Recently, I attended a networking event for my company. The speaker that night spoke about good networking practices. One of the practices she referred to was making sure to follow-up with everyone you meet at these events. She aptly referred to it as “pinging”.

The word “ping” takes its name from a submarine sonar search -- you send a short sound burst and listen for an echo or a “ping” coming back. So, in networking terms, when you send out a ping, whether with an email, a phone call or a hand-written note, you’re inviting that person to “come back” and communicate with you thus beginning a relationship with that person…one that will hopefully benefit you both long term.

I always make it a practice to send out hand-written thank you notes to everyone I meet at these events. I like hand-written notes, because they’re a physical manifestation of your company (your brand) to that potential client, strategic partner or referral source. A hand-written note sets the tone for your company. Hand-written notes also differentiate you from most other businesses. Ask yourself when the last time you received a hand-written note from someone you met at a business setting was?

Quite simply, hand-written correspondence is a wonderful way to build your business. When I say build your business, I am not just referring to acquiring new customers. I am also referring to keeping the customers you have!

According to a study conducted by the Technical Assistance Research Project in Washington DC, 68% of customers leave because of “perceived indifference”. In other words, customers don’t think you care about their business. As Sir William Jones said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated”. Our customers and clients want and need to be appreciated, remembered and thanked.

Another great advantage in sending a personal note….people tend to keep these cards. Whenever I receive a nice note from someone, I display it one my desk for awhile. Every time I see the card, I am warmly reminded of that person or business.

So, when should you send a hand-written card to someone? Here are a few suggestions:

• Every time you meet someone new and get their contact information (i.e. a networking function, a business meeting, a training session, on the plane, a social party, waiting in line at the grocery store, etc.)
• When a customer makes a major purchase from you or sends a referral your way.
• When you embark upon a joint venture with a new company.

Here are some other suggested but not mandatory times to jot a quick note:
• A birthday greeting to your clients and associates.
• A congratulatory note when you hear about something great that customer or business associate did. For example, one of my customers published a new book, so I sent her a congratulatory note.
• If you see an article that might be of interest to that client or associate, send them the clipping with a quick note.
• An encouraging note to members of your staff or team.

Remember, every card is a “ping”. It is likely that your message will echo back to you in some way soon!

Writing a hand-written note does not have to be a difficult exercise! When networking, make it a practice to take notes about the people you meet on the back of their business cards, so you have something to reference when you go to correspond with them.

Hand-written notes should only be 3-5 sentences in length. In other words, be short and to the point. If it is your first correspondence with this person, remind them where you met and what you do for a living. Thank them for taking the time to speak with you and perhaps suggest another meeting. Make sure to enclose another business card.

Your personal correspondence should be written on high quality stationery. Remember, your stationery represents your brand. If you are a veterinarian for example, a note card with a cute dog might certainly be appropriate. If you’re an image consultant, you might want something more refined and sophisticated. Personalized note cards with your name and/or company already printed on them are great for establishing a consistent brand or image. Make sure to give your correspondence that extra personal touch by hand-addressing the envelope and using a real postage stamp.

Set aside some time every day to write your notes. I prefer to do this practice at the end of the day. It gives me time to reflect upon the day and allows me to give this practice my undivided attention. It also helps me to end my day on a very positive note…energy which transcends to the following day.

For remembering customer’s birthdays, I have created an Excel spreadsheet with my customers’ names, addresses and birthdays. Once a week, I refer to this sheet to remind myself of the birthday notes I need to send out for that week.

Don’t get me wrong, emails, instant messages, phone calls and the like are all wonderful communication tools! However, taking the time to write a hand-written note really sends the message that you care and you have taken the time to think about your relationship or potential relationship with that person. Those 3-5 sentences can make a mighty impact. And, that ping will come back to you in the mighty echo of increased opportunity. Grab your pen and stationery and get writing today!

Author's Bio: 

This article was written by Kristine Lewis the owner of . Dream Press is an online personalized stationery boutique that offers unique and affordable personalized note cards, notepads, labels, candy wrappers and more. Dream Press also offers a Small Business Section with personalized stationery products specifically for the small business owner. Kristine resides in Wixom, Michigan with her boyfriend and 6-year old son Benjamin.