How to Write Thank You’s That Create Raving Fans

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A note from Deanne: I’m delighted to have my friend and colleague Dawn Mena contribute her brilliance and guidance in a guest post, just in time for writing those seasonal thank-you notes and client letters. Be sure to read all the way to the end to get your free gift from Dawn–a valuable resource that makes writing thank you notes easy and FUN.

When it comes to building a company on the principles of gratitude and positivity, nothing is as easy or as powerful as taking the time to say “thank you.” Surprisingly, a good bit of gratitude goes a long with toward more than just making someone’s day, it can also be the spark that ignites business growth by creating raving fans who appreciate you right back – and keep coming back for more.

According to social media expert and author of the book “The Thank You Economy,” Gary Vaynerchuk once said that we need to treat each customer as though he or she were the most important customer in the world. I couldn’t agree more. And I’d add beyond customer people like mentors, colleagues, vendors, joint venture partners, newsletters subscribers, baristas, and anyone else who affects your day, your life, and your business. Since Day 1 of running my own business, I’ve made it a practice to send a variety of Thank You’s to people who make a positive impression in my life. Customers – yes. But also all the other people I’ve just mentioned and more.

How can you harness the power of appreciation? It all starts with what you say (or write) when you take the time to thank someone. And the format, or place, you send your thanks you. Cards are great, I love ‘em, but a surprise thank you in a different format can have as much impact as well.

Here are 5 unique ways you can thank those special people in your life, and a little help for brainstorming the perfect content to spread those warm, happy feelings during this season, and all year round.

#1 The Top Fan Thank You

Make a list of your Top Fans. You know, the ones that have been with you from Day 1. They’ve cheered you on, participated in your programs, given you valuable and honest feedback and support. They are the bee’s knees. Send them a personal email. And with that email, a special gift, something that took a little time or effort and they would really appreciate. As an example, I recently sent a “love” letter to one of my biggest fans. And as I knew she was starting an online business of her own, and using social media, I took some time to select something awesome she said in her online content and create a unique graphic image that featured her quote, name and website. All of this was done in less than 30 minutes (both email writing and image creation). And I used Canva to get the job done for free. (check out my user guide for Canva, it rocks!)

#2 The Unexpected Thank You

Thank someone who won’t expect it. Out of the blue. For no specific reason. Use email, or do it publicly using social media. Keep it simple, sweet, and include a silly token such as a cute photo, quote, or link to a happy, inspirational video. Put a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

#3 The Pre-Thank You

Thank new fans or followers BEFORE they buy or sign up. When a new potential customer first signs up for your newsletter list, follows you on social media, or sends you a simple inquiry, NOW is the time to let them know how grateful you are. Where’s the best place to do this? A “welcome” email. I see so many people use template messages in these that are super boring and robot-like. Take the opportunity to make strong first impression by using their first name in the greeting, telling them how grateful you are that they took a chance on you, and then send them a little hank you gift such as access to something secret, a download, a tip about a cool free graphic design site, etc. Or offer a free phone call, invite to your next gathering, or whatever else you think they would appreciate.

#4 The Old School Thank You

There’s nothing quite like a handwritten letter. Think about your best clients of all time, mentors such as business or life coaches, colleagues that cheer you on, or your biggest fans on social media. Take a minute to find out their snail mail address and send them a hand-written note. WRITING TIP: Be specific about what you’re thanking them for. Not just “thanks for helping” but “thanks for taking the time to sit down over PSL’s and brainstorm out what I needed to add to my new program. Oh, and the scone was great too!” Make them personal, original and to-the-point and you’ll really make their day.

#5 The Secret Handshake Thank You

Next time you attend a business networking meeting or any other live event, take the opportunity to sneak a thank you gift or card to someone who deserves it. Maybe it’s the leader of a networking group that has transformed your business. Or a women who took the time to make you feel comfortable at your first meeting. Someone who sent a lucrative referral your way.  A mentor, an inspiration, or maybe they just made you laugh. Write up a card, include a small gift such as a gift card, invitation, sticker, candy, etc. Slide it into their bag so they find it later. Smoothly hand it to them as you’re leaving the event. Make it low-key so they don’t feel on-the-spot or obligated – just appreciated.

