EP - 057

Be Less Forgettable

With Guest David Wachs

How handwritten notes foster meaningful relationships and enhance customer appreciation.

The How To Sell More Podcast


February 28, 2024

Have you been searching for ways to forge deeper customer connections? Be prepared to go old-school. Handwritten notes are back and may be the perfect way for you to stand out from the crowd and foster meaningful relationships with your customers.

In this episode of “How to Sell More,” host Mark Drager discusses the revival of personal connections in the digital age with David Wachs, founder and CEO of Handwrytten. A serial entrepreneur, David revolutionized our approach to personal communication. His scalable, robot-based solutions for handwritten notes offer a smart blend of technology and personal touch, reshaping how brands interact with consumers.

  • Standing Out: Personalized communication, like handwritten notes, stands out in the digital age, making recipients feel special and valued.
  • Staying Power: Unlike digital messages which are quickly forgotten, handwritten notes have a lasting impact and are often kept on hand for longer.
  • Be the Exception: The rarity of receiving handwritten notes in today's electronic communication-heavy world makes them more impactful and memorable.

“Do you want your messaging to be one of 135 emails a day, or one of maybe three handwritten notes a month?” -- David Wachs

Links to This Episode

Key Takeaways

  • Enhancing Customer Relationships and Loyalty - Taking the time to send a handwritten note shows genuine appreciation and thoughtfulness, and fosters stronger customer relationships.
  • Repeat Business and Referrals - Such personal touches can significantly enhance customer loyalty and engagement, often leading to repeat business and referrals.
  • Brand Image - Handwritten notes can be used to boost your brand image in various ways, including win-back campaigns, thanking customers, and acknowledging special occasions.

Top 3 Reasons to Listen

Discover Personalization's Impact: Learn how handwritten notes stand out in today's digital age by leaving lasting impressions.

Enhance Customer Relationships: Gain insights into how handwritten notes foster genuine appreciation and thoughtfulness, strengthening customer relationships and loyalty. 

Implement Scalable Strategies: Understand how you can integrate handwritten notes into your customer engagement strategies. Explore tools that automate while maintaining a personal touch, cutting through the digital noise to deepen client connections.

Follow David Wachs on Social

Website: https://www.handwrytten.com/about/the-company/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidwachs/

More About Today's Guest, David Wachs

CEO of Handwrytten - Handwriting Services for Brands

David Wachs, a visionary entrepreneur, has embarked on a mission to revive the cherished tradition of handwritten correspondence with his innovative company, Handwrytten. Utilizing advanced robotic technology, Handwrytten crafts personalized notes penned with actual ink, offering a seamless integration with CRM systems like Salesforce, online platforms, mobile applications, and tailored integrations. This novel approach has captured the attention of leading meal delivery services, e-commerce platforms, charitable organizations, and professionals, redefining the way businesses and individuals foster meaningful connections.

Before launching Handwrytten, Wachs was at the helm of Cellit, a pioneering mobile marketing platform and agency. His leadership propelled Cellit to the forefront of the industry, introducing the groundbreaking concept of Mobile CRM. The platform became renowned for its capacity to send millions of SMS and MMS messages daily, serving high-profile clients such as Abercrombie and Fitch, Toys R Us, Sam's Club, and Pizza Hut. Cellit's excellence was acknowledged when it was listed among the top 500 fastest-growing companies in the U.S., ranking #262 on the Inc. 500 in 2010. Following its remarkable success and impactful mobile campaigns, Cellit was acquired by HelloWorld in January 2012.

In addition to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Wachs is a respected authority on messaging technology, sharing his insights at prestigious forums including the Direct Marketing Association and South By Southwest. His expertise has been sought after by major publications like the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and he has contributed to the discourse on marketing and technology through interviews and quotes in various media outlets.

Wachs also lends his voice to the broader business community through his column “Stepping Away from the Day to Day” in Inc. Magazine, where he shares wisdom gleaned from his extensive experience in building and growing innovative businesses.

