Handwritten notes may seem like a historic memory, but more businesses are turning to them to improve communications with potential and existing customers, business partners, and even employees. While emails are the easiest and inexpensive to send, advances in email filtering programs that send messages directly to promotional folders where recipients are never likely to see them, not to mention digital burnout, render these messages less effective. Text messages and phone calls are effective for appointment reminders, surveys, and communication that needs to be executed with immediate recipient interaction; however, recipients may still ignore them, thinking they are spam.

Inflation, supply chain shortages, labor problems: All the challenges businesses are facing today are making every customer even more valuable. But a new study has found that most businesses are failing at communicating with their customers. The survey, conducted by Full Spectrum Insights on behalf of Handwrytten, found that emails and text messages are, unsurprisingly, the most common way for businesses to communicate with customers but that 45% of customers would feel more valued and be more likely to make repeat purchases if they received a handwritten note. Thirty percent of customers said handwritten notes are the most meaningful way a company could communicate with them and the least annoying, compared with the annoyance of receiving a phone call, email, or text.

Nothing says “pay attention” like a personalized handwritten note. No one flips past or does not see a handwritten envelope in their mailbox. These stand out from everything else that was delivered. Recipients wonder what could be inside, and while envelopes that look like bills or advertisements and graphic postcards are set to the side, handwritten envelopes are usually opened immediately. The attention-grabbing nature of a handwritten envelope provides an instant advantage that even the biggest and most prevalent marketers cannot overcome. 

Spending hours writing notes by hand can be prohibitive, especially for businesses that have been struggling to hire, so many have started hiring robots to pick up a pen and do the writing instead. Handwritten envelopes have been found to have a 300% greater open rate than standard envelopes. And handwritten marketing has response rates seven to 21 times greater than printed mail, with a return on investment three to seven times greater than print. Some companies have even found that retention rates are 50% higher for customers who receive a handwritten thank you note.

As COVID restrictions are lifted, more people return to workplaces, and consumers are leaving home and engaging in the world again, there has never been a more important time for businesses to evaluate their marketing and find ways to capitalize during pandemic recovery. Throughout the pandemic, hardware, software, internet connectivity, and a digital presence were essential for communication and sales. However, all this time spent on devices led to burnout. A study by Deloitte found that “a third of US consumers (32%) say that, since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have felt overwhelmed by the number of devices and subscriptions they need to manage. This figure — and the feelings of overwhelm — is higher among parents who have minor children at home (43%) and adults who were working from home at the time of data collection (40%).”

Handwritten notes can be used in myriad of business operations. Doctors and medical offices use them for patient referrals, appointment reminders, and to thank patients for coming to their visit. Fashion, beauty, pet supply, and other consumer goods companies include handwritten notes in orders thanking customers and often incentivizing them to purchase again with a coupon code. Businesses such as cable companies, landscapers, pest companies, HVAC repair, home improvement, and other service providers will often send handwritten notes to customers in locations where they are looking to increase sales. Handwritten notes are even being used by realtors, sales teams, and business professionals as a networking tool.

The power of the pen cannot be denied when one looks at how many different types of businesses can benefit from sending a handwritten note versus an email or printed flyer. The value of sending a handwritten note is enhanced by integrations with CRM systems that automate the process of when to send a note to a customer and what message to include. For example, a vehicle dealership can automate notes to send to customers on the anniversary of their purchase, when they need to make an appointment for maintenance, or on other special occasions like their birthdays.

Handwritten notes are not only beneficial for businesses; they can — and are — increasing the mail stream, which is good for mailers and the postal industry alike. As more businesses discover the benefits of sending a handwritten note, especially as email and text message become less effective, the number of pieces sent out each year are expected to increase. Having an efficient and high-tech marketing communication program no longer means sending out an email or text message. Instead, robots penning notes so that businesses can send an old-fashioned handwritten note in the mail is now the future of communication.

David Wachs is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Handwrytten, a company that is bringing back the lost art of letter writing through scalable, robot-based solutions that write your notes in pen.

This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2022 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.