GET PERSONAL

I got this friendly note when we checked into the hotel last weekend.  It was a nice gesture... almost. 

First, let me say this - I'm a HUGE fan of the handwritten, personal note.  I can't think of many things that have a greater return on your effort, than taking 5 minutes to write a quick note to someone, sticking a stamp on it, and dropping it in the mail.  We ALL love getting personal notes.

Here's the thing... I'm not Cedric.  Cedric wasn't staying with me, and I don't think I actually even know anyone named Cedric.  The envelope that was slid under our door had my name on it... Jason Aten, but when I opened the note, I found a nice note written to Cedric.  

Well, actually it wasn't "written" to Cedric.  It was printed off on a computer in one of those "handwriting" fonts.  It reminded me of a note I received from another photographer, trying to get me to buy into one of those online services where they send out cards on your behalf.  They'll even use a "handwritten" font!

Here's the problem.  Well, clearly there are two problems.  First, if you're going to send someone a note, it's probably a best practice to make sure that the note is addressed to the right person.  It's such a simple thing to make sure that the right note gets in the right envelope, and gets delivered to the right room.  What could have been a nice gesture, instead was a joke in our room. 

Second, I think that using a handwritten font (or those online services), completely misses the point of sending the note.  I think they assume that "almost personal," is good enough.  I disagree.  The appeal of the handwritten note is that it's exceptional.  It's literally the exception.  We get hundreds - if not thousands - of pieces of mail each year.  We get hundreds of emails a week.  Most of it is junk, and very little of it seems highly personal.

When we get a note that has been handwritten, it communicates that we were important enough for someone to stop what they were doing, sit down at their desk, take out a pen and paper, and write down something meaningful.  Using a "handwritten" font communicates the opposite - that I want credit for sending you something, but you're not quite important enough to sit down and take time to write.

I definitely think that personal notes are a huge tool.  I make it a point to send a handwritten note to every couple that books, everytime someone places an order, and whenever someone sends a referral.  It's a great tool to reinforce the connection we have with our clients, and I probably write 4 or 5 handwritten notes every week.  It's a great habit to get in, and if you do it right, it can have a huge impact.