There’s a simple business communication tactic that can have a huge impact on how your clients and prospects feel about you and your organization—the handwritten, personal note. Here’s why personal notes are so effective in building strong client relationships and how to use personal notes in your smart-marketing strategy.

Why personal notes work. Marketers often use customer relationship management systems to create regular “touches” with clients and prospects. A CRMS brings discipline to the communication process, which can be helpful throughout the sales cycle.

But CRMS aren’t enough to build real relationships with real people. You also need one-to-one communication with your clients and prospects, and there are many ways of doing this. You could send an email, a LinkedIn message or a text. You could send personalized letter through the mail.

But the gold standard in business communication is the handwritten note. Here’s why:

  • It’s unusual. In a typical business day, you’re lucky to get one handwritten note.
  • It’s almost guaranteed to get past gatekeepers and reach the decision-maker’s desk.
  • It sets you apart by making you a person who is perceptive, attentive and memorable.
  • Most important, it makes the recipient feel that someone they do business with cares about them enough to take the time to put pen to paper.

Follow these six tips to use handwritten notes effectively in business marketing and communication:

  1. Look for opportunities to write. Find reasons to send personal notes to clients and prospects, such as thanking someone for his or her loyalty or a referral, sending congratulations or condolences, sharing news or extending an invitation to an event.
  2. Make it truly personal. You are writing to one individual and this should be reflected in the content and tone of your note. The recipient should never feel he or she has received the same note you sent to 10 other people. And you should handwrite the address on the envelope, too.
  3. Use proper stationery. You’re representing your company and yourself as a trusted service provider, so high-quality stationery bearing your company’s brand is a must. Ask your marketing team to design nicely formatted note cards and envelopes; it’s a small investment with a big payoff.
  4. Practice. If you’re unsure exactly what you want to say, write a draft on your computer first so you can edit and polish your message before you write it by hand.
  5. Make note-writing a habit. Set aside 15-20 minutes per week to send notes. Make note-writing a scheduled event and a regular business practice.
  6. Train staff to write notes. Every person on your team who interacts with clients or prospects—or who seeks referrals to generate new business—can be trained to write personal notes. It’s a powerful way to strengthen all kinds of business relationships.

Take a minute right now and think about the people you do business with, especially your most important customers. Which ones could you write notes to today?

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.