tinToday I ran across a post I sent to the LMA, or Legal Marketing Association, listserve on December 5, 2008 in response to a post my friend and colleague Ross Fishman posted.

Ross was talking about how special it made him feel, in the midst of what was then an overflowing inbox, when a Partner at his former firm sent him a hand-written note saying “Congratulations Ross!”

He still had that note a decade later because it meant so much to him that the Partner took the time to hand-write the note.

I replied to Ross and the listserve that I had to smile when I read his post because it reminded me of a dear former colleague in the Customer Service department at Time Warner where I worked for just short of 10 years in the 80s and 90s.

My response to Ross continued:

“At Time Warner, we were given anniversaries and birthdays in the monthly newsletter, so I tried (I wasn’t always successful, but I tried) to write an anniversary note to employees on their anniversary.  I can’t tell you how touched (humbled really) I was when years later, John, my dear Time Warner friend, told me he still had my note!   I think that meant more to me than to him, but I’m not sure.”

I found it interesting that in December of 2008, I shared:

“I believe we were entering an age when it is rare to communicate by the written hand, or even by mail.   This can be a time when a person, company or firm has the opportunity to stand out from the crowd, to really differentiate itself by adding a written and/or mailed component to its marketing strategy.

I’m not discounting new media, and think it can also be incredibly powerful if given careful thought, but the marketing mix is just that, a mix, not a single shot marketing tactic we hope will accomplish everything we’d like. When the crowd all seems to be going one way, think about where they aren’t going, and see if it might make sense to go there all by yourself.

Bottom Line: You might call it “old media,” but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in your marketing mix.”

Whether 2008 or 2011, my feelings have not changed.  We are living in an incredible time when we have so many options and tools with which to communicate.  Even so, don’t forget the special touches, those methods you can use to reach out and really touch someone, and try to do it in a way that your recipient might just find pretty rare these days.

Sincere appreciation goes to Jane in Devon, UK for the beautiful image used above.

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  • I totally agree Nancy. I still hand write all of my Christmas cards, and thank you notes. No e-cards here! And I remember towards the beginning of the Iraq war, before my friends had the ability to really access their emails, I was writing handwritten letters to them every day. I still have their letters back to me.

  • Nancy, I couldn’t agree more! I just reread four letters from my mother I found stuck in my Christmas file. (I have hundreds stored in a hat box.) Just seeing her hand–as they used to say when ones penmanship was known as well as ones avatar–gentled my spirit. And the notes she wrote are a history of what was happening in the life of our entire family at the time. So…not just notes for an occasion, but letters of life–they’re so important. Thank you for this reminder!

  • It’s a matter of high-touch and low-touch. My family members and closest friends don’t get a Facebook post on their wall with birthday wishes. I don’t just take 20 seconds to send an email. I pick up a phone or make sure to send a real card that has cost me actual money; anything less than that is a shortcut borne of a lack of thought. And if you’re not thinking about someone’s birthday in advance then it’s likely that you just didn’t care enough.

    Does it scale? Of course not. But that’s one of the underpinnings of Dunbar’s Number – and why it’s so widely accepted.

  • They become something special, don’t they Linds? Letters like you mention become treasures in this virtual world. Last year, a new client told me she had been keeping my handwritten note to her close by with the intention of giving me a call to work on a project for her, which was one of a few ways I had stayed in contact with her, so that was reinforcement to me that people do still appreciate that personal touch.

  • Mimi, I keep letters like that too. Something that comes from one’s hand is very special, and at a level much different than anything else we can send. Thanks, as always, for sharing your story.

  • Absolutely Jay…high-touch and low-touch are perfect ways to categorize what we’re talking about here. I agree about showing a lack of thought, or rather showing a great deal of thought, when taking the time to send something high-touch like a handwritten note or card. Thanks for stopping by as it’s always nice to see you.