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Ambition and good handwriting – a winning combination for business growth

The only prize I ever won at school was for penmanship. My normal handwriting was pretty good at the time but I think the reason I won the gong was for my calligraphy.

I had old tobacco tins full of nibs, bottles of different coloured inks and well-thumbed books that showed you how to form words using italic, gothic and even copperplate letters. I spent hours practising them all.

I was particularly keen on gothic lettering, although it was a love my history teacher didn’t share. When I was 11 or 12, he was somewhat startled to find my homework on Henry VIII was written in an emerald green, Germanic-influenced script. We agreed I’d stick to my normal handwriting after that.

Fast forward just over 30 years and as long as I’m using a fountain pen, I’m glad to say my handwriting is still pretty good. It has also made me money: in the past I’ve sent handwritten letters to potential clients, which have won me business. In these days of endless emails, the personal touch still has the power to make people sit up and take notice.

From handwritten letters to $1 billion

With this in mind, I was fascinated to read today how three young, German businessmen managed to pull in tens of millions of dollars of investment and win a client list of household names – thanks in part to handwritten letters.

In a nutshell, three friends – Alexander Rinke, Martin Klenk and Bastian Nominacher – finished their degrees in 2011 and set up a company called Celonis. Their main offer was software that monitors a business’s computer system, finds out which employees are unproductive, which suppliers take too long to deliver and which processes could be more efficient.

Importantly, the software then suggests solutions which help companies to lower their costs and become more streamlined.

The big problem that Celonis had was to get noticed. So the three friends drew up a hitlist of ideal clients and sent them handwritten letters.

It worked brilliantly. Very quickly they found themselves in the same room as some of the largest European companies, explaining how their software can help. It was enough to convince major players such as BMW, Siemens, Vodafone and Exxon-Mobile, to mention just a few.

What’s more, Celonis not only attracted an extra $50m of investment last year, but the company is now valued at more than a billion dollars.

Aiming high

The company’s success reminded me of how David Ogilvy started up what later became one of the largest advertising agencies in the world. He made a list of the five clients he most wanted: Shell, General Foods, Lever Brothers, Bristol Myers and Campbell’s Soup. In just eleven years he had them all.

As he said: “Every four weeks I’d send personalized mailings to our new business prospects. And I was always amazed to discover how many of our clients had been attracted to Ogilvy and Mather by those mailings. That is how we grew.”

From personal experience, I know that the personal touch of using handwriting can get you noticed. Even if you only hand-write the recipient’s name, your signature and the envelope, you’ve already taken more care than most of the competition.

Now imagine receiving a fully handwritten letter, uniquely composed for you. You’d not only pick it out from the pile, but – if you liked what you read – you’d want to know more about the person who wrote it. Wouldn’t you?

I know I would. And that’s why I’m going to make time to write some letters by hand. If it can win Celonis millions, then there’s no reason why it can’t make me a few thousand!

Business Advice with THP

Here at THP we offer a range of accountancy and business services to help your business grow, to find out more come and visit us at one of our offices in Cheam,  ChelmsfordWanstead, and Saffron Walden or call us at our head office on 020 8989 5147.

Avatar for Ben Locker
About Ben Locker

Ben Locker is a copywriter who specialises in business-to-business marketing, writing about everything from software and accountancy to construction and power tools. He co-founded the Professional Copywriters’ Network, the UK’s association for commercial writers, and is named in Direct Marketing Association research as ‘one of the copywriters who copywriters rate’.

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