains are wired to remember the first and the last things that make impressions on us. So be sure to lead and conclude with your best stuff and keep it short and sweet.