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The Power of a Note

One of the most powerful communications tools still remains the pen and paper. While technologiespentopaper such as blogs, video and photo sharing sites, and phones that can capture and post all of that content, have helped to create a 24/7, always-on communications and news cycle, it has only enhanced how powerful a simple pen and piece of paper can be. Now, you’re probably starting to reach this post and think I’m insane. But, what I’m referring to is not writing memos, or publishing newspaper articles, capturing notes during a meeting or anything like that. I’m talking about the power that a simple hand-written note can wield. Notice, I did say hand-written.

Recently I mailed out hand-written thank-you cards to every single sponsor of our Inbound Marketing Summits and Inbound Marketing Bootcamps, all of our clients and a handful of other people who have helped us at New Marketing Labs over the past few months. I figured that a personalized, hand-written thank-you card would mean a lot more than a standard email.

Plus, who needs another email? I know I sure don’t. As I continue to see the amount of physical mail I receive decrease due to paying bills online, receiving email newsletters, and communicating mainly via email and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, when a card or note from someone arrives, it means so much more. I actually take time to sit down and read it. I save it. It means more to me because I know that everyone in my circles run their lives from digital dashboards.

When I sent the thank-you cards I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I mean, all of these people have given us money or donated their time has a cost to it as well. The least I could do is take 2 minutes out of my life to send them a thank-you. Granted, I could’ve still sent everyone a piece of physical mail but made it a lot easier by typing a standard letter, printing 120 copies, signing them and then having them mailed out. But I chose not to. Why? Because that takes away the personal nature of the thank you. As great as standardization is for effectiveness, it does not translate to being more personal.

Right after I had mailed out all of the cards I had watched a MSNBC special about President Obama and the White House. While there were many things that I found fascinating during the 2 hour special, one thing that kept sticking with me was the fact that President Obama reads 10 letters from the public every single day. Now, I know that 10 letters doesn’t seem like a lot. Especially seeing that the White House receives over 100,000 emails, 1,000 faxes, and 2,500-3,500 phone calls every single day and over 65,000 physical letters every week (real numbers, not just estimations). A mere 10 letters per day isn’t even a drop in the bucket. But, before looking at it through that lens, stop and think about this for a minute.

The President of the United States is personally reading 70 letters from the American public every week. These letters aren’t being digested for him into a quick one-pager. These letters aren’t being scrubbed (except for security reasons) before the President sees them. Here’s the real win, not only is the President reading these letters every day but he personally responds to about 15 of those letters every week. No, not his secretary, not his Director of Communications, not his personal aide, or an intern, but the President is responding to them personally. Guess what? He hand writes every single response!

Check out this video of the President talking about why it is so important to him to stay in touch with the public:

Love him, hate him, you have to respect him for it. This is not a political debate but instead a look into a powerful tool that you can and should be employing into your businesses. Whether you’re an account executive, sales representative, manager, Director, VP or further up the structure, are you reaching out like this to your customers? I’m not talking about the obligatory holiday card or “thank you for your business” type stuff. I mean personalized, thought out, responses. How do you think a customer would feel if after calling into customer service or tech support, a few days later they received a hand-written note from that team member? Think you would win them over? Think you would create brand loyalty?  I think your chances are pretty high.

Need some other examples of people who are keeping their ear to the ground and listening to their customers?

*Tony Hsieh of Zappos is a perfect example. Tony is behind the company’s main Twitter account, currently hovering around 1.1 million followers. Tony responds to as many people as possible given the crazy schedule of a CEO of a $1.2 billion company, an in-demand public speaker and someone who has been featured in 2009 in every major business magazine. While I’m not sure whether Zappos reps send hand-written notes, they are empowered to help the customer in any way possible and they believe very strongly in building culture.

