Creating connection in an overconnected world


In 2009 1,500 Realtors attended a 36-hour conference with an industry leader whose specialty was “Business by Referral.”  This man was a superlative presenter, supported by both state-of-the-art technology and a well-honed team. 

About 3:30 on the second afternoon he was taking final questions and wrapping up – and, perhaps, mentally heading out to the airport and his California home. 

Then a person stood up, and said, “Brian, I’ve used your system for many years and you know how highly I think of it.  But I’m really struggling.  It’s a tough year, and nothing seems to have traction any more.  I need you to tell me: What’s the One Thing?  What’s the absolute basic tool to which you always return and which always works?”

His sincerity and earnestness gathered everyone’s concerned attention – and curiosity.  What would Brian say?  And you could see Brian mentally getting back out of the Uber, pulling himself back into the room, and maybe thinking, “Geez, what else can I do?  I’ve poured it all out here these two days, with workbooks and videos and pep songs and breakout sessions….”

But he squared his shoulders, thought for a moment, took a steadying breath, and said,

“Hand-written notes. There is no other tool that reaches, attracts, and holds people’s attention more than an inked card in a hand-addressed envelope with a stamp that your hands wrote, assembled, and got into a mailbox.”

He’s right.  All the technology we use to connect – or, frankly, deflect – fades away when you hold a hand-written note in your hand.  It’s tangible evidence that another human being thought about YOU, and cared (for whatever reason!) to take the time to produce that artifact FOR you.  They gave their time and their hand muscles; they gathered materials and dedicated a multi-step process to getting that note into YOUR hands for you to enjoy opening and reading, and (if the card is handsome) perhaps admiring and saving it as well.

I can testify that I have seen notes I wrote – trifling, unimportant, casual, sloppy – on people’s refrigerators months later, or in their desks after they die. They carry a personal emotional weight regardless of their content.

Two objections are easily dismissed:

“I don’t know what to write!”  It’s a card, not an essay.  Hey, it was great to see you last Thursday, we should have coffee….  Here’s an article I thought you might enjoy….  Thought of you when I was talking to X…..   Hope you are well these days…..  and, of course, Let me know if I or my business can help you any time…..  Pro tip: Write big and delploy big margins.

And, “My handwriting is terrible!”  It doesn’t matter at all. It’s more charming that way – “Look how hard they had to work, the poor thing!” And it’s not bad to have them make a little effort, too - just make sure the address is clear!  Pro tips: Be sure to dot your “I’s” – they are an important visual cue – and I find it helpful to consciously spell out every letter.  I really do have terrible handwriting, and it slows me down. 

Last but not least: Don’t spend more money than you have to on materials.  You can find perfectly serviceable and attractive cards at Dollar General, or even have personal ones printed on the cheap.  And of course use seasonal stamps (never a postage meter!) 

When you are working on your database and considering approaches (“touches”) to your clients, set a goal of writing three cards a day.  And then you can then call them to say, “Hey, did you get my card?  And how can I be of help to you today….?” 

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