If you struggle with what to write, I’ve rounded up some writing prompts for everything from fun to professional to heartfelt thank you’s that will spark your imagination and help you get started. Just click the graphic below to check it out and get started.

Bottom line, gratitude is super valuable in itself just for the joy it brings to everyone involved. But it can also help you to create a strong and growing business by creating unbreakable bonds between you and your audience – and inspiring them to return to you again and again because you make them feel special. And really isn’t that what we all want?

About the Author: Dawn Mena works with people who struggle with what to write for their blogs, newsletters, and anything to do with their business. She shows them how to get the results they are looking for by applying simple strategy principles, along with a lot of personality, to inspire audiences and keeps them coming back for more. Learn more at www.dawnmena.com.

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5 Ways Gratitude Brings Balance and Grace to Your Life

If you’ve ever told yourself anything like, “I need to exercise more” or “I wish I could stop the negative chatter in my head” but you’ve never quite accomplished either, have I got a smart and simple solution for you! Gratitude.

Yep, scientists have proven that gratitude can have measurable effects on our overall wellbeing and very specific benefits to our physical and mental health.

This is the perfect time to start (or refresh) a habit of gratitude: a daily practice of words and deeds that generate a sense of goodness our lives. With Thanksgiving Day just a couple of weeks away, giving thanks is naturally on our minds. But more than that, the holiday season is for many of us a stressful, non-stop time, while others may experience bouts of seasonal depression or anxiety.

Gratitude to the rescue!

Research proves that professing and feeling gratitude improves one’s emotional state, life experiences, health and relationships. The word comes from the Latin gratia (grace, favor, goodwill). So practicing gratitude literally brings grace into our lives. It helps us connect to something outside of ourselves—whether it’s other people, nature, or a higher power.

Without going all science-y on you, here are five surprising benefits that gratitude brings to your life and your health.

 1. Grateful people exercise more, have fewer aches and pains and generally feel healthier than other people.

In a study by noted gratitude expert Dr. Robert A. Emmons, participants were asked to write just a few sentences a week about things they were grateful for. Another group wrote about things that annoyed or irritated them, and a third group wrote about events in their life (not specifically positive or negative). Participants that focused on gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives compared to the group that focused on irritations.

 2. Practicing gratitude can decrease a range of negative feelings, from regret and resentment to envy and frustration.

 3. You’ll sleep better. Spending just 15 minutes a night before bedtime writing in a gratitude journal was shown to improve sleep in a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. It makes sense if that’s the last thing your brain is thinking about, instead of a news program of the latest doomsday headlines, sports, or a movie.

 4. Gratitude can reduce aggression and increases empathy and compassion, according to a study by the University of Kentucky in 2012. Those who ranked higher on gratitude scales exhibited greater sensitivity and empathy toward others, even when given negative feedback, as well as a reduced desire to seek revenge.

 5. Gratitude can actually boost your immune system! By promoting feelings of optimism, being thankful stimulates the production of red blood cells which in turns boosts our immunity to disease.

All of these benefits are great, but like any practice the question is, how do you start and more importantly, stick with it? The good news is, there are a lot of simple and practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life and routine. What’s important is the intention to feel gratitude for someone or something, and to express it in some way.

One of the easiest ways is to cultivate a habit of writing a thank-you note a week to someone who has done you a good turn or provided a great service. My friend Dawn Mena has five ways to write thank you’s that will create raving fans. What a great start!

For more ways to experience the everyday grace of gratitude, I’ve put together 20 simple ways to practice gratitude. It’s surprisingly easy to make thankfulness a part of your daily life and routine and reap all those benefits!

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Why not just try and see what happens when you experience and express gratitude? What have you got to lose?

