Stephen Ekstrom | Fire Starter Brands
I still remember my first time...
When it happened, all of the circulating rumors that fed my curiosity and excitement were validated. I still easily remember where it all happened - eyes fixed on a pixelated monitor screen, sitting in the second row of the high school computer lab.
My first email.
There was something magical and astonishing about that first message, sent electronically through space, even with all the awkwardness of the early Windows operating system. I even pressed Control-P, printed the message and the next few that I received. Go ahead and judge me but I thought email was awesome; even then, I could see the way this would make staying in touch with friends so much easier and I was an excellent typist.
No more hand-writing letters.
Now... It's a whole different story - my inbox fills every hour with messages that are forgettable. I delete and filter them with the speed and ease that one may expect from an experience BINGO player at a high stakes game.
These days, I remember the uniquely handwritten notes I infrequently receive as little gifts from my local mail carrier, most recently a "Thank You" card I received from a tourism sales exec who joined me for a sales mission to Ontario. I was pleasantly surprised and instantly felt a heartfelt appreciation that doesn't accompany messages of thanks on LinkedIn, Twitter or email. Honestly, I wouldn't even be surprised to get a thanks via text message any more.
Every day, we interact with dozens of businesses online, mostly through apps, websites and digital medium. Every one of your customers is in the same situation.
You can rise above those dozens of other businesses, making sure your customer thinks of you as a valued friend and not "just another vendor."
You've got to step away from the playroom that's crowded with all of the others to be different from all of the others.
What do I mean?
Real mail is dying medium... in 2010, the average home got a personal letter once every seven weeks, down from once every two weeks in 1987, according to the US Postal Service.
A well-crafted and handwritten note that arrives in the customer's real mailbox is an amazing way to grab their attention and distinguish yourself from the rest.
Here are some practical tips you can use to send special handwritten messages that your customers will remember for a long time.
You don't need any special stationary, custom note cards, perfectly branded collateral or exceptional penmanship to make this work.
If you want perfect, put together a creative brief, send it to the designer and get it professionally printed. That's just crazy - the beauty of the personalized note is that it is imperfect.
If you want to be noticed, you don't need to worry about any of that. The stamp askew, questionable handwriting, squished words at the edge of the paper are all part of what makes a handwritten note special. You're bringing a personal touch your your relationship with the customer. The handwritten note clearly tells the customer "I appreciate you and want you to know that; email just isn't personal enough to share how I feel about working with you."
If you don't have branded note cards or logo stationary, relax. Just get some paper and envelopes from your local big box store or Amazon - there's a 50 pack for under $10 - and start writing.
Keep in mind: everything should be handwritten: the note and the address on the envelope. This is important.
Unforgettable Notes: Five Templates
If you find yourself looking for the "right time" to send a note or simply don't know what to say, relax. I've put together some great options. Just use these outlines below.
1. Just Because
Scenario: You know that customer loyalty is important and you want your customers to know that they're appreciated year round.
I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I appreciate you. You are the best, and I hope you have a fantastic week.
2. After a Sales Call
Scenario: You just got off the phone or finished up an email with a prospect who has shown interest in your product by asking questions or by reaching out to you.
This type of note will help you set yourself apart from the others, it's definitely not a hard sell.
I appreciate you taking the time to talk with/email me. I would love to work with you soon.
Enjoy your day!
3. Welcome Aboard
Scenario: You've got a new customers who's signed up for your product.
The objective with this note is to let them know, simply and concisely, that you appreciate their business and to reinforce, from their perspective, their decision to buy was the right one.
I'm just reaching out with a big THANK YOU for choosing [Company/Product]. I am excited to be working with you!
4. Thank You
Scenario: You receive a call from a customer who has a concern and you are able to resolve it for them.
A customer who presents a valid complaint is a great opportunity to improve and an irreplaceable gift. Studies have shown that there are 26 customers who are displeased and don't speak up for every one that complains. Source
These concerns are tools to help you make more customers happy so thank the person who brought it to your attention with a handwritten note.
Thank you for letting me know about [concern]. I am sorry for your experience, and appreciate you giving me a chance to make it right.
Have a wonderful week!
5. Special Occasions/Gifts
Scenario: Whenever it may be appropriate to send a gift (holiday, birthday, anniversary with your business, etc.) accompany that gift with a handwritten note.
Happy [holiday/birthday]! I just want you to know that I am thinking of you and appreciate both you and your business.
Have a wonderful week!
Send a note to someone today!
Hopefully, you can see the benefits of sending a handwritten note and that it isn't so hard to do. So here is a challenge: send at least one handwritten note to someone every day this week.
Have you had a great experience with handwritten notes? Has sending one make a difference for you or your company? Feel free to share in the comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR...
Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing expert whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.