A thank you note goes a long way toward building lasting relationships with customers. (Photo: Miami Writing)

A thank you note goes a long way toward building lasting relationships with customers. (Photo: Miami Writing)

The time-honored thank you note appears to be making a comeback, if a recent article in The New York Times is to be believed. Maybe we can thank Jimmy Fallon for that, or maybe it’s a reaction against the digital media, like email and text messaging.

Whatever the roots of its rising popularity, old-fashioned letter writing (on paper, using pen, delivered by post) can add serious value as a marketing activity.

Consider this. We all check our mail every day, and on some level, despite the arrival of fresh monthly bills, there’s a bit of excitement that comes along with doing that. Why? Because we want to know who sent us a letter! Maybe a friend decided to drop you a note, or maybe you’re expecting a package, or your pen pal made the effort to write you this week. Whatever the case, we’re always looking for something in the mail that isn’t junk. Junk does nothing for us. Most of it is never opened.

But what if you checked the mail, and buried amid the stack of credit card offers and philanthropic solicitation is a plain envelope addressed to you in a handwritten scrawl with a little stamp stuck by human hands in the upper right corner. I don’t care if you’re the mayor of St. Louis or the president of Boeing, you’re going to open that letter and read what’s inside. That’s the beauty of hand-written direct mail.

For a car wash owner, this kind of access to customers is so valuable. That’s because car washes are all so similar. Often, the hardest thing for a car wash business is setting itself apart from the crowd. One way to do that is to occasionally take the time to thank your customers for doing something that helps you. A hand-written thank you note carries with it all the sincerity of a heartfelt hug.

From a marketing standpoint, it also instantly triggers several important thoughts in the mind of your customer: 1) it makes them think back to their visit to your car wash, which one hopes was a pleasant experience, 2) it reveals your company to be more than bricks and water hoses, but made up of actual people, which leads to 3) a feeling of being appreciated by another human being. The direct result of these feelings is an increased sense of loyalty. Given the choice between two car washes, most consumers would rather visit the one that has personally thanked them for coming.

Here are some tips for making your thank you notes the best they can be:

  1. Avoid using email and text messages. These are lower forms of communication that don’t convey the same level of sincerity that comes with a letter in the mail. Digital communications have a way of feeling automated and sterile.
  2. Make sure you have the address of your customers. Develop a system for taking down their information by asking them to sign up for promotions or taking a customer survey.
  3. Write your thank you notes by hand. This can be a little tedious, we know. But it’s way more effective in the long run than a typed form — even one that’s personally addressed. Ultimately, it’s worth sending fewer thank you notes if the few you send are more effective.
  4. Say a little something more than just thank you. Let them know they’re welcome back any time, or include a coupon book in the envelope.