The Appreciation Factor

All things Appreciation: Things to appreciate and the Ways we look at, Show and Think about Appreciation.


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The Appreciation Factor’s Turns 5!

5th-anniversary

Today is the The Appreciation Factor’s 5th Anniversary!  

Wow! Who knew when I started this blog in 2012 that I would still be here 5 years later. Well….I’d hoped I’d still be here, but you know best intentions and all of that. Here we are, 80+ posts later.

When I started out, I knew that I wanted to create a blog about a topic I was passionate about, so it started with talking about the importance of writing Thank you notes. However, I wasn’t sure that there would be enough content around just writing about thank you notes and I decided to expand it to “sharing appreciation,” but truly it became the overarching topic of appreciation.  I also knew that to some degree I couldn’t worry about whether others disagreed with me or not.  As I’ve stated in the “about me” page, I primarily write to share my passion about appreciation and gratitude, but I also want to offer a point of view that you may not have considered, or tips to help you share your appreciation.

I’ve been really happy to find ways to expand on my “how to write”/”why write thank you notes” posts to cover Things I Appreciate, like Día de los Muertosfall, beach etiquette, my fitness quest (still going strong by the way!), New Jersey and many more. You may have also seen two posts where I was fortunate to partner with others.  The first as a guest blogger on The Cutie Life, and more recently where I featured etiquette coach, Janet Parnes.  Both were extremely rewarding and I’m in talks with other bloggers and professionals to do more!

Two other additions to the blog that have become favorites of mine are Thankful Thursdays where I curate stories and/or videos that I feel exemplify appreciation, have moved me, or talk about people making a difference; and the second where I write about showing appreciation, especially in the form of Random Acts of Kindness (ROAKs) and promoting Giving Tuesday.  Both I are causes anyone can do, and both help make the world a better place.
The Future

I hope to continue to share some fresh posts on the topics above, and come up with new ones. Part of the challenge fun about having a blog is that you can come up with new features, approaches or even a new direction.  I hope you’ll continue to come along for the ride as I go into my 5th year, as well as share my posts with others, on your blogs or via Social Media, or not… as I’m content to have you simply read and enjoy them.  I’m appreciative of all of my followers, and really at the end of the day, if I’ve made you think about something in a new way, or supported a viewpoint you already have, then I’ve already done what I’d hoped to do.

 

Content/Compensation Free:

One additional thing that I wanted to clarify.  At times I will promote a brand, site, product etc.  At this time, The Appreciation Factor is not written for financial gain. I write it to support my passion for all things appreciation and writing.  I am not paid, nor do I receive any products to talk about. Candidly I have considered this option and I’m not against this approach as I’ve thought about a post/partnering with a paper company or another service that promoted appreciation, gratitude and thanks yous, but to date, I have not.  Should this ever change, I will absolutely let you know, and be very clear about it in the post.
What this means: Unless I state otherwise, all opinions are mine and I’m not compensated for any links or clicks you make on The Appreciation Factor.  Feel free click without worry and the ability to see that related content on a separate tab. (A pet peeve of mine are posts that take me away from the content I’m reading just to sell me something. Perhaps that’s how one is “supposed to do it”, but it’s just not for me.) I hope this encourages you to click, read, and share to your heart’s content.

 

Please, please, please don’t hesitate to also share your ideas. While I’m always searching the internet and news for stories and topics, I may miss something. Let me know if you see something you think I should share or a topic I should cover. I love hearing from my followers.

 

Best wishes, and many thanks to each of you. Here’s to 5 more years! (Hey I can dream can’t I?)

K

 


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What if You’re Not “Thankful”?

I’ve written posts at The Appreciation Factor about why you should write thank you notes, and provided tips on writing business and personal thank you notes. However I’ve recently been asked about what to do when you know you should write one, but aren’t 100% thankful.

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Customers and Networking Contacts Deserve Your Thanks

It seems to be that time of year, where the question has come up again about how to appropriately say thank you to your customers and networking contacts or (to my horror) whether you should even take the time to send a thank you.

Just today I came across two references on this topic. One referred to the sales benefits you could attain by saying thanks (at all times of the year), and the other was around the topic of whether to send holiday cards as a way to show a business’ appreciation.