A Transcription of The Talk

Mark Drager: So David, when I started in business back in 2006, I remember meeting an entrepreneur who had gone through some kind of real estate training. And I don't know, the training. But she said, you have to write, I don't know what it was, 10 thank you cards per day, you know, write 10 thank you cards per day, handwritten cards, and send them out. And I was never that disciplined, honestly. But along the way, when I hit my fifth anniversary for my company, I picked five people who deeply impacted my success. And I wrote out handwritten letters, and I sent them to everyone. And honestly, the feedback I got just from... I mean, it took time and effort, and like, my writing is bad, and my hand hurt afterward. I'm used to typing. Yeah, but the impact it had was profound. It was like the thought of a handwritten note, today, in the world of people barely typing things out grammatically correct in text or an email is massive. Is that why you do what you do?

David Wachs: That's exactly it. So prior to Handwrytten, I ran a company called Cellit. We'd send a million text messages a day for big brands, like Abercrombie and Fitch, and Toys R Us, some up in Canada. And I realized, and this was back in, I sold it in 2012, I realized that I was part of the noise, you know, at that point, and it's only gotten worse, every office worker was getting 135 emails a day. And then you add in the thousands of texts they get a month, Slack, Teams, and all that. And they're just inundated with electronic communication. But the least used inbox is the one at the end of their driveway. You know, it's their mailbox, especially handwritten communication. I mean, they get a lot of junk mail. But as far as handwritten notes, I mean, the average consumer only gets between one and three a month, and that's if they're lucky. So do you want to be in that pile of 135 emails a day? Or do you want to be in that pile of maybe three handwritten notes a month, right? So that's kind of what we help people do. And it really does work. I mean, we have a piano tuner, he tunes your piano, and he then doesn't have to see you for a year. But in that time, he sends you a thank you note for tuning your piano. A year later, when he arrives, that handwritten note is often standing up on the piano. So not only is it opened, not only is it read, but it's kept on display. And I'm sorry, none of my million text messages a day have ever been printed out and stuck to a piano. I bet none of anybody else's email has done that either.

Mark Drager: So before we get into because normally when we have a guest on, we don't talk so specifically about their company, but you have a really unique company. And this is a really great tactic. So I want to get into the specifics of how we build lists, how we scale them, and how we do this. But before we move into that, let's just talk if we can about the impact of taking the time to give something to someone. Whereas clearly thoughtful one of the guys I really love Steve Sims, a great marketer, and experiential kind of guy wrote a great book Blue Fishing, and he's talked about the fact he would be at a restaurant. And he would take the bar bill or he would take the restaurant bill and on the back, grab a sharpie and write I was thinking of you. And then he would like mail to a client... Or like, I wish you were here. Yeah, by the way, I had this great meal. And it's so weird. It's so strange. As you mentioned, it's so different. And so, you know, like, can we just talk, I guess about the impact of these thoughtful before we get in scalability, just the impact of these thoughtful moments? And what that can mean for the relationships that you're trying to deep into. Dig deeper into it.

David Wachs: Yeah, so I'm reading. Oh, my God. It's called something like unapologetic hospitality or something like that. And they quote and what resonated from that book to me is they quoted Maya Angelou Maya Angelou once said, people don't remember what you say, people don't remember what you did. They remember how you made them feel. And that's what we do we help people feel appreciated. And that's got a tremendous impact. If you've and I'm not here to sell my service. I'm here to sell handwritten notes in general. But if you visit our website, which is handwritten with a YHNDWRYT the N, there's a Resources tab and there's a consumer survey you can download. And what we did was we surveyed 2000 consumers not related to our service, just blind consumers. And we asked them if they currently felt appreciated by the brands they work with. And by and large, I don't have the number off the top of my head but by and large, people said no, they don't feel appreciated by the brands they work with. And then we said okay, well If you felt appreciated by a brand, what would you do and of course, it's obvious stuff, I would set buy more, I buy higher ticket items, I prefer more, I might post to social media, you know, that type of thing. And then we said, what would make you feel appreciated, and of course, handwritten notes were at the very top of the list. Strikingly handwritten notes are not the most personal, according to them, not the most personal form of communication, would be phone calls. But phone calls also run the highest risk, according to them of being annoying. So if you're trying to walk the line between not being annoying, and being highly personal, handwritten notes are a great way to go. And all we do as a company is we help you scale that. So you know, when you get to the point where you can't write those 10 a day, call us and we'll help you with that.

