Using Handwritten Thank-You Notes to Distinguish Your Business

profile_Publicity_photo by Katherine Gustafson on December 27, 2013
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A personal touch can boost client loyalty, referrals, and overall business success. John Kralik’s story proves this: With everything going wrong in his life and his work, he decided to spend a year writing a thank-you note a day.

Kralik wrote to everyone from his top clients to his barista at the coffee shop, taking the time to describe the specifics of what he was grateful for. The practice improved his outlook, repaired broken relationships, and turned his struggling law firm around.

Kralik’s book, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life, chronicles how his approach eased him out of despair and into a newly successful phase of life. He now works as a judge for the California Superior Court of Los Angeles County — a lifelong dream fulfilled — and continues to write thank-you notes (tallying more than 900 so far).

Thanking Employees and Clients

When Kralik started the 365 thank-yous project, he didn’t consider how the practice of thanking people might be good for business. But it quickly became apparent that gratitude not only improved his own outlook and that of his employees, but also appealed to clients.

“At first I wasn’t intending to direct it to my business, but when I looked around, they were the people that I was most thankful for,” Kralik tells the Intuit Small Business Blog. “I would write to my employees and tell them how much I appreciated them. What happened is they’d write back and tell me what they appreciated about me. So I felt a lot better. And they’d also write to each other, because that’s what everybody was doing at the firm.”

In search of more people to thank, Kralik began writing notes to clients who paid their bills on time, letting them know how much of a difference their promptness made to his small business. The result was even more on-time payments, as well as good strategic planning and relationship building for Kralik.

“I found that many of those people paid lots of bills every day, but never got a thank-you note,” he says. “It was their choice to see whether my check got out, and I became somebody they’d do that for. It focused me on just who my clients were, which is a strategic thing that we all ought to do in assessing our small business. I was identifying good client relationships and focusing on those.”

Thinking of Others

The key to a sincere thank-you note is to think about the other person while you’re writing it, he says. That means cultivating legible handwriting, so the recipient can read what you’ve written, and focusing on what goes into the work they do for you.

“I found that the process of addressing something, just finding the address and getting it to them by regular mail, made me focus on where that person was physically, and [it] let me think about what was important to them,” Kralik says. “That’s your focus when writing the note; it’s to think about the other person.”

Those receiving the notes tend to appreciate the thought behind the gesture: “To get a handwritten note from the named partner [at the law firm] lets that client know that a senior person is focused on them and cares about them,” he adds.

Cultivating Positivity and Success

A business owner can gain a lot more than just his or her clients’ attention by writing thank-you notes. The practice is also apt to improve the writer’s attitude, a change that will surely bring its own rewards, both emotional and financial.

“Take the top person in any business and get them on a more positive framework and you’ll see real impact in their bottom line,” Kralik says. “My bottom line went up.”

The results may not be immediate, but the change in sensibility will eventually permeate the entire business, leading to all kinds of positive transformations. But, as with other activities, what you get out of the exercise is directly proportionate to what you put into it.

“You don’t have to [write notes] for 365 days,” Kralik says. “Try doing it for 30 or 60 and see how it will help. How it will help each person will be a little different, and it will depend on how much of your heart and your thought you put into it.”

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Katherine Gustafson is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, who loves writing about small business and entrepreneurship. Her first book, Change Comes to Dinner, explores the way entrepreneurs and other visionaries—from greenhouse innovators to no-till wheat farmers—are changing the business of food.

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