I’d love to hear your results and what effects you see in your life and wellbeing with a gratitude practice. Share your experiences on the Facebook page—and thank you in advance!

Featured image (c) 2013 Shay Cochrane

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Create a Thanksgiving Cocktail

One of the secrets of effortless hostessing is to create a signature cocktail for your party. This reduces the amount of mixers and liquor that you have to purchase, helps reinforce a party’s theme, and makes it easier to mix and serve beverages.

This cocktail combines the flavors of fall in a rich and creamy, slightly spicy concoction. I call it the “Chai Thanks-a-Latte.” Get it??

 

Chai Thanks-a-Latte Chai Cocktail

1 c. Chai Cream Liqueur
1/2 c. vanilla vodka
1/2 c. half and half, cream, or milk
Cinnamon sugar (optional)

 

Combine the liquid ingredients over ice in a large cocktail shaker and shake well to blend. (Alternatively, mix the cocktail in a pitcher and shake/strain individual servings as needed.) Strain into martini glasses rimmed with cinnamon sugar if desired. Serves 4.

Note: This recipe may be easily converted to single servings; simply use a 2:1:1 shot ratio for the ingredients. So, for every 2 shots of Chai Cream Liquer, for example, use 1 shot of vodka and 1 shot of cream.

To make cinnamon sugar, combine ½ c. granulated sugar with 1 T. cinnamon. Spread a layer of sugar on a saucer or luncheon plate. Rub the rim of a martini glass with a lemon peel, an apple wedge or dip in water. Immediately coat the rim with the sugar.

Any leftover cinnamon sugar may be stored in an airtight container and used in tea, on cereal and grapefruit, or broiled on toast.

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Entertaining Essentials: The Pantry

Snack bar

Keep hungry holiday guests happy by giving them something to nibble on while you finish dinner or set out heartier snacks. Create a “snack bar” on the kitchen counter or coffee table. Arrange a variety of covered candy jars and vintage nut and candy dishes on a tray.

With the holiday season drawing near, I’m continuing my series of posts on entertaining essentials: those indispensable items that every home entertainer needs to make any gathering look and feel effortless. Previous entries in this series include setting up the essential bar and essential utensils for the home chef.

Today it’s time for the goodies! Whether you plan to bake up a storm or you have unplanned visitors arrive for a quick holiday chat, keeping these items on hand will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends, and less time running to the market or searching the cupboards at the last minute.

For baking:

Tips: Keep nuts in a zipper bag in the freezer; they’ll keep longer. Keep baking supplies together on a shelf or in a basket or bin, so everything is in one place when you’re ready to bake.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Brown sugar (light)
  • Light corn syrup
  • Evaporated milk
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Baking (bittersweet) chocolate bars
  • Semisweet chocolate morsels
  • White chocolate morsels
  • Vanilla extract
  • Honey
  • Pecans (unsalted)
  • Walnuts (unsalted)
  • Pumpkin
  • Fruit pie filling
  • Refrigerated pie crusts
  • Butter or margarine
  • Eggs

For impromptu entertaining:

  • Salted or seasoned nuts (pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios)
  • Snack mix
  • Water crackers
  • Flavored crackers
  • Cheese straws
  • Assorted olives
  • Tapenade or other spreads
  • Smoked salmon
  • Imported butter cookies
  • One box of assorted frozen puff pastry appetizers
  • Cheeses
  • One or two bottles of wine

 

With a selection of these items in your pantry, freezer and fridge, you will be on your way to less stressed holidays. Check what you already have on hand, and add any remaining items to your shop-ping list. Make sure to replenish items as you use them over the season.

For more entertaining essential ideas and tips, follow my board on Pinterest here.

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10 Fall-Inspired Vase Fillers

River rock vase

Smooth river rocks anchor three simple stems for an easy autumn look, shown here at Parcel 104 at the Santa Clara Marriott Hotel.

