Handwritten Note? Send Me an Email.

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475857_wrinkled_crumpled_paperThere are a lot of networking experts out there who advocate the use of handwritten notes. I’m not one of them. Handwritten notes make me think of two things:  clutter and dead trees. If you insist on sending me a note, it had better be on 100% recycled paper with a substantial post-consumer content or you’re going to be starting off on a bad foot before I even read it! It’s going to get one glance and then go straight to the recycle bin.

But an email is forever!

What really irks me is when people waste a paper note to say essentially nothing:

  • "It was a pleasure to meet you last night."
  • "Thanks for your business."
  • "Great to finally meet you in person."

Dreck. Blah. Say something from the heart that you couldn’t say to a hundred other people or don’t say anything at all.

My feelings aside, for most people, all other things being equal, a handwritten note probably makes a slightly more memorable impression than an email. But it also takes more time and costs more money. My contention is that 95% of the impression you make comes from what you say, not the medium you use to communicate it.

In the past couple of weeks, I received three emails from people that led me to do this post. I’ve gotten permission from all of them to post these. All three of these people made a small effort to reach out and make a truly human connection. Every one of them put a small on my face and put me in a great mood for the rest of the day.

I’m doing this not to toot my horn, but to toot their horn. I’m including their full contact information because, well, aren’t these the kind of people you’d like in your network?

Subject: Thanks for being such a great resource


You don’t know me but you have been a great resource to me and I wanted to say thank you.

I subscribed to your Linked Intelligence blog and look forward to reading it – I pass a lot of your posts on to friends who want to know how to better utilize LinkedIn and recommend they subscribe as well.

I have read most of The Virtual Handshake and have picked up quite a few tips that I have already implemented.

So I just wanted you to know that you have been a great help to me in growing my business.


Katie Felten
Business Development Innovator
10240 W. National Ave. #101
Milwaukee, WI 53227
414.921.2409 Direct
641.453.2054 eFax
Katie (AT) Boevo.com

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There is nothing you can say to a writer that they will appreciate more than to say that what you wrote made a difference in their life. That’s why I wrote my book — not to be rich and famous, but to make a difference in the world by making a difference in people’s lives.

Subject: Great Book


I’m really enjoying your book, "The Virtual Handshake". I like the emphasis on integrity and character when online.

Good work!

Jerry (J.W.) Richard

The above came via LinkedIn and shows that a note doesn’t have to be long to be distinctive. The second sentence makes it completely distinctive — something that he couldn’t really have written to anybody else.

Subject: Thank you and A marvelous 2008

Hello Scott,

I’ve been touring and reading some of your sites and just felt compelled to stop in and say ‘thank you.’

You have been a much bigger influence in my internet knowledge than you know, I have learned much from your writings.

So please accept my gratitude and know that I have much respect for your words.

May 2008 be the wind beneath your wings.


Bea Kunz


bea_kunz By the way, if you think photos don’t have an impact on business networking, think again. Bea has one of the absolutely greatest photos I’ve ever seen — her smile is positively infectious, and even though I haven’t met her in person, I think of that smile every time I read something from her and imagine her saying it, and it lifts my spirits.

So what do you think? Wouldn’t an email like that make your day? When was the last time you received one?

More importantly, when was the last time you sent one?

Here’s my challenge to you… every time you get on LinkedIn, before you start browsing profiles and sending invitations, take the time to send just one email like the ones above to someone in your network. Sowing new seeds is great, but there’s not much point in sowing if you’re not cultivating the relationships you already have.

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  1. Hi Scott,

    I agree that content is very important but this holds for whatever medium you choose. A poorly written email is as useless as a poorly written note.

    You are underestimating the direct and indirect impact of the hand written note. The well written note (like the well written email) communicates its message on so many levels.

    There are fewer items (written notes) competing on this channel, unlike email where there are 10’s or 100s of messages

    The look, texture and colour of the paper, colour of the ink, the smell of the note are all making your message more memorable.

    At the risk of sounding like a romantic, I am more likely to keep hand written notes than to print off an email.

  2. I certainly agree that a poorly written email is as useless as a poorly written note. I also recognize that I’m in the minority with my feelings about the handwritten notes.

    See, I consider almost all physical mail a nuisance. The only items of any significance that come via mail are bills and checks, and in both cases, that’s only from companies whose processes aren’t up-to-date enough to be handled electronically. 90% of the snail mail I receive is junk. In fact, unless I’m specifically expecting a check, snail mail at my home office usually sits in a pile for several days before even getting looked at.

  3. Hi Scott, Cindy here, Self-Appointed Handwritten Note Advocate. I have to confess I use such positions as encouragement for those in my audience that hand write notes! For every person that is not putting pen to paper, it makes the time and attention received by opening an envelope with a handwritten note even more powerful. I agree, wholeheartedly, the “great to see you” notes are a waste of time! There are unique ways to brand one’s self through their handwritten notes. I love your professional debate of this topic. Sincerely Yours, Cindy

    • Yes, but sending a thank-you email isn’t going to wear your computer out any faster. It’s reduce, reuse, recycle. Sending an email instead of paper mail I think falls under “reuse”.

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