Words on Paper: The Power of Handwritten Correspondence in Business

Shana Gardner, Operations

Every February, people around the world come together in a unique challenge called incowrimo (a mash-up of International Correspondence Writing Month).  The goal of the challenge is to bring back the joy of handwritten correspondence by writing a letter every day of the month and sending it off into the world.  It's about is making the personal connection that handwritten correspondence offers.

The challenge may be aimed at individuals, but the sentiment carries over perfectly into the business world.

Email is a huge part of our work days.  Most of us receive dozens, if not hundreds, of emails every day.  Emails from colleagues. Emails from clients. Emails from vendors.  Emails from third parties. Marketing emails. Order-related emails. Informational emails.  Spam. Email offers efficient communication, but is by its very nature rather impersonal—perfectly fine for the vast majority of situations... but sometimes you need something more.

That's where handwritten correspondence comes in!

Email can be sent to one person or thousands with a single click.  Handwritten correspondence, on the other hand, is always unique. Even if you write another one with the exact same words, there will still be differences: the shape of the letters, the angle of the pen stroke, the evenness of the lines.  It adds a layer of humanity to your correspondence that the inherent sameness of email can't provide.

Don't have the greatest penmanship?  Don't let that deter you! However good (or terrible) your penmanship is, it reflects your individuality.  Take your time to make sure it's legible, but don't be overly concerned if your letters aren't perfect.

Sending an email is simple and costs essentially nothing.  Messages can be quickly composed and mistakes fixed automatically.  In less than a minute, your email can be on its way to its intended recipient.  Functional. Efficient.

Handwritten correspondence is more of an involved process.  You need to select your stationery, think through your message, and finally put pen to paper.  Once you've finished, you need to seal it in its envelope (Don't forget to drop in your business card!), address and stamp it, and pop it into the mail.  It's a time commitment, requiring that you unplug and truly focus on what you're doing, from the drafting of the message itself to the physical act of shaping the letters.

The process may seem daunting, but a little preparation goes a long way. Instead of buying a single card as the need arises, we keep a selection of blank notecards and stamps handy to encourage sending handwritten notes.  That way, when the need arises we have everything to send out that note with minimum fuss. There is a plethora of blank stationery options out there—or you can design and print your own—so it's easy to find a style you like, too!  (A cute pen bag is optional.)

Emails are by their very nature transitory.  Even emails we enjoy reading are generally filed and shortly forgotten, rarely printed and kept nearby.

Handwritten correspondence is something tangible, something that the recipient can keep and reread whenever they'd like.  It has a permanence that allows for rediscovery; months later, the recipient may discover it saved in a box or drawer and reread it, experiencing your sentiment all over again.

Did a client place a great order with you?  Send them a handwritten thank-you note.

Did something go wrong?  Send a handwritten card with your sincere apologies.

Do you want to reconnect with a client you've fallen out of touch with?  Send a handwritten greeting to let them know you would love to hear from them.

Did you make a fantastic networking connection?  Send a handwritten note to let them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to working together.

Odds are that most people in similar situations won't be doing the same, so the fact that you took the time to compose and send something handwritten will be noticeable.  By all means, send an email as well, but make sure to follow up with snail mail!

Handwritten notes are perfect for including with packages, whether you're sending a token of your appreciation, an apology or "just because" gift, or something as a gag from an in-joke.  Send a gift to express your gratitude for their support or something fun that harks back to a conversation.

Just because it's business doesn't mean it has to be serious!  When members of our sales team discovered that a contact particularly enjoyed Fig Newtons, they sent him a package of them with a handwritten note.  Shortly after receiving it, he was raving about it on social media—needless to say, he appreciated the gesture. In tailoring the note (and the gift) to the situation, you can create a memorable experience and begin (or enhance) a lasting relationship.

Remember how much of a thrill it was when you were a kid and got something in the mail?  Remember the special feeling that it gave you? Just because we're adults, it doesn't mean that it's any less exciting.  Just think of how it feels to get your mail and see an unexpected letter in it, the curiosity you feel as you open it up, the surprise and delight when you find that it's actual, honest-to-goodness personal correspondence inside that envelope.  That little thrill and those warm fuzzies can brighten even a bad day, which the recipient will appreciate and remember.

Email may comprise the bulk of business communication, but the personal touch of handwritten correspondence adds another level to your professional relationships that email just can't provide.  So, go on, get that stationery and start writing!

Do you use handwritten correspondence in your business?  Visit our social media pages and let us know how you make it work for you!