A post on Thom Singer’s Some Assembly Required blog last Friday challenged in detail the assertion by Jessica Liebman in a post on Business Insider Blog that email “Thank You” notes after an interview are better than handwritten ones. Her reasoning is that the latter:

  • Take too long to get there (and letters could get lost in the mail);
  • A handwritten note “feels old,” even “ancient” to her; and
  • E-mails have many advantages, including:
    • Sent the same day shows how eager you are for the job,
    • “you know it will at least find its way into the interviewer’s inbox” (I wonder if she has heard about spam filters),
    • If the interviewer ever searches for your email, it’ll “just pop up and remind them” about your thanking them (of course, assuming that the interviewer is into searching for thank you emails),
    • “You can easily tailor (thank you note) to the vibe of the interview” (and in a handwritten note you can’t?); and
    • Interviewer might “write back to you” (okay hitting the Reply button is a possibility).

Singer challenges Liebman point by point, and quite frankly makes a much stronger case for the handwritten version. If it is a matter of choosing one over the other, I completely side with Singer. Far too few people take the time and trouble to write a handwritten note, and even hand-address the envelope. That in itself can set you apart, and why it is more memorable and personal than an email ever will be.

However, I see no reason one can’t do both, which I have on numerous occasions. I have send a quick e-mail thanking the person for: lunch, interview, their suggestions or comments, the tour of their outhouse….whatever. Then, I would send a handwritten note to take the thank you a bit further. That note can even refer to the e-mail and say “Again, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for ………..” whatever. I look at it as an opportunity for a double whammy, and the chance to be remembered even more. That’s a good thing.

So, the solution to my question in the title:  send both.

Today a ran across one of the shortest posts I’ve seen by a blogger of some stature, and the post said soooooo much in so little space. The gist of it is one word "Thanks" in cursive. A mere 34 words rounded out the post.

I’ve been a fan of Gerry Riskin and his Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices blog for a long time. His latest post addresses the issue of appreciation, and that law firms should not assume that clients know that they appreciate their business. Firms need to extend "Thank You’s" to make sure they know. That is also true for referral sources or other individuals who help you in your business.

Sending a handwritten Thank You note has long been part of my advice to my clients, and I’ve posted on the practice many times over the years, most recently here.

It is true, as Gerry points out, that it is one way to “separate yourself from the masses” since too few people take the time to send such notes.

By this I don’t mean to put down technology and social media as ways to develop business, because we know they can and are effective at some level. But, it is still important to not forget those old fashion means of developing business that include face to face meetings, and my point of the day – handwritten “Thank You” notes.

Remember those times your mother drove you nuts with “have you thanked Aunt Betsy for that knitted sweater yet?” Maybe that is the cause for many people to have an aversion to thanking people for…..whatever. Or, they may thank them, but in the quickest and least painful manner possible. Unfortunately, they are passing up one of the most effective means of producing a real, favorable impact on their business.

I ran across an article on ProfitAdvisors.com on “How to Build Your Business with Thank You Notes” by accountant Michael Gray dated January 1999 (I luv that old stuff). His main points in my view:

“Customers want to feel important and appreciated. A key to build customer loyalty is to build a relationship with customers/clients/patients where they feel important and appreciated!

“In any business, but especially a business where there is contact with a customer and a representative of the company either in person or on the telephone, the best way I know to cement that relationship is through personal notes – thank you notes!”

He goes on to add that the envelope should be hand-addressed, and you should use a real postage stamp (vs. firm’s postage meter); and finally, if your handwriting is just horrible, at least sign the typed note in blue ink. All good points.

Gray learned all that at his mother’s knee, I’ll bet. So, pay attention to that maternal lesson when you thank clients for their business, or a referral source for sending same, or for the myriad of kindnesses extended by others.

Remember, do it the old fashion way, just like your mother taught you.

It’s not too late. There are still a few weeks of the holiday season to go, before the doldrums of January set in. Go visit your key clients (okay at least those that are local) and referral sources to thank them for their business/referrals, and take them to lunch or dinner.

Also, take along an appropriate gift. Or send one at least.  Sorry, don’t have a bunch of new ideas this year, but you can look over my “holiday gifts” posts of prior years. I still like most of them.

Also, send a holiday card. Yes, a holiday card. Quickly. But make sure you sign it personally, and include a short note, such as “hope you have a terrific holiday season” or whatever. Write something to show you care enough not to just send the firm’s unsigned, impersonal card. Here’s another post of mine on this topic.

You may be surprised what comes of all this in 2010, if not sooner. 

Since this is officially “Thankful” week in the United States, let’s not forget all those great clients and contacts who help sustain our law firms and businesses.

I got to thinking about how people forget to thank others based on a personal experience last week. It happened early one day when I was contacted by a freelance writer for a big city daily who wanted permission to use some of my stuff for a story, and apparently was on a tight deadline. I responded by email within ten minutes. Then, silence.

At the end of the day, I got to thinking – having had occasional email problems myself – maybe she didn’t get my email. So, I asked. Her response:

“Yes — thank you for the info! I will include it. Thanks for letting me use the quote — I think the article turned out great.”

I then asked for a copy of the article, and received a link to it the next day.

My point, obviously, is that I shouldn’t have had to ask for a thank you or the article. Thanking people for what they do for you needs to be automatic and immediate, whenever possible ( unless of course you’re on deadline). Then again, it only takes slightly more than a nanosecond to reply to an email with “Thanks.”

Have I ever forgotten to thank someone? Nah, you know better than ask such a silly question.

Of course, we all have. However, I do try to instinctively thank anyone who has been helpful to me ASAP. You should too. Otherwise, people might just stop being helpful in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!!


P.S. If interested in a couple of other posts about thanking referral sources and developing a “Thank You” system…

Continue Reading Be Especially Thankful to Those Who Help Your Business

It’s not too late for holiday cards, but if you do send ‘em this year (and I think you should) remember to do it with feeling. That is, Sign The Damn Holiday Card, and include a brief, personal, handwritten note. Oh yeah, hand address the envelope also.

I know I just lost a bunch of folks on that last one. But, think about it at least. What better way to show that you will go the extra mile, that you really care about your clients and those referral sources. I don’t buy the argument that it’s a waste of time to hand address the envelope because secretaries only throw them away. Not when the envelope is hand written in my experience.

Throughout the year, lawyers try to come up with ways to get closer to their clients, “bullet proofing” (Edge International) them as it were, and turning them into “raving fans” (Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles). So, why not utilize one simple technique that so demonstratively shows that you took extra time during a hectic time of year (with holiday and year-end pressures) because you really do care about them.


Oops. That note to a referral source might be a bit tardy, but a late “Thank You” is better than no thank you according to Thom Singer on Some Assembly Required, and I agree completely.

Further, I’m a big fan of handwritten notes, since they are used so infrequently these days. Especially with email and cell phones, it’s much easier and quicker to thank someone by such means, if one takes the time to show appreciation at all. But, that is why the handwritten communication means so much more.


But when is it too late to thank someone for a kindness, a referral, a meeting, a lunch or a whatever? NEVER. That’s Thom’s and my message. Of course one should express their gratitude as soon as possible, but heck we’re only human and we forget things. Just ask my wife.


So, if you are woefully late, just own up to your tardiness, apologize profusely, and thank the person for what they did for you. As Thom says:


"Your best way to get future favors is to say "thank you".  Even late, a Thank You Note is amazingly powerful."


And more so if it is handwritten.