In the blog post by Julian Bush on Financenk’s, business development blog, called 4 Ways to increase Sales by Showing Gratitude to Customers he addresses four key areas about appreciation.  This article was totally up my ally as it had overall resounding support of showing and thinking about appreciation at all times.  Bush’s first two points supported my belief that your customers and networking contacts deserve the time to say thanks.  It’s his view that to succeed in business is to show gratitude.

Here are the two points that resonated with me regarding the client and network perspective:

Those who have helped you. 

He recommends taking time each day to send a thank you message via email, text, or Internet greeting card, (See my recommendation for this last one) to those who may have, for example, referred a client or helped you in some way.

I agree, though for me, every day might be too overwhelming and I’d want to ensure that the act of showing my appreciation was meaningful vs. a chore. (It would NOT however, be dependent upon how large or small the act of assistance or kindness was.)Picture1

 

Are you appreciative for knowing someone?

Bush’s expression of gratitude expands to all who positively impact your life. This could be your family, your friends, your customers and colleagues.  He believes that to share this appreciation will attract more of the same assistance and likely reciprocal gratitude your way.

 

 

His last two areas talk to written affirmation of what your thankful for as a whole, and in your daily life. Both are worth a review.

Bush sums up his post with the statement that by taking the time to show gratitude to your clients will reap the rewards of deep loyalty, an increase in client retention and profits. I really can’t argue this fact, as many of my clients have remained close over the span of 10-12 years. I think this partly due to my ongoing recognition of their assistance and simply their support of my business and/or services.

 

Xmas Thank you note

This leads me to the second reference I found today.  I came across this in one of my LinkedIn Groups, Sticky Branding.  A lead contributor, Jeremy Miller, posed the question, “What’s your take on the practice of sending season’s greetings cards to clients.”  While the response ran the gamut of sending personalized cards, to ones that go out at Thanksgiving or New Year’s, the answer was a resounding “YES!”  Again, I’m fully in support.  We should always extend our appreciation to those who have helped along the way.

Each year around this time, I feel lucky as I start compiling a list of customers, clients, network contacts, and colleagues who have been instrumental to my success over the past year.  Just prior to the Christmas holiday, I’ll send out cards (both traditional, non-secular printed cards or an email card (see my post on a great resource) wishing this group, “Season’s Greetings” and a reminder of how much their help, their business or general goodwill to me during the year has meant.  This list truly reminds me of how blessed I’ve been.  *NOTE: I don’t see these cards as taking the place of the acknowledgement I would have sent at the time of the action/assistance.

Thanksgiving TY Note

There were many takes on the timing of these cards. Some proposed the Thanksgiving holiday time – which I agree, is right in line with the holiday’s meaning as we think about it today. Others expounded on the “Christmas” card time frame, still others a New Year’s timing.

While I personally aim for Christmas, I thought the New Year’s group had a point. Perhaps if I delayed my delivery slight, my card could provide more impact. My card/message would be seen/read and break through the clutter. However, I did disagree with the strategy some who’s goal was to send these notes to increase business.  I send my holiday cards as a message of appreciation and thanks.  I’d like to think that no matter my timing, that the sentiment (and yes I do include a personalized 1-2 sentence thank you on each and every card I send) would be received/appreciated no matter when it reaches my recipients mail/in box.

 

 

What you do you think?
Does your business send cards?  Do you personally send notes when someone has helped you or after you’ve completed a project with a client?  Do you see your cards or thank you notes as a way to increase business/used to impact business?  Would you send one regardless of the financial impact they may or may not have? Or is there an impact on your brand or company that you think sending these out may have?


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In Business It’s Always a Great Practice

I wanted to follow up with the 2nd in the 3-part series about Why We Say Thank You, and today I’m focusing on Business Thank you notes. 

I am a big proponent of saying thank you and especially in sending  thank you notes.  I believe that saying thank you is one of the best business practices you can follow.  Thank you notes show that you are professional, you can be humble, they can help set you apart and land that great job you may be after, and they can help build strong, long-lasting relationships with colleagues, customers, prospects and key industry influencers; plus it is expected.

Writing a HW TY Note

When Should We Write Them In Business?

