With the upcoming holiday season starting to appear on marketers’ radar screens, a traditional idea from the past might be worth bringing back: sending handwritten thank you messages to loyal customers. But here’s a twist: Instead of waiting until after a sale has been made, those in the know are sending thank you’s as a pre-emptive move now. The idea is to jog previous customers’ memories about your business, and hopefully prompt them to make a return visit. It’s a way to subtly boost your marketing communications efforts and build goodwill at the same time.

“Handwritten notes … cost something, mean something, and have permanence in a way emails and text messages don’t,” said business author John Coleman, quoted in the Harvard Business Review. “They let the people in our lives know we appreciate them enough to do something as archaic as pausing for 15 minutes to put pen to paper, in an attempt to connect and sustain a relationship with them.”

christmas thanks noteThe only perceived drawback in this process may be the time involved, but even that is no longer an obstacle. Simply Written is a business communication service that helps companies enhance their relationships with clients via an innovative technology that can “hand-write” your message in a digital format for fast, easy thank you notes. The end result is a personalized card or message that is indistinguishable from traditional handwriting.

Taking the time to send a handwritten thank you note to a business contact as part of ongoing marketing communications should be thought of as an opportunity as opposed to an obligation; it’s a chance to reconnect with someone you did business with. A thank you message of any kind should go out soon after a transaction has been completed, but even sending one as a “reach-out” a few months later will also serve a purpose. It lets the recipient know they’re remembered, and that’s key.

“Because handwritten notes are so much more personal, not to mention rarer, they’re very much appreciated,” networking expert Susan Dench said on the American Express Open Forum blog. “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be heartfelt. People don’t necessarily remember what you say, but they always remember how you made them feel.”

Tips for Writing Holiday Thank You Cards

When creating your message, there are a few points that should be kept top of mind, so that your holiday thank you note comes off as truly sincere:

Keep Holiday Thank You Messages Short

Two or three lines should do it. Thank your customer or client for a recent transaction or their past business. Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to send the latter, as it reminds them of your business ahead of the holiday season, without an overt sales message.

holiday thank you messagesCreate Personalized Thank You Cards

Besides using the recipient’s name on the address, be sure to include it in the seasonal greeting as well. Resist the temptation to send the same “Dear Friend” note to everyone as a way to save time. It will backfire on you. And when possible, always reference something in particular about the transaction to drive home your message. That “personal touch” will go a long way toward keeping you top of mind.

Don’t Use Holiday Thank You Messages to Push a Hard Sell

Tempting as it might be, business holiday cards are not the place to push your business. Including any kind of sales message will dilute your original intent and disappoint your reader. Simply use a holiday thank you note to express gratitude. The recipient will get that message, and more.

Look for Other Ways to Say Thank You

While high-quality personalized thank you cards can make a great impression on clients and customers, they aren’t the only way to say thank you. Depending on who you’re thanking and why you may find other formats to be better outlets for your holiday messages. You can thank new newsletter subscribers with a friendly email, or send an automatic tweet out to your new Twitter followers. Strategies like this work best when they’re consistent, so make sure you’re sending a cohesive message across all platforms.

Send Honest and Genuine Holiday Thank You Messages

When sending a thank you note, be honest. If you really DO appreciate their business, that message will come through in your words. “The beauty of a well-crafted handwritten note is that it can show deeper investment and appreciation than a simple thank-you can”, Harvard Business Review’s John Coleman noted. “In a world where so much communication is merely utilitarian, these simple acts of investment, remembrance, gratitude, and appreciation can show the people who matter to your life and business that they are important to you.”

Use Thank You Notes to Celebrate Your Shared Success

happy nolidays thank you cardYour business couldn’t succeed without customers or clients, but what about everyone else who’s helped to build your brand? Think outside the box and consider sending holiday thank you notes to other stakeholders and influencers as well. Your vendors and employees, for example might really appreciate a thoughtful thank you during the holiday season.

Include Personal Details in Your Thank You Cards

If you’re sending holiday thank you cards to a large customer base, you probably don’t know each recipient on a personal level. However, if your recipient is a customer or client who you’ve built a relationship with, include something personal to make them feel special. “Hope you have a great time on your family’s annual Christmas cruise!” or “Hope to see you on the ski slopes this winter!” Might sound like simple additions, but personal details like these let clients know they aren’t receiving the same message as everyone else.

Streamline Your System for Better Results

One major department store had been sending handwritten notes to the top 10% of its customers before using Simply Written. Now the company has quadrupled its volume of messages to its best customers, resulting in higher ROI and brand loyalty. “Our handwritten notes and holiday cards sent from our store managers consistently get rave reviews from our customers,” the CEO commented. “Nothing replaces the personal touch of a handwritten note…”

Everyone can now reach out to their client base with a personalized message referencing a particular business encounter, all while conveying a warm, personal feel. As Writer Molly Thompson noted in the Houston Chronicle’s Small Business section, “Business owners may believe their marketing efforts are complete once they get customers in the door, but taking that extra step of acknowledging their importance to you may make the difference in keeping them loyal for the long term.”