The value of sending snail mail is something that was ingrained in me from a very young age. After birthdays or Christmas, my parents would expect me to send thank-you cards to friends and relatives who gave me presents. When I started working, I stuck with it: I sent cards after job interviews and to colleagues who had especially impacted my career, and I realized it was a quick way to stand out in a world where most people don’t send snail mail.
So, when I launched my business a decade ago—a resume review side hustle on Fiverr—it felt very natural to integrate greeting cards into my client experience. Even though people were only paying me $5 for a resume review, I could afford to march down to TJ Maxx and buy a dozen cards for a few bucks to send a thank you card, along with a congratulations note when they landed a job.
My business has changed a lot since then, but my reliance on snail mail has not. Through my career coaching business, I’ve been able to help more than 1,000 clients with their careers and share advice with over 250,000 followers on social media. (Plus, I now charge a lot more than I did in my Fiverr days.) But I still carve out the time to send hundreds of holiday, birthday, and congratulations cards each year. It may sound like a slow way to market a business in our digital-focused world, but it’s been instrumental to my success.
Read on to learn how snail mail plays into my marketing strategy, the tactical details of how I implement it, and how any business owner can adapt this for their own client experience.
Most of my work comes from referrals or return clients, and I attribute that in no small part to the cards I send out.
For one, it makes my clients feel special and seen, which is especially important in a relationship-based field like coaching. Often, clients will snap a photo of the card and share it on social media, commenting that they love working with a coach who recognizes them as more than a number. That’s a feeling that really sticks and makes them want to work with me again next time they need support. (Not to mention, their post serves as free word-of-mouth-marketing to all of their followers.) I also think this offline approach amplifies the impact of my online content—when clients see my social media posts, they’re more excited to engage with them because of the personal relationship we have built.
The cards also emphasize the impact of our work together. Too many people are bad at celebrating wins, but when they receive a card congratulating them on the new job or promotion they landed, they have an excuse to pause for a moment and be really proud of themselves. Clients have told me that they’ll keep my cards to look at in difficult moments and remind themselves of the things they’ve been able to achieve in the past. In addition, continuing to stay in touch on holidays or birthdays helps me regularly remind them I’m here for them in a non-salesy way.
Physical mail also makes it easy for my clients to refer me to family, friends, and colleagues. I eventually upgraded my snail mail to include a custom cork coaster that says “you are fabulous” and has my website printed at the bottom. I’ve had many clients hand these off to contacts who are looking for career support, or even ask for extra coasters so they can have them on hand anytime they meet someone looking for a coach. They’re more expensive than business cards, but people actually keep and display them for years and see them as a daily reminder of the experience they had working with me.
I think of this approach as planting seeds. Do I always see immediate ROI from the mail I send out? No. But I’ve also had potential clients reach out saying they saw my coaster on their friends’ desk—one I had sent months or even years before. By creating something that people like to keep around, I’m top of mind when they’re looking for what I have to offer.
So how do I send all this mail without it taking up all of my time?
For starters, I always keep the materials I need on hand. I’ve since upgraded from packs of discount cards to custom branded cards that I worked with my designer, Christa Fleming, to create, which makes the experience more polished and keeps my brand front and center. I have a custom birthday card, as well as a more generic card I can use for congratulations or other purposes. For my holiday cards, I design something new each year using a photo of me and my partner.
I also keep a simple Excel spreadsheet with addresses for current clients and past clients from the last few years, as well as industry colleagues, people who send me referrals, and anyone else who had an impact on my business or life. I’ll also add their birthdays to my calendar. Once a year, I like to go through my calendar and add to my spreadsheet anyone I had a good conversation with, so I can re-spark the relationship.
Then, each Friday, I’ll spend about 30 minutes sending cards. I’ll send birthday cards for everyone on my calendar for the subsequent week, plus congratulations cards for anyone who reached out to me sharing a win or who I noticed an exciting update from on social media. I’ll spend a few minutes writing a short personalized note—mentioning their recent accomplishment or something I appreciate about them—and then send it off!
Holiday cards are a bigger lift since I’m sending hundreds of cards at once, so I save myself time by not writing personalized notes in every card. Sometimes I’ll hire someone to help me label and stuff envelopes, while other years I’ll set up an assembly line with my partner and Nana Hallie and we’ll spend a few hours prepping the cards together.
I’ve thought about not sending cards anymore, especially as my physical mailing list grows, but every time I do it and see the results, it feels so worth the effort.
Do I think every small business owner should start sending cards? Not necessarily. If snail mail doesn’t fit your brand or you think you’d dread this task each week, then don’t do it!
But what I do hope small business owners take away from my experience is the value of creating personalized experiences in marketing. I’m a big Disney fan, and I’m always thinking about how I can create a Disneyland experience for my clients—something special that they won’t find with anyone else. This comes across in the cards that I send, but in other moments, too. For instance, when someone schedules a consultation with me, I send them a short welcome video helping them prep for the meeting.
Even if you’re not sending cards, ask yourself: What little memorable moments can you create? How can you develop a more human relationship with your clients or potential customers? How can you show up for them in a more personal way? And how can you do this in a way that will allow your personality, brand, and the value you add to their lives shine through?
So many business owners focus on growth through automation, through getting in front of more people, faster. But I truly believe it’s these human relationships that build strong, fabulous businesses for the long haul.