In the business world, efficiency doesn't mean sacrificing courtesy and manners. In fact (and more often than not) good manners coincide with doing business wisely. The classic thank you note is a perfect example of such a case, where a nice gesture is also a good way to strengthen mutual relations, stand out and be reminded of something in a competitive business context. But striking the right balance between courtesy and professionalism is not always easy. The steps below offer a simplified approach to this sometimes daunting (but usually rewarding) task.
Method 1 of 1: Writing a thank you note
Step 1. Don't delay anything
In a business context, the main benefit of sending a thank you note is that it leaves a positive and lasting impression on the business partner, potential employer, client or donor. The more time that elapses between the interview, deal or services rendered and receipt of a thank you note, the less effective this gesture will be.
Step 2. Choose a suitable shape
In most cases, it is better to opt for real paper as opposed to an email. If you represent a company, typing the note on company letterhead is the most professional choice. However, a handwritten card adds a more personal touch, and may be more appropriate in some circumstances -- for example, if you have a small business, or as a thank you for significant donations. Handwritten notes are also a good choice for thanking a potential employer after you've interviewed. If you choose to handwrite your thank you note, do the following:
- Choose a card that is simple and sophisticated. A cream or white card with a 'Thank you' embossed on the front is generally a safe bet. Avoid cards with messages inside and designs that are overly ornate, "cute," or messy.
- Think about your ability to write neatly. If you are not sure about the quality or clarity of your handwriting, show a sample to a trusted friend or colleague. If you're not really a master of legible and clean cursive writing, write a few examples before actually writing the text on the card you want to send. If not, ask someone else to write the note (but make sure you sign it yourself).
- If for any reason the recipient's mailing address is not available, then email may be your only option. It's also sometimes a more appropriate format -- for example, if email is the primary form of correspondence between you and the person(s) you want to thank. The biggest drawback to an email thank you note is that they are more likely to be lost or ignored, and less likely to stand out from other messages. Remember that some people (especially business leaders) can receive hundreds of emails a day. With this caveat in mind, it may be tempting to compensate by making your email more flashy, or sending an E-card through a website. Don't do this, though -- this will make it even more likely that your email address will come across as advertising, increasing the chance that it will be ignored or discarded. Instead, keep it short, simple, sophisticated, and again, timely. You can edit the subject line to include information specific to your business relationship, or to what you're thanking for – for example, "Thank you for considering my application."
Step 3. Choose an appropriate salutation
If there is one person in particular to whom you are indebted, address the note to them by their title and last name -- for example, "Dear Mr. Koolhaas." When addressing more than one person, include everyone's name and title in the greeting line. Avoid impersonal greetings, such as "To anyone who may be interested." In addition, the formal nature of your tone should be tailored to the level of familiarity with the recipient(s) and the nature of the business.
Step 4. In the opening sentence, express your gratitude, along with a clear description of what you want to thank the recipient for
There's no need to justify your introduction -- avoid opening sentences like "I want to write this to thank you for…" or "I want to express my gratitude for…," but instead opt for the simple and direct present tense: e.g., 'Thank you for supporting our community service project.'
While it is important to state what you are grateful for, you should avoid the direct mention of money when it comes to a donation. Replace specific designations of money with euphemisms such as "your generosity," "your kindness" or "your generous donation."
Step 5. Indicate the direct positive impact it has had or the meaning of what you are grateful for
- When writing to a donor, you indicate what your company wants to achieve with the donation.
- When writing to a potential employer after an interview, you can, if desired, indicate your interest in the position for which you are applying. However, don't use the thank you note as an excuse to reiterate why you think you're "perfect for the job." Instead, take a tactful approach, such as "I really appreciated meeting you and am very excited about the position."
- When writing to a business partner or advisor, say something like "It was a pleasure working with you," or "Your advice has proved invaluable in pursuing my department's annual goals," of a positive relationship and implies an interest in the continuation of that relationship.
Step 6. Compliment the addressee, but without flattery
This is perhaps the most complicated part of the thank you note, and is not always justified or necessary. Consider a general expression of praise related to the recipient or the company he or she represents -- for example, "Your work is great" or "Your account management expertise is unmatched."
Step 7. Give a hint about the future
Here you can explicitly express your wish to continue doing business or to build a long-term relationship with the recipient. When approaching a potential employer, this is a good opportunity to express your confidence in his or her decision. This can be achieved by simply saying 'I hope to hear from you.'
Step 8. Repeat your thank you
All it takes is a simple sentence, repeating your opening thank you note (but in different words). 'Thanks again for…' should suffice.
Step 9. Finish with a greeting, and sign with your name
In most cases, it's appropriate to close your note with a variation of "Sincerely," "Sincerely," or "Sincerely." Even if your letter is typed, you should always sign your name in pen. If necessary, state your title or position and the company you represent under your name.
Step 10. Proofread and review your thank you note
Depending on the circumstances, the finished product should be short and relatively simple (about half of a typed page at most). If it seems too long, check for unnecessary repetition -- with the exception of the thank you note itself, each point should only be mentioned once. Also check that your tone remains consistent. It may be a good idea to have one or two other people proofread for spelling or grammatical errors, as even minor mistakes can leave a negative impression on the recipient.
Step 11. If you are satisfied with your thank you note, send the message immediately
Again, time is of the essence – the more direct you are, the more memorable your overall impression will be.
- What not to include: personal information, or news about your business life. Remember, the purpose of a thank you note is to express appreciation and gratitude to the recipient, not to praise your own personal achievements. Also, don't use the thank you note as an opportunity to promote yourself or your business other than what is directly relevant to the purpose of your thank you. Writing something like, "If you liked our X, you may also be interested in our Y's and Z's (which are now on sale!)" will likely undermine the sincerity of your thank you.
- You can include a business card with your thank you note, but it doesn't make sense if you already know the recipient well or have already given him or her a business card in the past. It can sometimes make sense when writing to a potential employer, but you can also run the risk of appearing a bit pretentious. If you're unsure, skip this - your name, job title and contact information should already be available. If your note is typed, you can also add this information as a heading to the letter (top left of the page), two lines below it followed by the recipient's name and address.