Business networking is back at high tide, and where there is networking, there is follow-up. There’s no shame in sending an email (or even a private message on LinkedIn) to thank someone for their time after a one-on-one meeting. But nothing says “I’m in it for the relationship” like a handwritten note.
I’m not saying this should always be your modus operandi. But you do want to make a lasting impression and get a new business relationship off to a good start. (Don’t you?) If so, consider the appeal of someone’s admiring reaction when they receive your wee burst of business sunshine in their brick and mortar mailbox. What a feeling!
Make a Visual Statement with Your Paper of Choice: Just like dressing to impress, I advocate you invest in some stationery or note cards that make you stand out from the madding crowd and add to your “pieces of flair.” (This doesn’t mean you should spend a lot of money on a custom design with your company logo, but it is an option.)
For example, whenever I attend a special exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I always buy a box or two of note cards featuring the “artiste du jour.” (I only have a few Van Gogh note cards left – guess it’s time for another museum visit…) If museums aren’t your thing, there are many other suitable choices available at all price levels.
Moo and Vistaprint offer diverse stationery options for busy professionals. Companies such as Crane, Papyrus, and Hallmark are happy to sell you customized stationery as well as boxed sets of note cards. If you’re a bargain shopper, Amazon has something for everyone. And if you’re a basement bargain shopper, you’ll even find something to write on at Target or Walmart.
The point is this: Find or customize a design that matches your business personality. You should never write a thank-you note on a piece of memo pad paper or your kid’s school loose-leaf paper. (Just DON’T do it!)
Don’t Get Cute with Your Ink Color: I’m not about to drag you down the rabbit hole regarding which type of pen to use (ballpoint vs. felt tip vs. gel vs. quill and inkwell). Nope, I’m not that kind of snob. Go ahead and use that freebie writing instrument you picked up at a business expo or networking display table, as long as it flows in one of two colors: black or blue.
If these colors were good enough for Henry Ford and the Rolling Stones, then they’re sufficient for you and your expression of gratitude. And don’t even think about using your mechanical pencil, unless you want your follow-up impression to smear and rub away!
Penmanship Counts, So Draft It before You Write (or Print) It: If you’re left-handed like me, you already know the hampering handicap of writing by hand. (And you have my complete empathy.) Since you won’t be writing more than a paragraph or two to let a new friend know how greatly you esteem them, it’s good to be sure of what you want to say before you commit ink to paper.
So first, write a draft on your lousiest, lowliest piece of paper. (Do you really want crossed-out words appearing in a message meant to confirm someone’s glorious first impression of you? No, you don’t.) And if you haven’t written in cursive since grade school, print your note.
Avoid the Hard Sell – But Another Business Card Is Swell: You shouldn’t “hard sell” in an initial follow-up email, and you shouldn’t do it in a lovely handwritten note – so don’t! Mentioning how great it was to have a meaningful conversation and the fabulously quirky likes/dislikes you have in common is a better plan.
Sending another business card or two (but not ten or twelve of them) is good etiquette, so go ahead and pop that in before sealing the envelope. Resist the temptation to seal your note with an adorable sticker (unless you’re hoping to “go steady” professionally)…
If Your Follow-Up Timing Is Off, Apologize (and Move On): Guilty reveal: I’m in this exact situation, which is why I’m mentioning it. Even if weeks have gone by, and your good intent to craft a chirpy little follow-up note got detoured by life’s messiness, it’s never too late to finish the task.
However, if you suspect you’ll bump into your networking friend soon, all the more reason to get your note into the mail before that next happy hour or speed networking lunch. Don’t make any excuses – merely say “I’m sorry for my delayed thank-you” and get over it. Quickly!
When was the last time you sent out a “snail mail” thank-you note to a new (or valued) business friend or client? What happened as a result, and would you continue to send out such notes in the future? If you have any additional thank-you note advice to add to this blog post, please do.
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business-to-business (B2B) writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (email@example.com) for a no-obligation project quote today!
I agree with every word in this post! Coincidently I just recieved a hand written note from a photographer I met up with recently; left a BIG impression on me!
Thanks for stopping by the Moonlight Blog and reading this post. I bet that lovingly crafted note from your new photographer friend was also visually impressive! I just popped a handwritten thank-you note into the mail today, so I’m feeling pretty good about my business networking etiquette. It’s the little things that make for big impressions…