I've traveled a fair amount for work, and I've learned to appreciate the little things that make being away from home just a bit easier. Once, when I checked into a hotel, I got this friendly note. It was a nice gesture -- almost. 

The envelope the hotel slid under the door had my name on it, but when I opened it, I found a nice note written to Cedric. Here's the thing: I'm not Cedric. Cedric wasn't staying with me, and I don't think I actually even know anyone named Cedric. Well, actually it wasn't "written" to Cedric. It was printed off on a computer in one of those "handwriting" fonts. 

Which made me think about one of the most underrated yet powerful tools in your relationship toolbox--the handwritten note. I'm a big fan. Well, except when it's a computer-printed pseudo handwritten note to someone else. That's just embarrassing.

But when you do it right, I can't think of many things that have a greater return on your effort than taking five minutes to write a quick note to someone, sticking a stamp on it, and dropping it in the mail. Here are a few tips for writing handwritten notes to clients or customers:

Make it a habit.

That's partly because no one actually does it anymore, which is crazy when you think about it. Everyone loves getting handwritten personal notes.

There's something about the experience of going to the mailbox, sifting through the junk, finding something with your name across the front, and opening it to find a note written with real ink on paper. 

When you get a note that has been written by hand, it communicates that you were important enough for someone to stop what they were doing, sit down at their desk, take out a pen and paper, and write down something meaningful. 

When I was in sales, I made it a point to send a handwritten note to every client that booked, every time someone placed an order, and whenever someone sent a referral.  

I also made it a habit to write three or four handwritten notes every week to existing clients, partners, or other connections. It's a great tool to reinforce the connection you have with your clients, and if you do it right, it can have a huge impact.

Be personal, be authentic, and be brief.

Fortunately, writing a good note isn't that complicated. In fact, following these three rules will help you make a personal impact. Good handwritten notes should be personal to the person you're writing to, not something generic. They should also be authentic, meaning they should fit naturally into the relationship, not something you write just to sell something. Finally, they should be brief. This isn't a love letter, it's a brief note to say thanks, or to congratulate someone on a significant event.

By the way, never, ever include your business card.

Here's the thing, when you include your business card, you basically cancel out every ounce of personal connection since it's now clear that the only thing you were really trying to do is get your information in front of me. 

It's like doing something really nice for someone and making sure they know you were the one that did it. Instead, just sign your name. 

By the way, this isn't just for business relationships. Write a note for your spouse, or partner, or significant other -- it'll be a win every time. My wife is great at this. She'll stick a note in my bag when I'm traveling. It doesn't have to be long, just a quick note, and it's nice because somehow she always manages to get my name right.

And if you really want bonus points, send one to mom.

One last thing. Circle back to the fact that no one sends handwritten notes anymore. That means that when you do, you'll stand out from your competition. You'll be unique, and your customer will appreciate that you took the time to do something no one else could be bothered about.

That's powerful.