Vase fillers have become very popular with nearly every home décor retail establishment and craft store offering a multitude of options beyond glass pebbles. Far from merely taking up space in a vase, vase fillers have multiple uses and can accent candlescapes, be scattered on a holiday table, mounded in low bowls for a coffee table centerpiece, gathered in clear containers … the list goes on. (This Halloween I’m using small, sparkly, lime green balls that are marketed as vase fillers for the bubbly brew in a witch’s cauldron.)

Of course, with nearly everything that rises in popularity, the price also rises. One of my favorite stores has an average price of $20 for fillers! I love to decorate with vase fillers seasonally, so it can be a substantial added expense to the holiday decorating budget, unless I can find low cost, yet appealing, alternatives.

And over the years I’ve done just that. So here are my top 10 stylish and affordable fall-inspired vase fillers. Most of them are either found in your yard for free, or may be picked up on your next trip to the supermarket. Any one may be used on its own, or combine them for interesting layers. Find a couple of branches from the trees in your yard and voila! An instant fall accessory.

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1. Bird Seed ($5 to $10 for 10 pounds) I love using bird seed in my fall arrangements. It displaces easily, so pushing a candle into the filler or arranging large stems is a breeze. Look for a seed blend with all the colors of fall.

2. Pinecones (Free to $5/bag) Your yard can be the source of wonderful home accessories for the fall. I’ve collected basketfuls of pinecones from having just one tree in my front yard. Pinecones are relatively easy to paint, especially if they’re still closed, so they can take on a black hue for Halloween or red, gold, or silver for the holidays.

Layer Spanish moss, faux leaves and twigs for a rustic fall look.

Layer Spanish moss, faux leaves and twigs for a rustic fall look.

3. Fall leaves (real or faux) (Free to about $10 for 120 leaves) Real leaves can be brittle and break easily, while a good quality faux leaf will last for years. Sprinkle them in as the top layer of your vase arrangement, tuck them into a basket of pinecones, or scatter them on the Thanksgiving table.

4. Candy corn (about $2 for 1 pound bag) – The classic Halloween candy looks great with candles or spooky branches.

5. River rocks ($3 for 28 oz., Cost Plus World Market) – Rather than scooping rocks from your landscaping, opt for clean, smooth river rock as an alternative to glass pebble. They compliment any fall arrangement and make a good, study base for botanical stems. Great when layered with other materials.

6. Tree bark (Free) Take to your yard and collect any naturally exfoliated bark. Allow it to dry completely in the garage or mud room and dust off any critters or dirt before adding it to your arrangements. Lightweight and textured, it fills space and adds rustic charm.

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Display seed pods, pine cones and leaves in clear vessels for an instant fall display.

7. Seed pods (Free) If you’re lucky enough to have a tree that drops interesting looking seed pods, use them! Be careful, though – some pods can burst open and deliver their contents unexpectedly if crushed.

8. Twigs (Free) See how much your yard can yield? After every storm or windy day, it seems like there are a ton of little twigs blown from their branches. I experimented with twigs a couple of years ago and was more than satisfied with the look. They can be spooky for Halloween or rustic for Thanksgiving.

9. Spanish moss (About $3 a bag at craft and home improvement stores) This gives great texture and a different look than the other filler ideas. Great for layering!

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Dry beans are a colorful and inexpensive way to add texture to vase displays and candlescapes.

10. Dry beans ($1 to $3 per pound) The range of colors available in the dry bean section of the supermarket is astonishing, from green to burgundy. I find the best selection at Fresh and Easy markets. Layer them in a tall cylinder and pop in a few branches of bittersweet for an arrangement to take you from September all the way through to Thanksgiving.

So much color, so much texture … I hope you’ll try using vase fillers in your décor this year!

Note: As many of these options are flammable, if you’re using a vase filler in a candlescape, be sure to keep the flammable material away from the flame. A clear candle sleeve works very well. ($12 to $16, www.williams-sonoma.com)

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9 Things to Do Ahead of Thanksgiving

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There are times when you know you are going to be busy and stressed. You know it. You can see it coming. It’s happened before. And at those times, it’s prudent to look at the situation and ask, “What can I do to prepare, to minimize stress?”