Mark Drager: Let's get into that in a second. I was thinking about speaking to you and some of the impact that these types of strategies have had on me. I can remember back when my wife and I first got married. Gosh, we're going back to maybe 2005, 2006. Now, we left one of our telecom companies. So up here in Canada, we have like Rogers, and we have Bell. And so it's like you're either with Bell, and then you switch to Rogers because it's cheaper, or you go from Rogers to Bell and back and forth, right? And at the time, we had just switched because the service was bad or something. I got a card, a win-back part of a win-back campaign. I got a card that I'm sure was an automated card, and I'm sure it was printed, cuz even in 2006, you could do that. But it was from the Senior VP of Customer Experience. And all it said was we're sorry, you left? Do you think there's anything that we can do to win your business back? And if so, could you let us know? Right? And that card actually started the conversation because I wrote back and I was like, well, these were all the problems. And they said, Well, we could fix it. And we could do this. And we could do this and it started the conversation. It started on the Winback side. And we ultimately did switch back. But I remember that because I was like, damn, did the card trick me? Was trying to analyze what happened. And my friend, my entrepreneurial friend who writes 10 thank you cards per day and sends them out and has done it for years religiously, has even told me stories where if you're doing this consistently, you're like looking for opportunities to either thank someone or send them a note and say I see you, I see what you're doing. I see how hard you're working. Yes. And so yeah. And so you're open to that. But she lost a really big pitch. She came in second place and got a note saying I'm sorry, we're going with someone else. And she wrote a thank you card to them. She said thank you for the opportunity. Thank you so much that I was able to do this. And this time it didn't work out. But perhaps next time it would. And when that person got the Thank You card, they actually pulled the contract from the awarded person and they switched back down back to her because they said no one does this. No one does this. And so this is what, you know, Handwritten does. Tell me, what if we want this, like if I... if I want to give people great experiences. What do I need to do? Obviously, I have to have names, I have to have, I guess, addresses. Like, what do I need to be able to do this at scale?

David Wachs: Well, so we use just the way we do it is we use robots to help people write and write notes. We have 175 robots, we build them ourselves. It's completely proprietary technology. As far as what we need…

Mark Drager: But hold on, hold on, you have robots? Like, because I've seen some of them in the past for legal signatures and stuff. Because like a robot that holds like jet pens in it, is not okay?

David Wachs: Pilot ballpoint pens, like you pick up at your Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada or CVS.

Mark Drager: I love it. I love how you have... We have lots of American listeners. It's cool.

David Wachs: Yeah, so...

Mark Drager: So yeah, robots holding some big pens. Basically.

David Wachs: Pilot G2. Yeah, I want to be clear, Pilot is actually now a partner of ours. We started with Pilot because of their pens, for our purposes, we found a nice, good rolling thick ballpoint. And now we use so many of them that they're like, 'Hey, we want in on this.' And now they're a partner of ours. Pilot G2 pens, you could pick them up at any, you know, any drugstore, and they're all written out longhand. So it's not inkjet, which is important because the impression the physical impression a pen makes on paper is there. It's also penned kind of follows the contour of the bumpy page a little differently than inkjet, which will be more uniform. And then finally, the inks smear, which inkjet might too, but ink smears if you rub it with your finger, you know, lick your finger and rub it, that type of thing, and all that matters to people. So what we are is kind of a full-service shop. First, we print out a card to your dimensions and your liking. And then we write on it, then we mail it to you. But as far as your question goes, if you're a realtor, and we do work with real estate agents, we have a prospecting feature where you could circle an area on a map, unfortunately only in the United States, but you can circle an area on a map or geofence an area on a map. And then set parameters like, send everybody in this area that meets certain revenue, income criteria, or net worth criteria, or who's lived in their house a certain length, that type of thing. And then we'll pull that data from a reputable data source, and automatically send handwritten notes to them. If you're a business, and you're looking to do local prospecting, we can do the same thing. We tie into the same company. But now we're pulling based on SIC codes, which are a way to classify standard industry classification codes, a way to classify you know, I want to target all attorneys or mining, whatever it is, right? It runs the gamut, you select them, and then we can send cards to them. Or if you're not doing prospecting, and that's kind of the use case there. If you're doing something more, where you have a relationship in place, you can obviously upload lists of addresses. Or we could tie it directly into your system. So if it's a Shopify E-commerce store, we could tie into that. If it's Salesforce, we're in the App Exchange. If you're a nonprofit, we tie into Blackbaud, which is the number one nonprofit management system. So we tie into all these commonly used systems to make the system super easy for you to use. That's the idea.

