Samantha McLean: Bring back the handwritten note

How long since you wrote someone a note, with a pen and paper? Here are five reasons to get the ink flowing and make a real impression on your prospects and customers.

A few years ago now, I read an article on Harvard Business Review Blogs discussing the near extinction of the handwritten note.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was in sales and I was writing them all the time, but somehow not so much anymore.

When I interviewed Bob Wolff in 2012 and asked him what the secrets of his Billion Dollar career were, he just smiled and said, “I do my work consistently and I try to take care of people by, for example, returning phone calls and writing thank you notes”.

No secret there it seems.

Even in the “how to” manual “Success as a Real Estate Agent for Dummies” by Dirk Zeller, he says “Promptly after the open house, send hand-written thank you notes to every single person who provided you with contact information. In today’s word of email and computer-generated correspondence, the power of a hand-written note is multiplied many times over”.

Possibly a tad of overkill there by Dirk, but I challenge you to think about the last time you received a handwritten note, and how it made you feel.

And no I’m not talking about the cranky post it on the windscreen of your car telling you to “f— off and park somewhere else”.

I’m talking about the kind that says “I really appreciated your help”, or “If you ever need anything in the future, please let me know”.

Think about that burst of pleasure at seeing handwriting on an envelope with a real stamp. It feels as though someone has reached out and greeted you in a way that an SMS simply cannot.

And then think about how long they “hang around” for.

The last couple I received are still on my fridge. And they were written some time ago.

We tend to keep them around because they create an feeling that is unforgettable and a very positive reaction to the writer is created.

Handwritten notes spark curiosity and thought, and I think, send a truly important message about you and how you like to conduct business.

And – so I’m told – people who express gratitude also benefit by experiencing better health and sleep, less anxiety, and more life satisfaction.

So they benefit the giver and receiver alike. After all, who doesn’t feel good making someone else feel good?

What to write?

It doesn’t always have to be a thank you note, although that is the most common thing people write on paper. Here are some other ideas:

1. Conversation follow up

You can remind someone personally that they’re not forgotten, raise new ideas or thoughts, or even include a small gift that carries some personal meaning to the receiver.

2. Say congratulations

Whether it’s a new baby, a general acknowledgement of achievements, a promotion, or yes, even buying or selling a home.

3. Expressions of sympathy

These can be the toughest thing to write, but sincere notes can offer great comfort to the receiver.

4. Wish someone well

We all have changes in our lives that can become turning points. Changing jobs, moving house and other life events are great opportunities to let someone know that you are thinking of them.

5. Notes in the workplace

Send a positive note to your team or to other people in the office.

It will give them a boost and often create a vibe that will make people more willing to go the extra mile for you.

“In a world too often cold and unresponsive, spirit-lifting notes are springs of warmth and reassurance. We all need a boost from time to time, and a few lines of praise have been known to turn around a day, even a life.” – Fred Bauer

Sometimes with new customers the hardest part is courting them and getting your message heard. So don’t deliver yours in an impersonal, unforgettable way.

Can you spare 15 – 30 minutes each day to dedicate yourself to writing at least one thank you note to a prospective client or customer?

If you can deliver at least one per day you will have delivered more than 200 personalised pieces of goodwill in a year.

Now imagine if everyone in your office did that? And think about the positive perception it would create for the whole team, or the the brand as a whole.

But before you reach for your keyboard to email your PA to give them something to do, please bear in mind that you can’t outsource this task.

You have to pick up the pen and choose your own words with no undo or autocorrect.

It has to be personal, it has to be authentic, and it has to be heartfelt. Send something that will brighten someones day – even if it is just for a moment.

If you must outsource something, make it the trip to the post office.

Show More

Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.


  1. Well written and so true! Who knows what the person might do with the note, they may keep it on their fridge like you say and use it for a later date. It also provides a constant reminder of you and what you do. Plus the personal touch can never be replaced by technology.

    SO glad I just ordered 1,000 “With Compliments” slips!