I want you to consider writing—by hand—a letter to a whale.
For almost 20 years, I’ve been handwriting letters to my target clients. My whales. Letter writing has taught me one thing: Handwritten letters work. If you want to stand out, if you believe marketing is about building relationships, if you want to expand your business, handwrite a letter to a whale.
In October 2012, I started writing a handwritten letter to Warren Buffett every single week.
Yes, that Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha. The second-richest man in the world.
Why Mr. Buffett? I believe I can revitalize the newspaper industry and in the last two years Buffett has purchased more than 30 daily newspapers—newspapers that need new revenue models.
Every Monday for 42 weeks I opened my fountain pen and sent Buffett a handwritten note with one new idea to help drive revenue in the newspaper business. My goal: a sit-down meeting with Warren Buffett to discuss the revenue potential for the newspaper he owns.
Warren Buffett is my whale
In our always-on digital world. A world where I can tap out an email on my iPhone. Where interpersonal communication has been commoditized into a text message. Where marketing can be automated into 140 characters and ‘personalized’ drip campaigns-a handwritten letter is unbelievably powerful.
A handwritten letter stands out.
So, did Warren Buffett read my letters? Yes. In fact, he forwarded one of my notes to one of his closest personal contacts, and that person reached out to me to chat.
Did Mr. Buffett call me to schedule an appointment? No. But something even more amazing started to happen.
As I revealed my letter-writing campaign to friends and business acquaintances, they began asking me to share my letters to Buffett with them. They were curious about my revenue-generating ideas, and they asked if they, too, could learn from my ideas.
In response to the increased interest, I started publishing my letters each week on Tumblr, and I shared the link with those who asked.
Within a few weeks the emails and phone calls started rolling in. Publishers from as far away as Italy wanted to know more about the ideas I’d been sharing with Warren Buffett.
By October 2013, a year after I started writing my weekly advice, more than a hundred publishers were reading my letters to Buffett every week. They’re CEOs and presidents. They’re the movers and shakers in the media world.
They’re the whales.
Buffett is a figurehead, a persona, and my weekly letters had opened the door to some of the industry’s most powerful people.
A little serendipity
On Oct. 22, 2013, almost exactly a year after I started my letter-writing to Warren Buffett, I walked into the green room at NBC’s “Today” show. (I had been booked on the show to talk about marketing to men.) As the producer ushered me into a comfortable seat on the couch, I noticed that Warren Buffett was sitting right across from me.
As we waited to be escorted into Studio 1A, he and I chatted about the future of the newspaper industry. He was gracious, generous with his time, open to my ideas, and confident in his team’s ability to execute a successful growth strategy for the newspapers that Berkshire Hathaway owns.
Make your own luck
I firmly believe you make your own luck. Would I have ever met with Warren Buffett if I hadn’t been writing my weekly letters? Who knows? I do know that without the letters I wouldn’t have been prepared (or confident enough) to have a meaningful conversation with one of the industry’s most powerful people.
I do know that the sharing of those letters has led to the most amazing experiences of my career. I’ve been flown around the world to speak to the world’s largest publishers about new ways to drive new revenue in a new media world. What do I know about publishing? Not much. I only know what I’ve learned studying the industry and turning it into valuable advice for an audience of one.
I do know that if you write a letter to a whale you’ll stand out.
You can market to everyone or market to someone. Who is your whale, and what will you write?
Andrew Davis is a bestselling author and marketing speaker. A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.