The Art of Handwritten Media
By Lidia Varesco Racoma
Being an avid user of social media, I can’t deny the effectiveness of making business connections via Twitter, blogs and the like. However, I believe staying connected with clients and prospects also requires a more personal approach: handwritten communications.
Over the years, I've personally experienced how handwritten or personal correspondence can positively impact a small business. I recently met a paper industry friend, Collette Pelletier of Gruppo Cordenons. Though she receives my email newsletter regularly, she specifically contacted me while traveling in Chicago because she received my “new address” postcard in the mail. We had a productive meeting and made a valuable business connection.
Collette and I both agree on the importance of handwritten communications and how it can help a business stand out from its competition. In fact, Gruppo Cordenons is a member of The Greeting Card Association and participated in HOPE IS IN THE CARDS, a program that encourages people to send cards with a positive message.
One card that stood out to me this holiday season was a letterpress card with a handwritten note from another paper industry friend, Jamie Saunders of Neenah Paper. Jamie and I met via Twitter, exchanged handwritten notes over the year and finally met in person. We made a beneficial business connection -- one that might not have happened if we hadn’t taken the time to get to know each other via handwritten correspondence in addition to social media.
People in the paper industry naturally sense the importance and impact of using handwritten communications. However, small business owners are following suit. For example, I once received a handwritten note from a dog walker I met at a networking event. It was a pleasant surprise -- and a smart way for that small business owner to build brand awareness and stay top-of-mind with potential clients.
How do small business owners find time to send handwritten communications?
Here are a few tips:
- Always have writing supplies on hand (greeting cards, note cards, postage stamps).
- Keep a running list of people to send thank you cards (clients, vendors, referrals).
- Put reminders in your calendar for business birthdays or other special events.
- Set aside one hour in your week to write cards.
Freelance writer Alisa Bonsignore uses handwritten communications as an extension of her marketing. In addition to a New Year card, she sends thank you cards and follow-up notes after important meetings. Having received many “generic greetings” over the years, she thinks personalized notes to clients are particularly effective for her small business because “they are a reminder that they’re getting personalized service and personalized attention from me.”
Realtor Tracy Dillard of Keonig & Strey sends a New Year card each year as well as a “Happy First Anniversary” card to clients one year after their home purchase. This extra effort shows the personal attention she gives to her clients -- and allows her to stand out in this highly competitive industry.
So, who else is sending cards? In a recent survey of small business owners this year, I found that almost all of them sent a holiday card via mail. 50% of them sent cards to prospects in addition to current clients, 50% increased the number of cards they sent compared to the previous year and 80% included a handwritten note. (Kudos to the few who even hand-addressed the envelopes!)
Small businesses are realizing the potential of handwritten communications and adding it to their marketing plan. They are effectively using “handwritten media” to make connections, stay top-of-mind and build brand awareness for their business.
Like any other marketing technique, it's good to have a plan. Here are a few opportunities to effectively use handwritten communications:
- Thank you card after completing a client project
- “Nice to Meet You” card to a new connection from a networking event (include a few business
- A card to celebrate a birthday or other special event
- Thank you card to a colleague or vendor who helped out with a challenging project
- Follow-up note after a business meeting
- "Thinking of You" note to a client you’ve lost touch with
- Thank you card for a referral
- Holiday card for a less-popular holiday
Whether you send a fancy personalized note card or simply purchase a card at a local shop, your client or prospect will recognize and appreciate your time and effort -- and perhaps even pick up the phone and give you a call.
Lidia Varesco Racoma has more than a decade of graphic design experience, Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design in Chicago is known not only for her ability to visually capture the spirit of a project, but for her dedication to helping people stay connected. She recently launched Business Greetings by Lidia Varesco Design, a line of personalized greeting cards and stationery for small businesses. She has been featured in HOW Magazine, Chicago Journal and various design and small business books, including Freelance Design in Practice and CRAVE Chicago, a showcase of top female entrepreneurs you should know. For more information, visit www.lsvdesign.com.