Mark Drager: I'd love to know a few use cases because you mentioned obviously prospecting.

David Wachs: But it's actually our least frequent.

Mark Drager: Yeah, I imagine. I imagine customer retention or customer engagement would be the main focus. So are there some typical ways? I'm thinking like, you know, every time an invoice goes out, can it trigger an automatic handwritten card to thank someone? Like, what are some use cases people are using on the customer engagement side?

David Wachs: Yeah, typically, it's, you don't want to overdo it. So it's two to four touchpoints a year, typically for sale, or threshold sale. So in other words, after they spend a certain amount of money, or make their third purchase, you can send them a handwritten note. But we always recommend after the first purchase because, you know, I hate to break it to people, none of us are snowflakes, you know, there are other products or services out there just as unique as us that they can choose from. And in the day and age of the internet, you can find anything anywhere. If I don't like your service, I can have somebody in Asia or you know, the Philippines come up with it. So I say take the time to genuinely thank, whether using our service or just sit down and write it on your own. Write a thank you note for the opportunity to work with them, just like your realtor friend did. And then birthdays and holidays are natural touchpoints. We just came out of our busiest holiday season. And then maybe one other touchpoint a year, which is kind of a grab bag, it could be an offer. It could be a 'Hey, haven't heard from you,' or anything like that. Just keep them engaged. But prospecting, blind prospecting, can be very expensive. So I think the best use case for this is really known relationships. For instance, we work with a lot of car dealerships, we tie into their dealer management systems. And then after a purchase, we send a handwritten note. After an oil change, we send a handwritten note. Birthday card, Christmas, rinse and repeat.

Mark Drager: Is there a certain average dollar value or lifetime value of a client that would determine whether this is worth the investment or not?

David Wachs: Thanks to USPS and Canadian Post, postage can be over $4. If you're doing small volume, on larger volume, it falls drastically. So you really have to think about if it's worth it. But you know, these days with the price of real estate being where it is, or the price of a car being where it is. Or if you're a donor and you just gave a $50 donation. Don't you think they deserve a thank you for doing that? So really anything, I'd say? You start thinking about this, anything over $50? Probably, I'd see the value proposition. And I mean, we have stats that show this increases lifetime value by 10 to 20%. It increases response rates to prospecting offers 27x compared to print. We see coupon redemption rates three to five times greater than emailed coupon codes. So you know, the results, the opportunities are there. It's just you know, to your point, you don't want to overdo it and you don't want to overdo anything. You don't want to overdo email. You don't want to overdo the text. You have to know where to apply the right thing. You know what I mean? So it's just one more tool for you to use.

Mark Drager: What did they say, everything in moderation, including moderation?

David Wachs: Yes. Including moderation. I like that.

Mark Drager: think I heard it in that. So this is probably something going back a few hundred years.

David Wachs: It's interesting, Canadians seem more interested in the United States than Americans are in some ways. I...

Mark Drager: I have been, I've spent the last year pretty deep diving into the Founding Fathers' biographies. And I love Ron Chernow. As an author, he's written a number of them, but Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Washington, and a little bit later, Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, I read his biography. These guys are badasses. As someone who was quite worried about post-pandemic and recession, constantly being an entrepreneur and what's happening with the political divide, and what's happening with media and how polarized everything feels in geopolitical and environment and all this stuff, the greatest thing I've done is spent the last year looking back at the 1700s, and the 1800s, to realize that this has all happened before. This has happened time and time and time again. And if anyone thinks that we are in a bad place today, we are not. Let's go back to like polio epidemic. And let's go back to when people would just randomly pass away at 30 or 35 because they got the flu. So, yeah, I think we're in a pretty good space, man.

