See update notes at end of post (3/16/2011)
Inspired by posts singing the praises of handwritten thank-you notes (like this, this and this), I decided to experiment a little myself. For the past month or two, I’ve sent a dozen or so handwritten notes to colleagues, thanking them for taking the time to meet with me, for giving me advice or for picking up the tab at an expensive meal. These weren’t just plain cards with a signature, like so many of the perfunctory holiday cards that I receive but rather, four or five lives personalized to the recipient’s situation. And the response so far? Nothing.
Of course, I didn’t send out thank you notes expecting a thank-you in return. At the same time, I thought that I might receive some kind of acknowledgment, as I would if I phoned someone to thank them for a referral or even sent a thank you by email. And the lack of response shouldn’t surprise me either because I’m equally bad. A few months back, I received a lovely handwritten note from a colleague and didn’t respond until a few days ago, to clear my conscience before writing this post.
My experience has got me wondering about the value of the thank-you note.
The experts say that handwritten notes make you stand out, or make the recipient feel good when they see that you’ve taken the time to send something handwritten and personal. But I wonder if handwritten notes are actually viewed this way, or regarded with the same weary cynicism that I do: as another perfunctory marketing tool that you do because you think it’s the right thing to do.
But what’s worse is that a handwritten thank you isn’t interactive. As I found, it doesn’t generate a conversation. It’s not an opener to a continued relationship, but a closer to a matter already handled. By contrast, a phone call or email or, yes, even a Facebook post or Twitter DM, represent an opportunity for continued engagement.
I’ve still got a few more thank-you cards left from the batch that I bought a month ago, so I’m not sure that I’m ready to give up on them yet. You can call me unmannered or lacking in etiquette if you like, but at least we can have a conversation. That’s not the case with a thank you note, so no thanks to that!
What do you think about handwritten thank you notes? Come on – this is the place for all of you who never wrote those thank you’s after your wedding or Sweet 16 or bar/bat mitzvah to come clean! Are handwritten notes in business different from ones we send personally? And will handwritten notes go the way of the typewriter or the bike messenger, other casualties of the Internet-Age? Send your comments below.
OK readers – looks like I’m wrong on this one. As I said, I’ve still got a stack on notes and I won’t give up yet. Thanks for the feedback on how to get the most out of a handwritten note – and some inspiring success stories would be welcome too.