When's the last time you got something good in the mail? When's the last time you got something hand-written in the mail?
I'm old enough to have a time where I wrote letters to friends. Email wasn't really a thing til the late 90's and when I was in college there was still such a thing as long-distance rates and they were expensive. As a result, my friends in other cities and colleges and I wrote letters to each other. When we saw one of those in your mailbox when you got home at the end of the day, we were excited.
That feeling still exists. Except it's much, much rarer today. Making people feel that way is not forgotten in ANY industry. (Which is the reason why I'm running this both on my software and music blogs. Also, that means one fewer article I have to write.)
One thing that's incredibly endearing about Peyton Manning is his habit of writing thank-you letters.
Not even just thank-yous. But welcome-to-the-league notes to players newly drafted to other teams. To people he had a brief encounter with. To groundskeepers mothers. Not coincidentally, he is one of the most popular figures in pro football over the last 25 years.
My Thank You Notes Experience
Perhaps it's a little self-serving to write thank you notes, since it's about building more solid relationships with the people in your world or your industry. And yes, it's a great result if these relationships lead to that person being able to help you.
But mainly it's just good karma. And it's always great to expand the number of people who think you're a good person from 100 to 200. Or in my case, from 10 to 25.
In Music - In my "career" in music, I'm an indie artist. Meaning, you don't just write, record and perform songs, but you're a booker, promoter, contract lawyer, website designer, social media marketer, accountant, long-distance trucker, equipment mover, graphic designer and travel agent. As such, I need connections anywhere I can get them.
I've gone to music conferences for ASCAP, Billboard, etc. and met lots of great artists and industry people. I always send a follow up email afterwards, not too pushy, but to thank them for the time, remind them of what we talked about and include links or music if they are interested and sometimes I've gotten responses after that - but not a lot, which is to be expected in the industry for somebody at my level who is only right for 50-100 seat venues.
Contrast that to the reaction to when I started writing thank you notes. I've gotten phone calls from licensing agents and bookers who shouldn't be dealing with somebody as low as me on the food chain, where they just had to call me to thank me for the thank-you note!
In Business - In my more highly paid life as a software developer I once talked with an electric distribution manager at a power company at a conference in 2007 about services and code that I have for electric utility companies. A nice enough conversation but it didn't seem like they were in the market. But I wrote a handwritten thank-you note afterwards, he emailed me back a week later, followed by no contact and thought that was that.
Smash cut to 2010 and I get a call from him that he wanted us to be supervising consultants and write one section of a power project for his company. It was a windfall out of nowhere which I can only attribute to three things: 1) It IS my industry and area of experience, 2) I did attend that conference, and 3) I wrote that thank-you note. Yes, it's good karma ... if you call "good karma" $45,000 for really doing not much more than rendering my opinion in phone conferences and emails a bit for 9 months.
In Personal Life - I was raised in Southern California, where we have no manners or culture. It's true. Yet somehow I did get the habit of writing thank-you notes to relatives for Christmas presents and I can tell you it's not why I wasn't my grandparents least-favorite grandchild. (I lost track of that double-negative).
My ex-girlfriend is from the South and her mother is REALLY from the south. This is true, I'm not entirely sure she committed to knowing my name until after I wrote a thank-you note for her coming to California that first Christmas. If you look at the cleanliness of my car, the clutter on my desk or the condition of my tangled instrument cables when playing music, you would be shocked that it's the same person that write thank-you notes.
Short Is Sweet, Buying Stationary
Don't be intimidated by writing a thank-you note. It doesn't have to be profound or even heartfelt or deep. Here's the beauty of it: A thank-you note is really about three sentences. That's it.
Go buy yourself some decent card stock thank-you notes ASAP, they aren't expensive. Get the fold over kind that are about 4x5 inches. That's tiny. By the time you've written "Dear X, thank you for XXXX" you're ready to wrap it up. Include one tiny personal unique item from your previous interaction and a Sincerely and you're out of there.
Pro tip when buying thank-you cards: Get ones that do NOT have "Thank-you" pre-printed anywhere on them. Now when you need a birthday card on the spot or have to write a sympathy card, you're in business. I just does not work to write a touching sympathy card to a friend who lost his mother with a giant "Thank you!" stamped on top.
Try It & Tell Us How It Went
We write about all kinds of things here on this site. But this just might be the most valuable or insightful post we ever write. Try the experiment and write 5 thank you notes for the next 5 people or interactions who might even be halfway worthy for the thank you. I'd be shocked if you aren't shocked how well it goes. And if we're right, please share your results with us so we can continue to spread the gospel and make the mailbox great again.