David Wachs: Yeah, it's just different headaches. But yeah, you're right. We're in a good space. So we need to learn from it. And kudos to you for doing that. I think it was, who was it? Andrew Jackson. Was he the one that was walking around with a slug in him? Like he had a bullet he was in...

Mark Drager: Andrew Jackson, the President?

David Wachs: Yeah, I think so.

Mark Drager: The racist president who was posted? Who was he, I think he was post-Lincoln, pre-Grant, is that correct?

David Wachs: I don't know if it was him or Johnson. I don't remember which one it was. But one of the early presidents was shot, he was shot, and he still had the shot, and it got super infected. And he was always grumpy because of it.

Mark Drager: It's like, listen, Washington had like, no teeth, because he was losing them really, really early. And no one in his family really lived past 40. His dad passed away in his 30s, his brother passed away in his 30s. It's like, people just had a habit of passing away. But all that aside, let's get back to some of the ideas around these campaigns. And so how do we customize the messages? Like, am I spending time creating a client list? Creating, you know, first name, last name, or pulling this database? Am I creating a standard message with just an ad-lib style? Like changing an adjective here or there? Or am I writing custom notes? How am I doing this at scale?

David Wachs: All of the above, if you want to. Like, do a bulk upload, you know, you send us the address information. And then you can include an ad-lib message. But that ad-lib could have seven points of customization. So you know, dear Mark, comma, thank you for having me on your podcast, comma, podcast name, you know what I mean. And then we, I really enjoyed talking with you about, comma, conversation point, you know what I mean? So it can start very structured. And then you could quickly veer off. On our website, if you're doing a one-off note. Of course, like everybody else, these days, we have AI. So you can say, write a note to Mark thanking him for being on my podcast. So then it'll write the whole note for you. You can edit it and then send it. So it's a one-off, but it's at scale because it takes two seconds to do. So then, in addition to those, we also have a birthday card system, or anniversary card, which could be a homeaversary to stick with the real estate theme but or caraversary to stick with the automotive theme. We can create a templated message for events and then just send those at periodic times. Or we have a multi-step system, the same thing, write five templated messages, and then put somebody in the campaign. So whenever I add somebody to the campaign, the first day, they get message one, two weeks later, they get message two, and then three weeks after that, I put another person in that campaign, so they get message one, and then two weeks later, they get message two. So there are a lot of ways to do that. I mean, we also integrate with Zapier and Make, and these other low-code, no-code platforms, and people can actually use ChatGPT there. I wouldn't trust it. But you could do it to say...

Mark Drager: Potentially do like an Otter, like voice to text. And then take that over here through this and then take it over there through that and off you go.

David Wachs: Exactly. "Hey, I so enjoyed our conversation," and then pull in the Otter and then have ChatGPT summarize it more. And then yeah, you could do all that stuff.

Mark Drager: So you mentioned the piano tuner. I know, I know. We've talked a little bit about real estate, but I imagine this can work for any salesperson or any account-based organization. So what's kind of the sweet spot? What's too small to really throw through your system, and what's too big? And don't say nothing's too big, because like, what's, what's the sweet spot here?

David Wachs: Yeah, so too small, we really don't have a too small, you can go online and send one card. Too big, if you were to send us 10,000 plus cards. I mean, our daily capacity is 20,000. But...

Mark Drager: You can put up to 20,000 cards on 170 robots.

David Wachs: Yeah, about…

Mark Drager: That is really cool.

David Wachs: So you know, but if you're just sending us 10,000, it's going to take a few extra days because you're eating, you know, we can't just devote everything to you. So people need to understand there's, you know, this is a manufactured product, first, we got to print the card, then we got to write it, then we got to stuff it, etc. So there is an upper bound there, but we'll work with you to get them out over time. And then as far as other use cases, we do a lot of Winback. So for instance, we work with a meal box snack company. They send snacks to your office. When they screw up, they send you another box of snacks and swag, and a handwritten note in there from us saying we're so sorry, we screwed up. What they found from that was those that had the poor experience, and the Winback actually had a higher lifetime value than those who'd never been screwed up in the first place. Yeah. And so then what did they do? Screw up with everybody? Raise all boats? So that's what they did there.

