Two years ago I tweeted a direct thank you message to a famous author. I had greatly enjoyed his book and used it with my mastermind group. To my surprise, he responded within an hour. This led to a back and forth conversation by email, then to a phone call, a podcast interview, and ultimately to a visit to his office to have lunch when I was speaking in his state. Today, we are colleagues and connect by phone every so often to stay in touch.
Lest you think the above story is an anomaly, it has actually happens often in my work and has enriched my life in ways that I could not have imagined. When I was just considering the speaking profession, I sent a thank you and inquiry to another author, now enjoying his heavenly reward, Og Mandino. Og wrote back and encouraged me to become a speaker, sharing connections that would change my life. Was his letter impactful? Yes! That was 2,500 seminars ago.
Not only does it feel great to acknowledge those who have served you, thank you notes often have the result of bring the giver and the receiver together. For best results, reach out in ways and in places where your communication has the best chance of not being lost in a sea of other emails or in a pile of unsolicited mail. Here are a few tips:
- Hand address your thank yous
By employing a few simple strategies, you can begin to “think like the masses don’t.” One easy way, in the world of all things digital, is go old-school sometimes and mail a hand-written message and envelope. Most of us are inundated with volumes of email and what does arrive in our mailbox is computer-printed. When we receive a hand-addressed piece of correspondence, we nearly always open it. It could be a wedding invitation, a thank you card or a letter from a friend, but its novelty gets our attention. Unlike everything else in our mailbox, it is personal.
- Reach out whereand when others don’t
For your message to have impact, your note first has to be read. When considering your approach, ask yourself, “Is there an address or online site where my recipient is likely to be receptive to unsolicited communication, see my message, and read it?” Skip the obvious route if there is another potentially more effective one. Do your best to avoid “knocking on the front door” of busy people’s websites and email inboxes. It is usually easy to learn where sought after people like to hang out more personally. It could be responding to the comments of their posts, podcasts, tweets, or in their LinkedIn group or Facebook community where your message may be only one of a handful. A blunt force, unsolicited email to their general inbox, in contrast, may yield no response due to the sheer volume of correspondence they receive there. Never forget, most writers appreciate feedback. There is nothing worse than working hard on a piece and hearing only “crickets” after it is published. Even responding to their “blast” marketing email can sometimes yield surprising results in the form of a personal response back because you are showing that their specific and most current efforts made a difference.
- Think in three dimensions
Small packages that have some height as well as width and length are always opened before flat letters. Be unique and creative. For extra special thank yous personalize your gift. One year, I used a free online photo app to create a Christmas image with my recipient’s business logo on an ornament. It took five minutes and was a big hit. And, no longer surprising these days, it led to considerable back and forth interaction with a mentor I had admired from a distance but not yet met.
- Never use thank you notes to sell or promote your business
Of course, all of us receive piles of correspondence that are just thinly veiled attempts to get or retain our business. Even worse, some thank you messages try to sell us something too. The latest iteration seems to be thank you email that also asks for a review. Hint: Show some restraint and never mix the two. Lest we be too hard on such businesses, as discussed above, connecting with others does often led to stronger ties. That said, if the primary goal of your thank you is to mere to obtain more business, you are using the wrong medium. And, chances are, your prospect can smell you a mile away, even over the fragrant tub of kettle corn you just sent them!
- Design and print your own cards!
These days it is easy to design and have your own personalized cards printed. A few years back, at a beach party at Huntington Beach, California, all of us were enjoying a particularly stunning sunset. Taking out my phone, I snapped a series of quick photos as the sun dipped into the ocean just in front of the famous pier. I got lucky and ended up with one beautiful shot out of the bunch which became the image I used for my personalized Thank You postcard (pictured above.) I decided to make the words “Thank You” very small on the front, just at the “water line.” The card’s message is decidedly low-key with the focus on the image not the message. It worked. I have been delighted to find my card tacked up on my recipients’ bulletin boards just because they like the photo!
You have a deluxe camera with you all day, everyday- your smartphone. Snap what moves you and you too will soon find a photo that you love, fits your personality and purpose, and that others will love receiving as well.
- Reach out within 24 hours
The final way to maximize the impact of your thank you is to send it within 24 hours. When I am on my game, I try to stop at table or bench, just outside my client’s building, and write out a note, then and there, and drop it in a mail slot before heading to my car. Usually, I am not so efficient, but it helps to send off your note right away before you forget. Where can you best catch up on overdue thank yous? Airports, planes, and coffee shops while waiting for that overdue colleague are all perfect places to write out a brief note, if you come prepared. Just keep a stack of stamped cards with you everywhere. In your office, at home, and in your computer bag.
Just as any thank you card, personalized or not, is better than no card, certainly, a surprise greeting, even days or weeks after your meeting, is better than no follow-up at all. While we can debate the relative merits of a quick thank you email versus a delayed card, the essential practice of remembering is what counts. When we go out of our way to say thank you, people notice and so do we. The best thank yous show we took some effort. For this reason, email is often not the best medium as it communicates clearly that your message took little or no work. To paraphrase what King David said long ago, “I will not offer a gift that cost me nothing.” That’s wise advice, indeed, revealing a person of great class and character even centuries later. We could all do well to do the same.