Go postal for prospects

Flickr user Thairms

(MoneyWatch) Taking cheap shots at the Post Office is too easy. One joke says that half the price of a stamp is for delivery and the other half is for storage. But I say postage stamps are the biggest bargain in America.

Stamps are also the biggest business promotion deal in America. For an investment of only a few cents, you can give a priceless gift: a few words of praise. Not the digital kind that vanishes in a flick of the delete key, but something that can be held.

Are you sending your share of snail mail to valued potential referral sources, suppliers, and vendors? Everybody appreciates a piece of personal mail that makes us feel good. With our frantic sales pace, many of us often don't take the time to say thank you properly. Investing the time, and less than half a buck, it takes to do so can give your business an edge.

So having a stack of "thank you" cards and a sheet of stamps is a must. But here are some additional ways to use the mail to win prospects and influence referrals:

  • When you see a magazine article a client or prospect might be interested in, clip it and send it to her. Articles that pertain to business are great, but don't forget articles that would be of personal interest. Maybe it's about the prospect's college alma mater, hometown, or favorite hobby. You can also clip cartoons and news items to drop in the mail.

  • Send "thank you" notes not only to the person you want to cultivate, but also to his boss. Call the person a star to their boss -- word will get back that you were signing their praises.
  • Remember the humble postcard. When you travel, send postcards to clients, suppliers, vendors, and others you want to form lasting connections with. No need to send a long-winded "wish you were here" message. Instead, try a quip or observation. Like "We came, we saw, we bought souvenirs," or "We spent a week here last night."

  • Say thank you in advance. A small investment in a thoughtful card or small gift can reap a big return.

  • Want a better gift than flowers for someone who is hospitalized? Buy a stack of "get well" cards. Each day the person is in the hospital or at home recuperating, send a card. You might send anywhere from three to a dozen. Make some funny and lighthearted, but make the last note heartfelt.

  • The next time a newspaper or trade journal prints a nice feature article about you or your business, take it to a quick print shop. Have them create a reprint that looks like a newsletter. Then mail it to potential clients and those you want to stay in touch with a short note attached. A business buddy did this and received several new client assignments when they received her "newsletter."
Your cards and letters are not manipulation. For the strategy to work, you must be sincere in your appreciation and thoughtfulness. Think about those with whom you do business who help you succeed. If you like something, pass it on to them. Suppliers and vendors usually only hear news when it is bad. An occasional word of praise or random check-in can spur them on to produce even better work for you. A few kind words are a powerful reward. What gets rewarded gets repeated.