Mark Drager: Do they really do that? Do they really do that? They purposely made a mistake. They sent the win-back. I've heard strategies that people like so the card is going to come from Brenda, and for my listeners, I'm doing air quotes here, Brenda. And to say things like, like, you know, like, I am so sorry that this went out this way. Here are the x issue, and y issue. We're taking care of it. We weren't you know, like, making Brenda, the one who's like, I was having a rough day, personalize it a bit more.

David Wachs: Yeah.

Mark Drager: Do you guys see that kind of stuff happening too?

David Wachs: Yeah, absolutely. We do that. By and large, our campaigns are thank-you notes. I'm not, you know, that's I'd say we're a thank you company. We're a gratitude company. Because that's so important. And then, I mean, ironically, one of our largest verticals, is end-of-life care for pets. So if you have a veterinarian come to your house, and put down your dog or cat, you'll receive a handwritten note fully custom, because they go into their iPad app, and they sit there and type it all out. But it's written through us, but it's been fully customized to the experience you had with your pet. And that's actually one of our largest clients. We also work with solar panel installers who use us for prospecting. What they'll do is they'll put a dot on the map, and use the real estate prospecting tool to circle it. And then they'll send all those people in a quote-unquote, or air quotes, apology note for disturbing your neighborhood when what they're really doing is prospecting. So we do those? Yeah, I mean, it's kind of everything in between. We have another pet brand that sends you a little birthday hat on your pet's birthday. And it says, take a picture of this and post it to Twitter, or x or Instagram and, and, you know, we'd appreciate that. And a lot of people do that. So it's all sorts of crazy, crazy use cases.

Mark Drager: That is so much fun. Okay, so final question for you. And I've been speaking with David Wachs, who is the founder, and I think CEO. Yep. And so what is it that we really don't understand? No one understands, you know, the press and articles you're in, the prospects you're talking to, the question that you have to answer time and time and time again, what is it that we really should know about this? That we don't?

David Wachs: Well, I think a lot of people think it's trickery and either will look fake or, you know, it's insincere. And I can kind of nip that in the bud in two directions. Does it look fake? I say that's up to you, visit handwritten.com and request samples. Just go to like business, get samples there, or we have all these verticals, you can click on and get samples. That's what I'd say. They're what I would say with is it insincere? I'd say no more so than in the 1960s, when you would write to the CEO of IBM, and you'd get a note back, you know, was that really written by the CEO of IBM, or TWA Airlines, or Air Canada, or whatever? It was written by their secretary, maybe they signed it with the CEO's signature, but it's no different there. And then in the States, a lot of people, depending on which side of the aisle you're on, you'll get a Christmas card from the President. Do you really think the President sat down and penned out a Christmas or even signed a Christmas card for you? Of course not. But people still hold those in high regard. I think what it is, is about doing something different and taking the time to think about doing something different that really matters and resonates with people.

Resources & Go Deeper

5 Reasons Why Handwritten Notes Are Powerful

This article by Postalgia highlights the intimate and reflective nature of handwritten letters, their permanence compared to digital messages, and their authenticity. It discusses how handwritten notes stand out and showcase the professionalism of an organization. The article also mentions how technology can be used to produce handwritten notes at scale, making this personal touch more accessible for businesses.

5 Reasons Why Handwritten Notes Are Powerful (postalgia.ink)

How Handwritten Notes Can Help Your Business Grow

Zapier's article explores the significant role handwritten notes play in converting leads, showing appreciation, and strengthening relationships. It discusses how handwritten notes can make your message more likely to be received and remembered, offering practical examples of when to send them and highlighting their effectiveness at scale.

How to use handwritten notes for business | Zapier

The Resurrection of Handwritten Communication?

Smart Insights dives into the resurgence of handwritten communication amidst the digital marketing overload. The article presents compelling statistics on the effectiveness of direct mail and the emotional impact of receiving a handwritten note. It argues that handwritten notes can significantly differentiate businesses and create more meaningful connections.

The Resurrection of Handwritten Communication? | Smart Insights