*Fritz Henderson. Fritz is the recently minted CEO of General Motors. Fritz has just a few things on his plate if you ask me. But, Fritz actively listens to customers by reading and responding to blogs, monitoring what’s being talked about in the media, and taking time to learn from people like Chris Brogan.  Fritz has even launched an online community called “Tell Fritz”.  Yes, I’m sure that Fritz has a substantially sized PR and communications teams as well as multiple agencies that work with those teams. Fritz also has my friend Chris Barger working social media for GM. But, besides all of those reports that he can call upon, Fritz takes an active role in listening and responding directly to his customers.

Want to listen like Tony, Fritz or many other executives now are?  Start by growing bigger ears!

Imagine how you would feel if Tony, Fritz or the President of the United States responded directly to you whether it be digital or hand-written (more points for the hand-written!). Now take that feeling and imagine how you could provide that same feeling for YOUR customers, business partners or your employees.

It’s not always the flashy things that make the biggest impacts. Something as simple as hand-written notes or a simple message to let them know you’re listening can win you a customer for life.

Are you doing this within your company? Do you know someone who is doing this and you want to recognize them for their efforts?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.

Photo by: athena

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    Have you ever stopped to realize how powerful a simple note can be? http://bit.ly/rvadm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • watkins_lady

    Funny that you should post an article about sending hand written thank you notes as I'm in the process of doing that myself. I am looking forward to what results it may produce. Most of my customers are average consumers, many are not on the internet or they only use it for email and perhaps online shopping. So I believe this method of communicating and connecting with them will make a difference.

  • http://twitter.com/WackyYouTube WackyYouTube

    The Power of a Note | Justin R. Levy http://bit.ly/1zmYs9

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/chrisbrogan chrisbrogan

    Great post by @justinlevy about sending notes, but also, really well done Obama video in there- http://bit.ly/QZHsa

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/justinlevy justinlevy

    The power of a hand-written note can be amazing. Are they part of your comms w/your customers,partners and employees? http://bit.ly/rvadm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/PeterMis PeterMis

    I call this a MUST READ! Thanks Justin! RT @justinlevy The Power of a Note | Justin R. Levy http://bit.ly/13JuBT

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/doreeniscool doreeniscool

    Very cool RT @chrisbroganGreat post by @justinlevy about sending notes, but also, really well done Obama video in there- http://bit.ly/QZHsa

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/heavenhong heavenhong

    ?? ???? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???. http://bit.ly/2reLqc

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/bigguyd bigguyd

    RE: @justinlevy Personal letters are great and compelling. I use them as thank you’s in my part time photography busine… http://disq.us/1pkb

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://www.livinghalffull.com/ Peter Mis

    Justin,

    Thank you for this Great post. Far too often we simply rely on the ease and simplicity of electronic communications. E-mail is great, but hand written notes are game changers. They are brand builders. In the eyes of the recipient, I care more than my competition. People want to deal with people that care. Hand written notes have helped me to do more business, but more importantly helped enhance the brand called me. Sadly, the hand written note is on the Endangered Communications List. That presents a great opportunity; my hand written note will help me stand out more with the recipient because my note was probably the only one she received. Advantage: me!

    Beyond brand building: In all human interaction showing sincere gratitude and appreciation is simply the RIGHT thing to do.

    Too important not to reTweet!

  • http://www.donmartelli.com Don Martelli

    Personal letters are great and compelling. I use them as thank you's in my part time photography business. Business, no matter what type, can be, is and should be very personal. It's the relationships that make it work. Sending hand written notes sends a strong message and binds those relationships. Great post and good pull through with the video.

  • http://www.kickidle.com/blog/ Daniel Hagan

    I recently received a hand-written note from American Express after a credit dispute. A great example of why AMEX continues to be far above other credit card companies in my book! Check out my blog post for the details – http://bit.ly/3KGFoU

  • http://www.smartstartcoach.com/ linda m lopeke

    Hey Chris,

    Delighted (but not surprised) to see you are a champion of the hand-written note (as am I)! I have done this for my entire career (40 years now) and teach all my students and team members to do the same.

