Posted on: August 19, 2019
In today’s world, more people than ever have a voice. Technological innovation, namely in the realm of social media, has democratized discourse in ways that few thought possible only two decades ago. In the comfort of our own living room, or on our phone while at a restaurant, we have the power of self-expression more than ever before.
And that’s a good thing! From Facebook posts to tweets and Yelp reviews, it is relatively easy to state your opinion, circulate it among family and friends, and perhaps even become an “influencer.”
However, this democratization has made public discourse a more competitive space and has made it more difficult for any individual to stand out from the pack. Across the globe, there are nearly 2.4 billion monthly active Facebook users, more than half of whom use the social media platform on a daily basis. Twitter is used by roughly 330 million people worldwide each month. More than 400 million Instagram users create Instagram Stories every single day. That is a whole lot of noise, and it can be heard throughout the professional world.
When millions of business owners, employees and job seekers have voices, how does any single one stand out? Here’s one way I have embraced in my personal and professional life: Go “old school.” While technological innovation may be the rule nowadays, pen and paper can be a valuable exception. Use the written word to your advantage — yes, the real written word — and you can stand out from the crowd. My mother taught me from a young age to write thank-you notes, and I taught my two sons that the way to genuinely express gratitude for a gift or a special gesture is to sit down and write a handwritten note.
If you’re trying to land that dream job, a thank-you note can help you get it. An emailed note is adequate, but a handwritten one is even better because so few job seekers do it. In today’s crowded labor market, a competitive advantage makes all the difference, and handwritten notes can provide just that. It will differentiate your personal brand by helping you stand out from the crowd and making you more memorable in the mind of the employer.
Trust me: I’ve hired dozens of employees and interviewed many more, and a well-written note says a lot about your character — from your dedication to your charisma and confidence. (It also tells me about your mother’s character, to be honest!) It shows that you really want the job and that you’re willing to try new things to get what you want. The hiring website Monster.com calls the practice of sending post-interview thank-you notes “an important part of any job-hunting strategy.”
According to a recent survey, 80% of hiring managers find such notes helpful when reviewing candidates. But they’re not as common as you think: Only about a quarter of hiring managers ever actually receive thank-you notes from applicants, which opens up a void to be filled — by you. Why not you?
Job seekers aren’t the only ones who can leverage the power of the pen. If you’re a business owner servicing clients, as I do on a daily basis, a handwritten note can provide your business with a more personal feel — and a more memorable one.
Is it holiday time? Send a holiday card with a handwritten note. Is your client celebrating their birthday or anniversary? Send your well wishes on the special day. Are they going on vacation? Send food and drink recommendations before the trip. When I had a 25th anniversary party for my business, my bank sent a big floral bouquet for the front desk. I will remember that forever.
From time to time, it’s worth sending a thank-you note just because. Express your gratitude for a client’s decision to trust in you and not the competition. That separates you from a competitor who is only concerned with making money off a client, and not necessarily keeping that client satisfied. Remember, business is about relationships between people, and people have hearts. If you touch both their head and their heart, you will enrich the relationship for the long term.
All businesses are by and between human beings, so I recommend taking time to learn more about your clients’ personal lives and finding a system to keep track of critical dates (without being nosy, of course). Ask about your clients’ hobbies and interests. If a client is a bourbon lover, it makes sense to express your thank you with an expensive, highly rated bottle of bourbon, accompanied by a handwritten note. Your client will appreciate the personal touch — and the delicious liquor!
Now, you shouldn’t overdo it either. Don’t send your client a bottle every month. But an occasional gift — say, once a year — can be the right amount of special. It’s the sort of thoughtfulness that can help you keep that client long term, and find new ones through word of mouth. In my experience, a happy client recommends you to others, just like a happy employer is more likely to hire you.
The bottom line is this: Technology has changed our world forever, and it will continue to do so. But the need for a personal touch is not going away. In fact, technological innovation has made that personal touch more important than ever. And who wouldn’t want to receive a bottle of bourbon with a handwritten thank-you note?
This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in July 2019.