Harness the power of a personal, handwritten note
This morning I was on LinkedIn and saw this post by Britt Chester of StayGoldMail.com. In it, he talked about his hobby of sending postcards to people all over the world, including one chess partner with whom he's playing a match by mail.
Whenever I write about this topic, it gets a lot of clicks and a lot of views and plenty of comments from people who are fans of the idea of writing notes. However, I wonder how many people actually follow through.
I always have great intentions for writing notes, but I must confess that they often fall by the wayside. While I am a big believer in the power of the handwritten note, I know that it can be difficult to make yourself actually follow through.
My belief in handwritten notes as an important form of communication comes from my Southern mother who insisted that I handwrite notes for every birthday gift and Christmas gift that I received from my large extended family. When, as a busy college student, I realized that I was the only one in the family being required to do this task, I stopped.
However, I never stopped recognizing the importance of handwritten correspondence to make people feel important and acknowledged.
Ironically, it was in college that I found out just how impactful a handwritten note could be. My 6th grade Sunday School teacher, Mary McBride (God rest her soul) was an inveterate note writer. Throughout my life, until she was no longer able to do so, she sent cards for my birthday and notes to acknowledge choir solos and graduations, along with just-because-no-occasion notes.
It seemed that whenever I needed a pick-me-up during my first year or two in college, I would receive a note from Mrs. McBride. There were many times that pulling one of her letters out of my dorm mailbox made a tough day much, much better.
For real estate agents, of course, handwritten notes can be an incredible way to reach out to your SOI. They're more likely to be read than an email or direct mail promotion and far less likely to be thrown away unread.
Now, I'm not talking here about handwriting a sales pitch, copying the same text over and over, and slipping your business card inside. That's something that many new agents do when announcing their entry into the real estate business. (I did it as well.)
I'm not talking about business communication disguised as a handwritten note. That can be effective as well. I remember one trainer talking about how they bought overstock invitation stationery and created marketing materials with it. The big red envelopes they used were attention-getting and they got a large number of leads from their effort.
However, what I'm talking about is an actual personal note to people in your sphere. Something that lets them know that you're thinking about them as an individual, not just as a potential client or referral source. While you may have an occasion to talk business, the overall vibe should be personal.
Whom to write to
You can send notes to people other than leads. Remember, SOI stands for sphere of influence, and that includes a lot of people other than clients and referrers. You may want to regularly write to the following:
A mentor or mentee
The cooperating agent on the other side of each transaction (You can do this twice: When you go under contract to say you look forward to working with them and once after closing to thank them for the pleasure of working with them.)
The lender and title officer on each transaction
Vendors and affiliates including contractors, tradespeople, interior designers, moving company owners or managers, or any other professionals with whom you work
Industry figures whom you see when they speak at conferences or training events
People you know who are Connectors as Malcolm Gladwell defines them: "The people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions." These often include pastors, civic leaders, and prominent people in the community like those affiliated with the local Chamber of Commerce or your local Realtor Association.
What to write for
There are many occasions for which you can send this type of personal note. They include:
Job changes or promotions
Graduations (theirs or a child's)
Child's acceptance to university
Child's accomplishment or achievement
Awards and achievements
Organization-related accomplishments (church, social clubs, community organizations, volunteer organizations)
Of course, this all requires you to keep up with people and you may not be able to reasonably keep up with hundreds of people at this level. However, you can surely identify some of the top referral sources or potential clients in your CRM and make sure that their profile is thoroughly filled out. You can connect with them on social media and watch their posts to find opportunities to reach out and touch base.
What to write with
If you want to make this work, you'll need to make sure you're prepared. That means having an organized drawer or bin with the following items. (Please note, I do not receive any type of compensation from these links. I'm just sharing the items and vendors that I prefer personally.)
Nice black ink pens that you enjoy using (Here's my favorite.)
Personal stationery including both folded cards and letter stock (Here's where I order from.)
A variety of greeting cards, if you like, including those for birthdays, anniversaries, sympathy, get well, and thinking of you (Note, you don't have to use these. You can use nice stationery for absolutely any occasion and it's perfectly appropriate.)
Return address labels or stampers
Plenty of stamps
Block out time in your calendar daily or weekly to work on your correspondence. Update your CRM, look for opportunities to reach out, write and mail your notes, and replenish any supplies when needed. If you wait until you get around to it, you'll never do this, so make it a priority and schedule it just as you would with any important marketing or outreach strategy.
What to write
You can check those Inman links above for plenty of ideas and templates to use as you write your notes, and I'll include a few here. But let me start out by saying, you don't need to write a lot. With a small folded notecard or stationery sheet, you'll only have room for a few lines anyway.
I have always subscribed to the following simple structure:
Why you're writing
What it means to you
A word about the future, such as “I can’t wait to … ” or “I look forward to … ”
A closing and signature
Here's how that looks in a template:
Sentence one about why you're writing. Sentence two about what it means to you. Sentence three about the future, including when you might see them again.
Very truly yours (or another closing),
[YOUR NAME AND SIGNATURE]
And here's how it looks in a real use case:
I saw that you were promoted to Vice President of your company and wanted to reach out to congratulate you. I admire the work you do and am always excited to see the great things you're accomplishing in every role you undertake. I'd love to take you for coffee sometime soon and hear about your new job!
Best to you,
If you want something a bit more formal, perhaps for someone you don't know as well personally, you'd want this to look more like business correspondence.
Dear Ms. Parton:
Congratulations on the closing of your listing at 123 Main Street. It was a pleasure working with you as the buyer agent on this transaction. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you again soon; I'm bringing my buyers to one of your listings this weekend!
Very truly yours,
Adapt the formality of your tone to how well you know the person you're writing. For example, if you got to know the cooperating agent well during the course of the transaction, you might take a more informal tone, as follows:
Congratulations on the closing of your listing at 123 Main Street! It was so much fun getting to know you on this transaction and working with you to pull it through to the finish line. I'm bringing some buyers to your open house on Sunday and can't wait to see you there!
If you're writing to congratulate a family member of someone in your SOI, you might need to introduce yourself to some degree, as in the following example:
Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Georgia! As your parents' friend and real estate agent (and a UGA alum), it is so exciting to know that you'll be in Athens when football season starts. I hope we can get your Mom and Dad up there for plenty of games this fall.
In a case like this, I think it would be okay to add a P.S., perhaps along the lines of "Let me know if you need any help finding an apartment in the years ahead. I know plenty of great agents in Athens."
In addition, you could write a separate note to the parents congratulating them and letting them know that if they want to consider purchasing a condo in the college town their child is moving to, you can help them with the logistics of the purchase and refer them to a great property manager.
As you can see, some of these notes will feel completely personal and others will be the springboard for professional conversations. Don't be afraid to make those suggestions in a P.S., or use the note to suggest a coffee date or lunch, at which time you could discuss real estate if appropriate.
I hope you'll consider making handwritten notes a regular part of your marketing planning. It's a quick, inexpensive, and easy way to make a big impression. You never know when a kind word from you will become a game-changer for a friend, neighbor, or colleague.