    My signature cards and stationery feature tulips (my favourite flower). The nature of my work means many of my teams are predominantly male. Years ago I briefly considered using an alterate design thinking the men would not appreciate receiving tulip cards in the same way I do.

    But guess what? I decided not to switch. In retrospect, it was a good decision. First of all because it was more authentic for me to stick with tulips as I have a great passion for all things floral and everyone who works with me knows that.

    Secondly because the men didn't care that the card featured tulips at all as it turned out. Imagine my surprise when I would walk through client offices and there, proudly displayed in cubicles across the land, both men and women had pinned up their cards. Many had more than one (after all, some projects run longer than others).

    It got to be so that many in our field could go into any office and when they saw that particular card on display, they immediately recognized it as a handwritten recognition from the Chairman of Lexicorp.

    Now, as it happens, sometimes teams disband and folks move on. I thought the cards would be thrown away. But years later I found out many folks had kept theirs when they left office (note here I am not a famous person therefore my signature has no particular status). Clearly, the simple messages I wrote meant something to the recipients.

    By the way, I've also been known to write directly to their families and children, as a testimony to the great work they have done for me and the value of their contributions to my teams. The cards that arrive at home generate as much pride as those that get sent in the office!

    It's the simple things that mean the most to people. I know you know that but so many people are fixated on the grand gesture. Grand gestures are not needed. Genuine acknowledgement and appreciation are. They are treasured gifts of kindness that take very little time to give.

    On the subject of President Obama and his writing habits. A friend's nephew received a personal letter from the President a couple of weeks ago congratulating him on his academic achievements and encouraging him in his studies. (The boy has faced many difficulties in his life and is trying his best at school despite them.)

    Do you think this young boy is inspired to not give up regardless of the challenges ahead? I sure do. His aunt is going to get the letter put into a nice frame for him so he can hang it on his desk to read over and over every time he feels like throwing in the towel.

    I hope people take your message to heart, Chris. I know I personally send 10-15 cards/letters a week myself. That's 520-780 per year. I do it because I like to and it makes me happy. It's a wonderful thing to receive cards and letters in the mail.

    I keep the ones I receive in a mahogany box with an inscribed plaque that says *Abundance*. And yes, when I'm feeling down and discouraged, I read these cards myself. No matter how long they've been in the box, they never fail to inspire me to dig deep and find that extra little bit of strength and/or courage to carry on and not give in to defeat.

    So I'd like to thank all those who've taken the time to write to me and who have taken my advice to write to others, and to thank you Chris, for sharing this important message with your audience.

    Cheers!

    Linda M. Lopeke

  • http://www.smartstartcoach.com/ linda m lopeke

    Hey Justin,

    My apologies to you. I directed my comment at Chris because he sent me to your eloquent post from a Twitter link and I did not realize I was reading it from your blog site and not his as I did not see your name on the screen until just now.

    I enjoyed reading your blog post very much and was inspired to respond immediately. You made a great case for this important habit.

    I hope you can forgive me for my error; it wasn't intentional. In fact, I'm even more thrilled to know that there are two cool guys in the world who believe in the power of the handwritten note!

    Sincerely,

    Linda M. Lopeke

  • http://twitter.com/chrisandersonis chrisandersonis

    @milesbaker Miles,based on your 12 secs vid, you might like this fro @justinlevy – http://bit.ly/KYnPY

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/lvadgal lvadgal

    Reading http://bit.ly/wvqMs – great post by @justinlevy reminding us that writing is still in the game

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

    Justin

    Such a great post to remind us all about building relationships. I am a big fan of a personal note as an email is faster as the time to grab the stationery, write, address, add the stamp and put it in the mail takes time but at the same time what will the recipient feel? A generic thank you in a personal note is just that but imagine if the personal note recognized something about you. That is really what relationship building is all about.

    Funny as being a small business owner, quite a few know I have a 4 yr old son, Andrew. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life I go through my work routine but when someone asks me or references him, I stop and am immediately elated. Wow, they remembered and just care. That emotion many times is felt with the personal note.

