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In today’s world of communication via technology, hand-written Thank You cards are an anomaly. Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong proponent of the efficiency of electronic communication – texting, emails, etc. I am able to accomplish so much more in one day via emails, than any other form of communication. And as time is precious for small business operators, every little bit of time-saving is crucial. However, handwritten communication is becoming a lost art form, and when you want to build long-lasting relationships, nothing speaks more loudly than a Thank You note, written in your own hand.

So, when should you send cards? Here are some suggestions:

1. To Recognize Your “Helpers”

Every day you meet people that assist you. These are not customers, but those that help you acquire information, or aid you and your business in some way. Perhaps they are clerks at a local government agency, or receptionist at a local business entity. Of course, providing information to you is part of their “job,” but by formally recognizing these individuals, you will be building solid relationships that will greatly assist you in the future.

2. To Thank Your Clients

This one is fairly obvious, but so many times, we, as small business owners fail to officially thank those that provide our “bread and butter.” So, when a project is complete, do not fail to send a Thank You card to your clients, letting them know how much you appreciate their business. As this is such a foreign gesture nowadays, it is guaranteed to increase the likelihood of repeat business and new client referrals. Due to the fact that most of my client projects are on-going, I regularly send an annual Thank You note, as well as a small gift, useful for small business owners, during  the holiday season.

3. To Help Collect on Delinquent Accounts

I know this one seems counter-intuitive. Why should you send a Thank You to those that have not paid their bill? Because it works. If you have ever dealt with debt collectors, you know that collecting on delinquent accounts is typically an unpleasant experience for both parties. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By doing the un-ordinary, I personally have had great success in collecting on accounts that are up to a year overdue. Along with a handwritten note, thanking the client for their business, and politely reminding them of the balance due, I send a small box of chocolates to “sweeten” the request. It is amazing how quickly this can result in collecting funds owned, while nurturing goodwill for potential future business and referrals.

4. To Assist With Negotiations

If you are involved with a bidding process or other type of negotiations, get a leg-up on the competition by being preemptive and send a Thank You card to the decision makers. It is similar to sending a Thank You to interviewers when applying for a new job. As mentioned, handwritten notes are not the “norm” anymore, so sending a Thank You note will give you a definite advantage. Want to make your advantage even greater? Send or bring a gift basket, along with your card, to your negotiations. If you ensure the participants that the gesture is to thank them for their consideration, regardless of their decision, it helps to make the negotiations more friendly. (In dealing with government bidding, due to ethics regulations, we suggest you stick with simply a Thank You note. You certainly do not want to be viewed as attempting to bribe officials.)

So, as the new year approaches, I encourage you to set aside time each week to send Thank You notes to your business clients and contacts. And never forget those on the front-lines…those receptionists and administrative assistants may not be the “decision-makers” or responsible for accounts payable. But, these individuals are always influencers in organizational decision-making, and fostering goodwill with them will ensure you build strong, friendly relationships that will benefit you for years to come.

Thank You notes are powerful for your long-term business success. A note sent today could influence a decision many years down the road. Now, if your budget allows, we do recommend you go one step further. We mentioned that a box of chocolates or gift basket is a great relationship “sweetener.” But, for long-lasting results, including a Promotional Give-Away, with your Thank You card, will ensure your name and contact information is in front of your business associates for months, or even years, to come. Admit it…we all love a free ink pen or travel coffee mug. 😀

Until next issue…Best wishes in your endeavors!

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