  • After an interview (no matter if it was in-person, on the phone or via Skype)
  • After you have received an endorsement or referral
  • When you have received advice or assistance in your career or on a project (I’d recommend these for those outside of my immediate firm.  Inside the firm a verbal thank you does the trick.)
  • Thanking a customer for their ongoing patronage of your business or services

The Handwritten vs. Typed vs. Email

HANDWRITTEN: This is my absolute top choice with it comes to sending a thank you note.  It shows that you care enough to take the extra time it takes to find a note card or stationary, write the appropriate appreciative sentiments, and put it in the mail.  It will set you apart from many who will quickly jot down an email, because you will be more likely to take more time to think about what you want to express before you write it down than you might in an email. To me this is a win win classy approach.

TYPED I have taken this approach at times where I felt the audience would be more receptive to a more formal approach. (e.g., financial institutions and clients often responded more favorably to the typed note or thank you.)  I’ve also used this version when I felt I needed more space to clarify a point in greater detail than might fit on a 4×6 thank you note.  (I’ll still keep it fairly brief and to the point  — I’ll address some times momentarily –, but it might be more straight-forward, and actually can look shorter if you take this approach.

EMAIL:   I may sound old-fashioned, but I do not believe in emailing a thank you note, especially after a job interview.  I know that some believe that emailing shows that you are technically savvy and aware of today’s electronic practices and in some cases, immediacy of the send is critical.  However, this method most often leaves me with the feeling that there was not a lot of thought that went into sending it, or that I couldn’t be bothered to write or type something and then put it in the mail.

If you absolutely feel that your handwriting is so poor that you message would be indistinguishable or if you’re applying to a company that expressed a dislike for all things paper – then email.  BUT… in no uncertain terms, take a casual approach to the message, (e.g., use slang, use a tone that expresses too much familiarity (if he/she is someone you haven’t known/done business with before.)  You should also never send a mass email or copy and paste the same body message to each of the recipients.  Each messages should be sent to one individual and personalized in the body copy based on the situation and discussion that took place.  They will compare your notes – I can guarantee that!

If you must send a note electronically, consider using an electronic card service like Puchbowl, or Hallmark (you can read more about these sites in my “An Electronic Thank You that even I Can Love” post.

Why Should I write One (Beyond the Above Reasons) aka What are the Potential Benefits?
Here are 3 Great Reasons:

  1. It makes a lasting impression, long after you’ve verbally said thank at the time of the interview, assistance or business interaction.
  2. It can help you build a solid business relationship with colleagues, customers and make a positive impression on prospects, that  extends long after he/she has received the note.
  3. It can set you apart from another candidate if: he/she did not send one, or you both are equally matched and you expressed a point you forgot to mention in the interview.  I can also show your attention-to-detail, especially if you hand write your note, and the other candidate sends a quick impersonal email.
DID YOU KNOW?
Thank you notes are expected by most hiring managers and recruiters.  According to a CareerBuilder.com survey…

Stats

Helpful Tips for Successful Thank You Notes

While I can’t write it for you, nor go into too much detail here in the post, I have assembled some personal tips I like to use and a few I’ve found that were widely accepted and expressed in the articles/blogs/etiquette sites I’ve come across:

  • Send within 24 hours of the event that prompts the thank you.
  • Use a nice store-bought thank you card (not greeting card ) or personal stationary. Crane & Co. and Hallmark make some great boxed cards you can and should keep on hand.
  • Add a “header” If you are typing the note – include your address at the top before the recipients and be sure include the date.
  • Always address the recipient as “Dear Mr. or Mrs. and their last name.  The exceptions, unless you’ve been given verbal approval to call them by their first name – you can never go wrong by being a little more formal here.  It’s also often OK to use a first name after “Dear” if you already know them/have worked with them for some time.
  • Refer to why you are writing to him/her – thank him/her for their time, the interview, the assistance etc.Thank you note
  • Keep the note as brief as possible, but be sure to add a comment, statistic or topic that you discussed. This can help set you apart and/or quickly remind the recipient who you are if they met several candidates over a long interview process. (e.g., you both love a trendy vacation spot, but shared a love for a lesser-known restaurant there… add it.)
  • Include a point you wanted to clarify if you think it could have been misinterpreted, or one that you wanted to expand on.  Keep it brief and better yet, bullet it if you can.  Using bullets can also quickly draw the eye of the recipient for these key points you want to ensure he/she sees.
  • Keep the tone professional, but add a little of your personality and don’t rehash everything that was discussed.
  • Thank them again for their time, assistance etc. before closing the letter.
  • Be sure to let hem know you’d like to keep in touch/see them again.  It shows you enjoyed and benefited from the time you spent together or the help/advice you received.
  • Enclose a business card, or contact information.  If you didn’t hand him/her a business before you left, you can do that now, or minimally include a way for them to contact you again.
  • Sign the note with “Sincerely”, or an “All the best”/”Best Regards” – Use something that is a little formal followed by your full name NEVER sign these with “Love.” Remember these are business notes, not personal ones.