And so it is with Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re hosting dinner and have decided to make most of the dishes yourself, then you’re going to be busy—really busy—on Thursday. Fortunately, many tasks associated with Thanksgiving dinner can be done ahead of time on either the Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, helping to ease the pressure on Thursday. Here are 9 things you can do today to get started on your Thanksgiving meal.

1. Thaw the turkey. If you’ll be roasting a frozen bird, be sure to allow plenty of time to properly thaw it. The folks at Butterball recommend at least one day for every four  pounds for the preferred refrigerator thawing method, or at least 30 minutes per pound if you’ll be using a cold water thawing method. For more tips, visit www.butterball.com.

© Kasia Bialasiewicz – Fotolia.com

2. Chop veggies.One of the most time consuming tasks in cooking any meal is prepping the ingredients. The French call it “mise en place” – having all the ingredients measured and ready to go before starting the recipe. If you’re making stuffing and mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, you can put mise en place in place in your kitchen by dicing the onion and celery (and apple, if you use it) for the stuffing and placing them in airtight containers or zippered plastic bags. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. (Add a tablet of vitamin C to the apples to help retard browning.) The same goes for potatoes; simply peel, dice and place in a bowl filled with ice water (so they don’t turn pink). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. and keep it refrigerated.

3. Break bread. Tearing up a loaf or two of bread was one of my tasks as a child on Thanksgiving morning. But, this is one task than may be done up to two days in advance; slightly stale bread works better for stuffing anyway. Keep the bread chunks right in the mixing bowl you’ll use to mix up the stuffing, cover with plastic wrap and keep it on the countertop.

4. Make cranberry sauce.I swear by homemade cranberry sauce! It’s so easy, and once you make it you’ll never go back to the canned variety—at least not for holidays. Lucky for busy Thanksgiving cooks, this is one dish that gets better with a little age on it, so make it now to enjoy on Thanksgiving. Use the recipe right on the package of fresh cranberries; I add some cinnamon, orange juice and zest, and maybe even a splash of Grand Marnier.

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5. Bake pies. Because your oven will get a workout on Thanksgiving Day, bake pies at least one day in advance. According to the USDA, anything made with milk or eggs—such as pumpkin pie—must be refrigerated to help stall the formation of bacteria. Cool the pies on a wire rack, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. For more holiday food safety tips, visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

6. Select serving dishes and utensils. Assess your menu as well as your supply of serving dishes and utensils and choose an appropriate dish for each menu item and set them side. It’s also a good idea to put a sticky note in each dish indicating what goes where. If you’re serving buffet style, arrange the dishes on the buffet table, to ensure adequate space and flow.

7. Set the table. Here is another time-consuming task that can take precious focus away from the kitchen and your guests on Thanksgiving Day. Set the table completely—linens, place settings, cutlery, centerpiece, candles—on Wednesday evening.

  8. Set up the bar area. If you’re having more than a few people over, it’s a good idea to dedicate an area for beverages. It could be a countertop in the kitchen, a sideboard in the dining room, or even a card table set up in the family room. Pick a spot and set out glassware appropriate for the beverages you’ll be offering your guests. If you’re serving wine, set out the red wine and a corkscrew, as well as a bucket to keep the white wine cold.

  9. Make dips and spreads for hors d’oeuvres. My mom’s entertaining advice rings true to this day: if your guests have something to sip and something to nibble, they’ll happily wait for dinner. Once the bar is set up, mix up an easy dip (like the old standby onion soup mix dip) or a tasty spread like a garlicky, salty olive tapenade. When guests arrive, set out the dip/spread with some raw vegetables with cheeses and crackers.

For an hour-by-hour breakdown of Thanksgiving Day cooking tasks, download the Thanksgiving Countdown.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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