Many may think business stationery is an antiquated idea. “Who needs business stationery these days?” you might ask. “I have a computer and a smartphone, and I do most of my communication via email, text, or social media.” Yes, electronic communication is the best way to get quick, instant answers to important questions that you need addressed immediately in order to be fabulous at your job. But electronic communication cannot always convey the warmth and feel of paper communication. Take a moment and look at why you really do need well created business stationery.
Business stationery is important for both formal and informal introductions, letter writing, and marketing. It has a history, a lineage that has communicated official and unofficial correspondence for centuries. Whether the early, playing-card-sized business card that preceded a businessman or aristocrat in the late 15th century, the parchment documents that recorded legal decrees, or the calling cards central to elegant society of the Victorian age, formal stationery has been an integral part of business and social settings for hundreds of years.
So this is all nice and dandy, but what does that have to do with the use of business stationery in today’s digital world? Long gone are the days of receiving daily correspondence on elegant letterhead, or the thick letterpress business cards that contained all the information needed for correspondence. Very few and far between are the hand-written “Thank you” or “Thinking of you” notes that can only come from a warm, living person. Instead, we use smiley or sad faces to communicate our likes and dislikes at the end of fragmented sentences. We send e-cards and computer-generated, ink-jetted greeting cards. “Letterhead” is printed on flimsy, bright white computer paper, coupled with a bland envelope. All these items are cold and impersonal—even if the sentiment typed comes with deep sincerity.
Business stationery helps convey that you are an established professional, and when used correctly can be an effective marketing tool. It keeps the warm human connection that we want to create with our clients and vendors. A well-executed suite of business stationery communicates confidence, experience, and a professional image. Your suite should at minimum consist of business cards, letterhead, and note cards for hand-written correspondence.
Oh, the dreaded first impression: You meet a new client or vendor, and you whip out your business card. It’s a standard business card—maybe you ordered it from the “ginormous online printer,” or maybe a local print shop, or even created it on your home inkjet. What are you handing them? Did you take the time to really think about the impression created by a business card? If you did have them printed at the ginormous online printer, did you order the free ones, the ones with the printer’s advertising tagline on the back? If so, you’re not just advertising your business, but also the ginormous online printer. What does that say about your business and you? Or, even worse, you exchange your card with an industry partner, and discover you both used the same graphics package from the ginormous online printing company. That’s worse than both of you wearing the same dress at the Esprit Awards!
First impressions are precious, and you only get one chance to make a good one. Your business cards, your letterhead, and your note cards can be effective tools to help you make that positive first impression. Quality business stationery does not have to break the bank to make a statement, either. Your business card can be professional and elegant with attention to two key elements: paper and style. Paper is tactile, and heavier paper imparts luxury and professionalism. Texture or raised lettering help the receiver remember you and your card. Color and creativity can also make an impact, but you walk a fine line here—a poor choice of colors can be off-putting, and die-cut or odd-sized cards can put you in the “shove anywhere” or “throw away” pile. A business card should fit comfortably within a gentleman’s wallet or a lady’s inner purse pocket or business-card holder. In my experience, the best impression (and the biggest bang for your buck) is a single-color, simple business card with your name, company name, and contact information on heavy card stock. If your budget allows, raised engraved lettering, letterpress, or a UV coating can communicate volumes. Just check out your ginormous online printer: They have now started carrying those options, and their newer designs are clean and simple, with many in a single color.
Now you’ve made that great first impression with your client or vendor—how do you follow up? You might say you’ll send a quick, short email or social-media message to keep your company fresh in their minds. But we are bombarded every day with so much digital media; how long do you think you and your email message stay in the forefront of that data-drowned world of theirs? Not long, unfortunately. This is where your professional letterhead and note cards come into play. You need to write a letter; a tangible, solid letter. And I don’t mean simply print out a letter on copy paper with your laser printer. I mean open your box of custom stationery; thick, cotton-rag paper with your company’s name and logo printed with quality inks, raised, with a watermark. Then hand-write that follow-up letter to that prospective client or vendor.
I can hear it now: “But Miss Jessica! My handwriting is terrible, and that handwriting font on my computer is kind of cool…” Yes, I know all about poor penmanship, and I know all about that handwriting font. I’m here to tell you that no one is fooling anyone with that font. Poor penmanship can be improved with practice if you take the time to slow down and just write. You could also ask someone in your office who has better penmanship to write it. Or, if you are going to use your letterhead and note cards as marketing tools, I suggest you employ the services a local calligrapher to elegantly write the notes and envelopes for you. Most professional calligraphers are skilled at a social hand script that will be both beautiful and memorable to your correspondents, and they are often quite reasonably priced for repeat customers. Still, if you can, I advocate handwriting your note cards yourself, especially if you’re sending out several a week. The note doesn’t need to be a dissertation on the merits of Company A over Company B. It can be just a few lines that simply say, “Hey, I enjoyed our chat, let’s grab a coffee. I’ll call you in a few days. Sincerely, Me.”
When that handwritten envelope is received by your prospective client or vendor in the mail, it will likely be the first letter they open. We’ve learned over the years that good things usually come in handwritten envelopes—birthday cards, thank you notes, love letters are all handwritten treasures. Handwritten envelopes catch the eye, and handwritten letters are personable and warm; far more memorable than a cold, impersonal email message. Your prospect will be more likely to keep that note at the top of the stack, and more likely take the time to speak with you because you took the time to write a note just for them. You and your business can stand out from the crowd when you take that time to add a personal touch: that beautiful letter on your elegant business stationery.
This post about calligraphy services in the Triangle NC is brought to you by The Oblique Pen in Cary NC!
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