I hope this gets you on your way to writing successful and frequent thank you notes. Remember you can never go wrong in thanking someone.  It can set you apart and can go a long way in bring you much success.

Do you use these same or similar tips?  Have you ever benefited from sending a thank you note?  Are there other instances you think require a thank you note?


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What Will You Do? How will you make a Difference?

No-act-of-kindness QuoteThis week is Random Acts of Kindness Week, (2/11 – 2/15). It’s a week dedicated devoted to doing unexpected things to cheer or assist people. And did you know? The concept is not as old as you may think. Credit for the idea has been attributed to Anne Herbert who scrawled, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat in 1982.

While I do try to do little things for others on occasion, some on the sly, like leaving a “thank you” note for a co-worker after they have stepped away from their desk, I love that this concept has a week dedicated to celebrating it.

 

Participating is easy and if low on funds, it really doesn’t have to cost a thing

Here are some ideas:

  • Be thoughtful – Is a friend having a tough day? Make a handmade flower or card and give it to her/him.
  • Donate your time/talents – Is there a group that could benefit from your skills or elbow grease?
  • Say Thank you – (Of course a favorite of mine) From your co-worker, to your boss, to the mailman, to the plow driver who helped get you on the road after a storm/blizzard, everyone deserves a thank you at some point.
  • Send a friend a letter/card – Let them know that they were thought of today.
  • Write a thank you note to someone who has inspired you, or helped you out – (Again another favorite of mine) Think of how much of an unexpected, but pleasant a surprise this would be. Plus they’ll notice the effort you took to hand-write it.
  • Call your family, a friend or significant other and tell them that you love them.
  • Say hello and give a smile to a stranger – Your bright attitude may just turn their day around if they are having a bad day.
  • Already shoveling snow – (I know we are in the Northeast) take a moment to shovel or clear off your neighbors’ car/space.
  • Take on a chore or task that a teammate or significant other has been meaning to do but just can’t seem to find the time to do.
  • Share a list of local tips and key stores to someone who is new to your complex or neighborhood.
  • Do nice things and don’t tell anyone about it – Ironically this can seem hard. HOWEVER…the effort tends to be more powerful and you are more humble for taking this approach.

 

Again these are just some ideas, the options are endless

Using the internet you can of course find other ideas for things to do. I particularly like this list from another blogger at And Then We Saved.  Another, more notable idea was the one most recently proposed by Anne Curry after the Newtown, CT massacre. It was the “26 Acts of Kindness,” challenge that went viral on Facebook. The number 26 represented completing one act of kindness for each child and adult that was lost that day.

 

You can also find companies and organizations promoting this concept and week

You can visit the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation that works to inspire people to practice kindness and pass it on.  I also found an article from a mall property owner who is running a promotion to celebrate the week – perhaps there is a participating mall near you?

 

 

Every day

I don’t think that random acts of kindness should only be performed only during this one week in the year. Think of what a kinder, happier place we could have if everyone was friendlier, more gracious, more encouraging and showed their appreciation on a daily basis. Giving, seems to open up something inside of us that allows us to receive more and to give more. It creates a positive and reciprocal cycle. You’d be amazed at what you might receive simply by giving/doing nice things for others.

Why not take the first step and do something nice for your neighbor like picking up their newspaper from the curb and dropping it on their doorstep, or inserting a “good luck” note in your child’s lunch, or tell your significant other how much their recent help for you meant in a hand-written note.  You’ll probably make their day.

 

I’d love to hear what ideas you come up with this week to assist and cheer people — please know that you don’ t have to share the ones you’re planning to keep secret!  And pass this along! Be the one to start a positive ripple effect.

Uh Oh!  I need to run… my co-worker just left her desk and I want to drop off a “thank you” note!


