The Neuroscience of Handwritten Letters and Notes

By:
Dave Schaaf
Dave Schaaf

There’s something strangely captivating about handwritten letters and notes.

Print a survey and send it to a bunch of physicians via direct mail.

You will get responses, but not too many.

Now print the same survey and write a simple “Thank You” by your hand and post it to the same physicians via direct mail.

You will get 41% more responses.

Whoa!

What’s going on here.

One-word answer: Personalization.

An average person today is exposed to no less than 5,000 ads per day (email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…)

On top of that, the average human attention span has shrunk to just 9 seconds.

Personalization

Your email, direct mail piece, Facebook post or letter is just another attempt to grab this 9-second window and would be thrown in the basket unless you do one thing.

Personalization.

Personalization is nothing but making your customers feel that you actually put some effort into your message and want nothing but good for them.

Personalization is at the heart of the concept of reciprocity.

Reciprocity

Humans are social beings. They are evolutionarily wired to reciprocate — do good in exchange for good and do the opposite when something bad is done to you.

Here is an experiment that proves the power of reciprocity in marketing. This is mentioned in Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, Robert Cialdini.

A survey was mailed to a bunch of prospective respondents in three iterations. Every iteration had a different form of cover letter.

  • The first one was a print cover letter.
  • The second one had a handwritten message.
  • The third one had a handwritten message and a post-it note.

Guess which one had the best response rate?

Yes, the third one — a massive 75%.

The first two had response rates of 36% and 48%, respectively.

The reason is simple: handwritten text immediately shows the reader you put some effort and spent some time for the recipient.

They reciprocate by responding.

If you are sending a printed letter, invitation or marketing piece, writing a short note mentioning a personalized message or a simple Thank You would boost response rates. For business communication, adding informal personal notes and attaching them with formal, printed letters is always a great option.

Example: A personal note from a CEO written on a post-it note attached to a business proposal.

 
 

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