    Thanks for reminding us of the power of taking a minute and also handwriting instead of relying upon the keyboard.

  • http://twitter.com/cordellparvin cordellparvin

    As Justin Levy points out, handwritten notes are still very powerful http://bit.ly/rvadm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/cardstyle cardstyle

    Ahh, the value of a handwritten note :) RT @lvadgal: http://bit.ly/wvqMs great post reminding us that writing is still in the game

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/BoulderArt BoulderArt

    Love this! RT @cardstyle: RT @lvadgal: http://bit.ly/wvqMs great post reminding us that writing is still in the game

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/thisisjustin thisisjustin

    @justinlevy talks about the power of a note, it’s amazing how the simple things are still the most powerful. http://bit.ly/SHZQF

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://twitter.com/mfusco mfusco

    @justinlevy my co-worker @thereasaf forwarded me your post “The Power of a Note” http://bit.ly/rvadm – we both found it right on.

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • http://mlbennett.wordpress.com/ Michelle Bennett

    Justin,
    I think your message is just as applicable internally as it is with building customer loyalty. I know it really brightens my day when someone sends me a quick e-mail to say they appreciated the hard work I did to help them out. And employees at my company were floored when the head of the company sent them a message thanking them for coming in over the weekend to clean up a burst pipe and make office space ready for others by Monday morning. Hand-written messages are so rare these days that their impact is huge. Leaders could really win some employee loyalty by using hand-written notes to appreciate people for their hard work. It's the little bits of appreciation that add up to way more than a big award every once in a blue moon.

    Great post :)

  • http://twitter.com/zazoomzimminy zazoomzimminy

    Even #Obama understands the power of a handwritten note, something we in #philanthropy shouldn’t forget: http://bit.ly/rvadm

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  • Diane Brogan

    Thank you for the great post. I know President Obama reads ten letters a day. I did not know he “hand writes” a response to some of them. This is a very thought provoking post for both personal and business life.

  • http://primecutsblog.com justinlevy

    It really is incredible and definitely shaped decisions that I've made
    in my personal and professional life.

  • http://www.prescreensolutions.com/ tom kenney

    as a long time sales professional i have always sent a hand written note or postcard or something because this is an easy way to “touch” the customer. i also train to this. excellent article.

  • Les

    HI! Have you ever received a written note on a greeting card that inspired or changed your life? I'm working on a new book about people who received such a card, and am looking for more people to interview for the book. If you or someone you know was profoundly affected by a note on a paper greeting card, please let me know. Les.Sussman@yahoo.com

  • Les

    Have you ever been inspired by a hand-written note on a greeting card? I'm working on a new book about people who received such a card and were inspired or had a change in life as a result. I would like to hear from anyone who has such a story to share. Thanks. Les Sussman les.sussman@yahoo.com

  • Les

    Would you know of anyone who received a hand-written note on a greeting card and who was inspired by it — or had their life changed as a result? I'm at work on a new book about written greeting cards and their impact on peoples' lives. Would like to hear from people who i can interview. Thanks. les.sussman@yahoo.com

  • Les

    HI! Have you ever received a written note on a greeting card that inspired or changed your life? I'm working on a new book about people who received such a card, and am looking for more people to interview for the book. If you or someone you know was profoundly affected by a note on a paper greeting card, please let me know. Les.Sussman@yahoo.com

  • Les

    Have you ever been inspired by a hand-written note on a greeting card? I'm working on a new book about people who received such a card and were inspired or had a change in life as a result. I would like to hear from anyone who has such a story to share. Thanks. Les Sussman les.sussman@yahoo.com

  • Les

    Would you know of anyone who received a hand-written note on a greeting card and who was inspired by it — or had their life changed as a result? I'm at work on a new book about written greeting cards and their impact on peoples' lives. Would like to hear from people who i can interview. Thanks. les.sussman@yahoo.com

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