In a competitive market, every little edge you can give yourself is important. One of the least used techniques is the thank-you letter, and yet it is one of the most powerful.

Think about it for a moment. Your business receives a lovely letter from a customer thanking you and your team for wonderful service. How do you feel? What do you do with the letter?

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Chances are, if you are like most managers, the letter makes you feel great, you get energised and feel happy. You may go and share the letter with your admin staff members or read it out to your team. Sometimes you put the letters into a folder to show prospective customers, pin them up on the staff noticeboard or even use them as a testimonial... all from a simple letter that someone took the time to write.

Now consider, how many people have seen the name of the person writing the letter? How many employees now feel positively towards the letter writer? What is the chance that the person who wrote the letter will get much warmer service from your team the next time they visit? When they do, will the letter writer feel even better about your business?

Now imagine you were the letter writer. Writing a thank you letter has three great benefits - it makes you, as a writer, feel fantastic. It makes the person receiving it feel great and it has positive flow-on effects for your business and your team in your business.

Psychologists have studied this virtuous circle, and have found that the positives keep increasing provided nothing enters into the loop to stop it.

Are you convinced that saying thank you is a good thing for your business? If you want to start a Thank You campaign, where do you start?

Thank you letters can be sent to suppliers who give great service, loyal customers, team members who go above and beyond the call of duty, candidates who applied for vacancies with your team - there is always someone who has done something nice for your business, or touched your business in a positive way.

So what are the three main rules for how to write a thank you letter?

Keep it:

Fresh - Write it within 48 hours of the event

Specific - Include details of why specifically what the person did that was brilliant. We have all had the "You've done well" sort of notes and they are not as motivating as notes that say "I truly appreciate that you took the time to learn more about our company and to spend time with us in an interview. I know interviews can be nerve racking, yet you presented confidently and warmly. I particularly liked your response to xyz question - it was well thought out."

Sincere - If you don't mean it - don't say it. Be honest and sincere in your thanks.

A few other tips:

  • Always proof your letter before you send it. Typos or spelling errors can detract from your message.

  • There is also some debate about handwritten vs typed letters. If you are writing to a specific person, then handwritten is a nice touch. Typed letters are better for businesses (or if your handwriting resembled hieroglyphics).

  • Remember to match the medium to the message. By that, I mean a tasteful card is perfect for individuals, but for businesses, then corporate printed post-cards or letterhead works well.

  • Email your thanks as a last resort. For some reason, email thanks don't seem to generate the same emotional response within people, so the more traditional ink and paper versions will give you the best results.

Yes, I know in our busy lives that writing thank you cards may seem hard to do. The trick is to keep a stack of cards close to hand, and make 15 minutes in your diary once a week to write some thank you cards. Do this, and you will be amazed at the difference those 15 minutes will make to your business.

Business Letters - How to Write a Thank You Letter

Ingrid Cliff is a Brisbane copywriter and the Chief Word Wizard of Heart Harmony - her writing services studio that helps put your business into words. Visit her website for a free copy of " Copywriting Secrets: Seven Secrets of Compelling Copy and Powerful Words".

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