How many times have you heard people say, ‘I didn’t do it for the money, but it would’ve been nice to have a “thank you”’? Or, ‘it’s the card that counts – more than the gift’.
During the lockdown, I received a well-timed thank-you card from a client. They had sourced the card, written it and posted it – and the message was lovely too. This was sent during a time when I knew that they (like so many others) were experiencing a high level of stress. It lifted me and made me feel that I had made a difference. It also made that client stand out from the crowd.
Whether you are buying or selling, a ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
And I don’t just mean a quick ‘thanks for that – I’ll look out for your invoice’, or even ‘I’ve enjoyed working for you – I look forward to doing this again’.
I mean the gesture – the action. Actions speak louder than words.
Step into the shoes of the receiver
Think about how it feels to get a letter – not a credit card statement or a circular from the local estate agent, but a proper letter with a stamp on it and a handwritten address.
What is the first thing that you do?
Wonder who it is from? See if you recognise the handwriting? Who is writing to me? I don’t think I’m expecting anything…
You have the reader’s attention. They are poised to receive your news.
So, make the most of it. Thank them or congratulate them – working with someone is a shared experience, so tell them what worked well.
Make them feel valued as an individual: show them that someone has noticed and appreciated what they have done and taken the time to validate that by communicating it to them.
How could this help my business?
Take the opportunity to build a business community with your customers, clients and suppliers:
Show that you value the relationship and are prepared to invest time and effort in people.
Increase a feeling of community and familiarity through handwritten messages – something that they might only get usually from a friend or family member.
Cut across the white noise of electronic communications and make yourself memorable.
Demonstrate an investment and understanding of the importance of well-being.
Use the opportunity to enclose a handwritten note at no extra postage cost when you send your products.
I recently heard of a Board of Governors that sent handwritten thank-you cards to each member of staff to thank them for their contribution during the lockdowns. Everyone got one. The impact was huge. (It’s the card that counts more than the gift.)
What are the pros and cons?
It takes time, effort and postage (unless you enclose it with something that you are already sending) – but these are offset by the value recognised by the receiver.
You can’t use software to proofread your handwritten letter but, you could write and proofread a template letter online before copying it out.
You may need to look up any words that you are unsure of – the online dictionaries are quick and efficient.
It doesn’t cost much actual money and could even be a cost saving if you’ve bought gifts in the past.
It doesn’t need to be outsourced.
It can be easily customised.
It doesn’t need to take into account allergies, dietary requirements, cultural or religious considerations.
Write from person to person – not business to business. Relationships are made with people, not corporations. (You could write your name and 'on behalf of' the company if it's more appropriate to do so.)
Handwrite your message – it is more meaningful and expressive.
Type out your message first if you need to get it clear in your head or checked for basic spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Thank-you letters are the optional letters. They are hard to justify when weighed up against the cost, time and ecological savings to be gained by using email, along with its sharing and tracking features. We’ve seen a decrease in letter-writing during the pandemic, in an effort to reduce physical contact and transmission routes, along with the quarantine period considerations and the understandably erratic postal service.
But, consider what is at the heart of your business model: is it all about the bottom line, or do you have a deeper mission to invest in people – not just in your own business, but the wider community?
It might be time to put pen to paper.
Isobel Kent is an Oxfordshire-based proofreader and school governors’ clerk and specialises in proofreading business content and children’s literature. She trained with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and the Publishing Training Centre and holds a BA (Hons) in Music from the University of York.
Previously, she was a school librarian, a paralegal and a personal assistant to directors in a blue-chip company, a pub company and a global DC-power company. She also studied with renowned violinist and co-founder of the Purcell School, Rosemary Rapaport.
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