Four years ago, I received an email from a woman named Irma, telling me about truLOCAL, a meat distribution start-up she was involved with. As a blogger, I receive my fair share of outreach from companies looking to partner, but this was different. It wasn’t a cookie cutter approach; Irma had spent the time to understand my platform and readership, and reached out with professionalism and warmth. From her very first email, I could tell that she and her colleagues were unique: thoughtful, passionate about their offering, and genuinely grateful for each and every customer and partner.
But over the years, my partnership with the company has become even stronger, and the team members I’ve worked with have become friends. I remember my husband and I had dinner with Irma and Marc (CEO of truLOCAL) during which Marc answered all of my questions about the company. His passion just lit up the room. Irma was one of my biggest supporters when I took the plunge into self-employment, and she and Marc were always incredibly supportive of my blog and efforts.
They are some of the kindest, most wholehearted people I’ve met, and watching the company grow and evolve has been incredible. (Check out their recent feature in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business for more.)
One standout practice that truLOCAL commits to each year is their holiday cards. Since the company’s inception in 2016, team members have handwritten and mailed holiday cards to every single customer and supplier. In a world that seems to lack a personal, sincere, and old-fashioned touch, this goes a really long way. So today, in the spirit of us all needing some good news and holiday cheer, I wanted to share with you how this special group of people pulls it off.
truLOCAL’s Holiday Cards
I had many questions about this practice, and Irma was happy to take me behind the scenes.
The tradition started back in 2016. At the time, they had only a handful of customers, most of whom were friends and family members. The team wanted to take the time to hand write a holiday card to each one, in thanks for believing in them.
That year, the four employees wrote 300 cards. That included cards for every supplier, courier, neighbour, and customer.
They hand wrote the addresses on each envelope, licked, sealed, and stamped the envelopes, and wrote custom paragraphs into each card expressing their gratitude.
They wrote to customers they met at events and trade shows, customers battling cancer, customers who had delivery issues, customers whose children’s and pets’ names they knew, customers they’d spoken to over the phone. Every single card was customized to each customer.
The cards were so appreciated and incredibly well received. Many customers reached out saying they hadn’t received a handwritten card in the mail from anyone in years, let alone from a meat provider! Irma and Marc decided that year that no matter what happened with truLOCAL, holiday cards would always be something that they put effort into. “We would never be a company that simply sends out a generic email or mass-printed card,” Irma told me. “We would take the time to use our two hands to write thoughtful cards for our customers.”
Here are some pictures of the cards over the years. You can see how the team has grown!
How it Evolved
In 2016, four people wrote 300 cards among them. Today, 55 truLOCALers hand write roughly 16,500 cards to their community of customers and suppliers. Each person has approximately 300 cards to write themselves this year.
So how do they do it? Marathon card-writing sessions or a certain number of cards per day? I asked Irma to weigh in on this one.
“It depends on the individual. Some people, like Jenn Mitchell, have a method to the madness. Jenn writes 25 cards a day, each day, until she’s completed hers. Her hands don’t hurt, her writing stays perfect, she stays sane.
“Then, other team members, like Marc Lafleur, sit down for 10 hours and write card after card in one shot, usually the night before the cards are due.
“This year, we had so many team members posting about writing their cards on social media! They usually do it on their own time, in the evenings while watching TV or movies. It’s something they commit to doing, outside of work hours. And we receive 0 push back.”
Here are some photos of the team writing their cards this year:
So how do customers respond?
The truLOCAL team gets glowing feedback from their community each year. “The feedback from customers makes every achy hand SO worth it,” Irma says. “As soon as the cards go out in the mail in December, and we start getting emails and posts about it, the whole team is on cloud nine. It’s worth every second of extra time and effort put into writing them.”
Customers really appreciate the kind gesture, especially given handwritten cards appear to be a thing of the past. Knowing that someone cares enough to write a handwritten note means a lot to them.
Here are some social shares from happy customers.
Expressing Gratitude at Scale
One of the most notable things about this feel-good story is that card writing has been a consistent practice for truLOCAL. It’s easy for a company just starting out to establish a connection to all its customers and suppliers and make everyone feel special. But it’s extremely hard to keep that special feeling alive once the company matures and becomes established; in effect, to express sincere gratitude at scale. As truLOCAL has grown, that grassroots, genuine appreciation for customers and suppliers has remained. If you ask me, that’s a pretty big deal.
As Irma said, “We just hope that our customers and community know how truly thankful we are for them. truLOCAL is so much more to us than a meat company; it’s a community, a family. We want our customers to get that card in the mail and know that they are family to us. We will never grow too big to care about the people who supported us since day one.”