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An Electronic Thank You Note Even I Can Love

As someone who appreciates the hand-written thank you note, I sometimes feel left behind as more and more people use their computers and phones for their primary communication.  However, I understand the need to be flexible and adapt where necessary, especially when the only contact option I have is an email.  It was on this track that I went in search of an impactful thank you note that had the following criteria: it was email friendly, free was ideal, and something similar to what I would send in the mail — icing on the cake.  I found everything I wanted at Punchbowl* and just had to share it with you.

I located this site several months ago when more and more of the traditional card companies’ sites were starting to require paid subscriptions to send electronic cards, and honestly, I didn’t think that the options were really all that great.  Unlike the flat static or whimsical cartoon animation I found on sites like Hallmark or American Greetings, Punchbowl offers a classic square card image encased in a color-coordinated envelope complete with postage stamp. The bonus in this case, clever animation that mimics the actions you would take when you open a snail-mail card.

Here’s a sample of how it works: 

In addition to thank you notes, the site offers greetings for birthdays, “just because” cards, ones for standard holidays like: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Rosh Hashanah, Father’s and Mother’s Day, as well as non-traditional ones like: April Fool’s Day, Earth Day, and even Talk Like a Pirate Day (that’s on 9/19 in case you were wondering) and more.

                                       

Need an email reminder for your special dates, a party theme idea, help with planning a party or party supplies?  Punchbowl has you covered here as well.

*Note:  You can opt-in to a paid subscription to have great editing capabilities and more card choices, but to date my needs have been met by the wide variety of free options available on the site.  (So many more than those I’d found on the traditional greeting card websites.  While I expect to see an increase in interest/use of Punchbowl, I hope they’ll continue to offer the quality and large variety of free options.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

12/1/2014 UPDATE – PLEASE READ:

I was dismayed to find when I visited the site today that Punchbowl has joined the ranks of commerce and now charges and limits what you can do there with a free/basic “membership.”  A very sad development.

I was working on my holiday cards, and finished my first, only to find that I COULD NOT
1. Schedule a Later Date. (You must email same day).
2. I could No Longer send more than 10 cards in the same month. (I can send up to 50 – if I pay $39!!!)
While I loved these cards and the site, it looks like I’ll now only use them sparingly. My free option will allow me to send 10 basic cards, but I don’t have the volume need of 50/month that would justify a monthly $29 fee.

Not to fear, I’m looking for other options and will share them with you.  Hopeful I’ll find an even better option.

However this option, FOR NOW, will work well if you just want to send that 1-10 cards the same day.

Have you found other sites like Punchbowl that pack a punch when it comes to
electronic greetings?
Would you prefer a hand-written note or one sent electronically (like these),
or a simple text email?


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Finally a News Site that Promotes Good News

Today while I was doing some research for a future blog post, I came across a great “new” site, The Huffington Post’s Good News page.  Launched on January 12th, it’s touted as a “hub for all things happy, positive, and inspiring.”  Wow!!!  Finally a news organization that sees the benefit in featuring things that are positive in our world.  This is my kind of site.  Definitely mark this site as a favorite, so that you can see first hand that good things happen each and every day.

It Ties In
Ironically or perhaps fortuitously, today’s post featured 11 thank you notes from famous people.  (As I said, this is my kind of site!)  So in lieu of posting the article I’d planned for today, I wanted to immediately share this web address and their post of wonderful thank you notes.  Keep in mind, these notes weren’t just great because of their author, many captured the true essence of what sending a letter of appreciation is all about.

All Were Worth a Read, But Be Sure to Check Out…
Audrey Hepburn’s thank you to Henry Mancini, the composer of Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  She was able to recognize the true teamwork it took to create this memorable film.  (By the way, Mancini won Best Original Score at the 1962 Academy Awards for this work.)

I also especially liked Neil Armstrong’s show of gratitude to the team that developed and built the spacesuit that kept him safe while he took those first steps on the moon.  Even though it was sent 25 years after the fact, it proves that it’s really never too late to say thank you to those who have made a difference in your life.

Is there a thank you note that you’ve delayed getting out?  Why not take a few minutes today to write it and send it out.  (Although I wouldn’t recommend using the form-letter format that Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosts of Laugh-In, used to thank their recent guests, which included John Wayne (featured here).