How did you feel the last time you received a thank you note? Would you like to pass this feeling on to someone who has been kind, supportive or helpful to you? The Inn Group met last week to explore the importance of notes of appreciation in business. The curtain is being pulled back below to give you a peek at the results of our discussion. Common-sense prevails here, but I hope you can glean something useful for your next thank you note.
1. Be genuine and honest. Folks know if you aren’t being sincere and appreciate it when you are. Tom Pollard of Popular Pittsburgh says, “Just the fact that someone remembered me touches me.” Professional Organizer, JOYce Wilde agrees, “I see boxes upon boxes of cards that people are holding on to every day. There is a reason. These cards represent something to them.”
2. Be Timely. A thank you note should be written quickly – within a few days to a week – however if you haven’t gotten to it with in that time – don’t beat yourself up. Joey Flesner of the Etiquette Network tells a story of a thank you card she kept putting off sending because she wanted to include a gift certificate to the recipient’s favorite restaurant. Weeks later she was able to acquire the gift certificate and send the card. Her recipient had forgotten about his assistance to her and was pleasantly surprised. Send it no matter how late. Just don’t forget to explain why you are sending the thank you. A humble recipient may not realize his impact on you.
3. Separate Yourself from “the Pile”. On the subject of timeliness, there may be instances when you want to send a larger group of thank you notes. Sheryl Johnson of BD-PRo Marketing advises clients to stay clear of the “mass mailing seasons” like Christmas where your efforts may not stand out. At another time of year your message will be unexpected, receive more attention, and have a stronger impact. (Read Sheryl’s recent article “Why You Should Stop Sending Holiday Cards” for more on this subject). “I also suggest my clients choose another time of year to send thank you notes to clients,” adds Fran Treloar of Send Out Cards. “For instance, on St. Patrick’s Day a note stating I’m Lucky to Have a Customer like You would really stand out.” Look at the calendar and see if there is a date that makes more sense for your business. I like to send Valentine’s to customers of the Franklin Inn letting them know how much I love and appreciate them.
4. Address your letter to a specific person. With modern technology this is almost always possible. We’ve all known how to mail merge for decades now. Kathy Hunt of Hightech Signs says, “Even when I choose to use a store bought card with a pre-printed verse, I hand-write Dear and the person’s name above those lines.” Martha Walton the group’s Miche Bag representative agrees. She sees many “braggy” newsletters come through the mail. The ones specifically addressed to her get noticed.
5. Content should be direct, brief, and concise. We have lots of practice with those 140 texting characters now….well…don’t be that short. State specifically what you appreciated. How or why the action or gift impacted you and end with best wishes or warm regards. Think twice before including a few referral slips or business cards in a thank you note. Your message may be mistaken as self-serving rather than be understood for the sentiment that you desired to express. Note writing is easier for some of us than others. Again, be yourself and be genuine. If you are having trouble, there are tons of free templates online that can get you started and people willing to help. Wendy Maletta of Ahhluminating Coaching emphasizes the “memorability of your content” which brings me to the next points….
6. Personalize as much as possible. Our group agreed that hand written ink on paper rules. If your writing is just too horrendous and you have to type it, or you are doing a mail merge to a large number of clients, at least sign your name and write a personal sentence or two. Some programs like Send Out Cards will even mimic your handwriting. With the high volume of tiny donors, I don’t expect a personal letter to little old me; however, I am still astonished by charities where the director actually signs the letter and writes a note at the bottom for me. I know of businesses where the staff each takes a handful of cards and letters for which they are responsible for a personal note.
7. Get Creative. If words aren’t your “thing” or you’d like additional ways to personalize your message, a plethora of ways to be more creative abound. More than the contents of the thank you note Dr. Tracey Boyles loves when parents include photos of her growing chiropractic clients. Elizabeth Cessna, a Hypnotherapist in the group, describes a card she received from a friend who had scanned and included multiple photos of meaningful times they had shared together. Tina Nobers, our group nutritionist from CMN Nutrition Group , says that photographs and art can change a card from bland to something that stands out for her. Carolyn Shultz of CS Photography uses her own artwork and photographs to create beautiful thank you cards. These works of art can then be displayed to enjoy year round. This sense of practicality appealed to other members of the group. A calendar, a card or another special thematic gift can make an impact. “I enjoy a well-thought out verse or quote that gets the sentiment across,” suggests Nancy Morgano of Compass Business Solutions. “A touch of humor makes an impact on me,” offers Toni DiGiacobbe our resident legal expert. A cartoon, a funny photo or a well-chosen joke can also brighten your recipient’s day and offer the gift of a chuckle.
8. Choose the right medium. These days, a thank you note in the mail box is a rose among thorns. When is the last time you received anything but bills? Nice stationary (or a themed pattern or card) shows thought went into selecting it for the recipient. Others say in business situations use your letter head on nice paper. Terri Orlowski of Beyond the Office advises that we think about the needs of the recipient. A public thank you note via Facebook or twitter might be a more useful way to appreciate someone that can be helped by an endorsement via social media. If its email or nothing then, yes, send that thank you via email. Heck, I’ve even received notes of appreciation on scraps of paper! No matter the medium, people will respond positively when treated kindly and appreciated.
There are many folks in our lives for whom to be thankful. Good luck with your efforts to appreciate the people making an impact on you and supporting your business. If you’d like to participate in future Inn Group discussions, we’d love for you to join us. The Inn Group is a sharp group of business owners that meets once a month at the Franklin Inn Mexican Restaurant for purposeful networking and business idea exchange. Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sheryl Johnson (email@example.com) for more information regarding the Inn Group or click here.