Handwritten Letters in a World of Technology

  |  April 22, 2013   |  Comments

How do we embrace the new world without completely ushering out the old?

When's the last time you put actual pen to paper when communicating with a colleague (Post-its don't count!), or sent a friend or family member a note to either thank her or let her know she's in your thoughts? John Coleman recently posted to the Harvard Business Review blog about the rarity of handwritten letters and the overall importance they can have.

Coleman talks about the permanence of handwritten letters. I can admit that I have a shoebox of all the letters and cards that I've received throughout the years. Every few years, I stumble across the box and decide to sift through the notes. It's filled with notes from friends and family that I have fond thoughts and connections with. It's a box I only add to a few times in a year.

This all got me thinking about the technology we have at our fingertips today - email, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, etc. With so many new ways to connect, have we forgotten about the ancient art of handwritten letters? I only receive a few handwritten letters a year because we're texting and emailing more and more. These days, we can almost instantly make contact. So how do we embrace the new world without completely ushering out the old?

As marketing practitioners, we now have technology to automate email campaigns to connect with clients and prospects. We're able to communicate frequently and customize our messages to be more relevant. In fact, the technology allows us to create emails that mimic personalized handwritten letters. Here are a few ways we're able to be more personalized with mass emails:

  • Field insertion. We're able to insert first names, or other fields from our database, into the email to give it more of a personalized feel.
  • Dynamic image insertion. If we're sending a regionalized email out with an image, we can actually deliver the image most relevant to the recipient's location.
  • Signatures. Email campaigns can seem like they're coming directly from a person the recipient knows at a company with dynamic signatures, even when the same email is centrally distributed from the marketing team.
  • Drip campaigns. An email can actually be triggered based on certain behavior or activity, essentially mimicking a conversation.

This type of personalization within our automated email campaigns can lead to increases in engagement and performance. As we marketers are getting smarter with technology, we are adding to the increased volume of email that professionals and consumers receive each day. After all, there are companies like Mailbox that are creating their business model off of the need to manage the high volume of emails.

So why are we sending so many emails if the volume can be overwhelming at times? Because they work, and we'd be missing out on a huge opportunity to make connections if we weren't leveraging the email channel.

But as our technology advances and we find new ways to make contact, Coleman's post about the handwritten letter is a good reminder that our old ways of connecting can still have impact. At times, it may be best to set aside our technology habits to make a true one-on-one connection.

Sincerely yours,

Handwritten Text image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Stacie Levy

Stacie is senior director of marcom and PR at Kenshoo, a digital marketing technology company backed by Sequoia Capital, Arts Alliance, and Tenaya Capital. Kenshoo powers nearly half of the Fortune 50 and all 10 top global ad agency networks.

Prior to joining Kenshoo, Stacie worked as director of client strategy and development at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group Company. In this role, she was responsible for overseeing the growth of key accounts, in addition to leading Resolution Media's account management practice. During her tenure, Stacie led relationships with brands like Bank of America, Gatorade, Norwegian Cruise Line,, Sirius XM, and State Farm, while working with partner agencies to ensure all search programs are integrated into the overall marketing mix. Prior to Resolution Media, Stacie worked as an account manager at Nielsen Claritas. There she was responsible for managing and growing relationships with key clients, such as Sprint, US Cellular, Alltel Wireless, and Charter Communications.

Stacie graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in Marketing. When she's off the clock, Stacie enjoys yoga, rooting for Wisconsin football teams, and exploring her new state, Colorado.

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