making letters - Part 1:
How to turn a simple letter into
your most powerful selling tool
single marketing method best combines flexibility, usefulness, and
profitability? If you had not read the title of this article, would
you have answered “letters”?
business and sales people do not. They look to the more glamorous
areas like TV, radio, and print advertising or fancy brochures to
bring in new customers and make sales. While all of those methods have
their place, in this article I will make a case for using letters with
(or even instead of) these typical approaches and give some basic tips
on how to create a successful mailing.
USE DIRECT MAIL?
many businesses there is simply no cheaper way to get your entire
message in front of a qualified prospect than by direct mail. When you
advertise in print, radio, or television, you are hoping that a few
members of the audience will be actual prospects. Then you hope that
they actually notice or pay attention to your ad. And finally you hope
that they get enough information about your product or service in your
small space or time allotment to take some action.
a lot of ifs. That’s also why you need to have a constant presence
in the media if you hope to achieve any results. The price of that
constant presence can be quite high.
you use direct mail, you eliminate most of the guesswork and you
retain total control of cost, frequency, content, and audience. You
can mail one letter at a time or one million. You can include as much
information as you like. You can send the mailing to the exact target
audience you are after.
despite the increased use of direct mail by large national advertisers
(which should tell you something), you have less competition for the
target audience’s attention than with other methods. When someone
reads the paper, they want the news—not your ad. When they watch TV,
they are watching the program—not your ad. When they open a letter,
they want to know what’s inside; if it doesn’t interest them
that’s fine. At least you were given a chance.
advantage direct mail offers is the opportunity to test different
approaches against one another to see which works best. This is the
only reliable way to learn what your target market will respond to.
You should try different headlines, offers, premiums, coupons, prices,
colours - every aspect of your package can be tested. If you mail 500
pieces using headline A and 500 using headline B you’ll know which
one works better by simply counting the results.
of results, direct mail offers immediate feedback on your approach.
You know exactly how many you mailed and how many responses came in.
No other form of advertising can offer such accurate information.
DIRECT MAIL FOR YOU?
are that the benefits of direct mail discussed above sound appealing.
But can they be applied to your business?
direct mail has been used to sell subscriptions, memberships, services,
and certain products such as books. With a little creativity, almost
any business can use mailings to promote itself. Why just the other
day I received a mailing from a company selling steaks!
general, big ticket/high margin items or services are the most obvious
candidates because very few sales are required to make the mailing
successful. But many companies can look beyond the immediate sales
generated and work toward a long term relationship with each buyer to
justify the costs of the mailing. Small ticket items or retailers
might look to include a series of coupons or some other form of
discount or membership offer to generate repeat business.
if your product or service is one which absolutely requires a
salesperson’s involvement, direct mail can be a tremendous way to
generate leads while increasing the receptivity to your sales force
and improve their success rate.
you think of a letter as what it is—a way to have personal contact
with a prospect—you can see that there is a way of using it to the
benefit of your business.
WILL A LETTER ACHIEVE?
its most basic form, the mailing will make a sale for you. The
recipient will order your product or service by mail or telephone.
on your business, this may not always be possible or appropriate. You
may want the recipient to set up an appointment with a salesperson.
Perhaps you want them to visit your store or office. Maybe you just
want them to be prepared for a call from your company. Sometimes all
you want is to have them request additional information in the mail.
your objective, a well-designed mailing can accomplish it for you. The
most important thing to do is decide which objective you will pursue
and then make sure that every aspect of your mailing is congruent in
leading the prospect to that objective.
WILL YOU MAIL TO?
answer to this question will depend largely on your budget and the
business you are in. One thing that all direct mail experts agree
about is the benefit of selling to existing clients. It is much easier
to sell your product or service to someone who has purchased from you
previously than to a brand new prospect (assuming that your offering
satisfies your customers, of course).
this means is that the most valuable mailing list you can possibly use
is your existing customer list. (What? You don’t have one? Shame on
you! Get started on building one today.) You can inform them of
additional products or services, new items, special offers, whatever.
They already know you and are more likely to buy again.
it comes to new prospects, you will need to decide who your ideal
targets are and then find a source of those names and addresses. One
of the most overlooked sources of this information (especially if you
sell to businesses) is probably sitting right on your desk: the yellow
pages. You have a service you would like to sell to doctors? A product
for hair salons? They’re all there.
you are selling to individuals, you can refine your list to certain
areas of the city by using the reverse telephone directories found at
every library. This way you can target your mailing block by block, or
send it only to apartment buildings, or focus on the high-income
if your ultimate goal is to send large mailings numbering in the
thousands or to mail nationally rather than just locally, these
sources may be a good place to start your direct mail experiments.
Sooner or later you will need to move to a larger scale source of
information. One interim step that many smaller advertisers are
turning to are the computer CD-ROM disks containing all the telephone
directories across Canada, the U.S., or even Europe. An added
advantage is the ability to import these names and addresses directly
into your word processor or database.
all this, however, the ultimate source of mailing lists is still buying
them from someone else, either a professional list broker or a specific
group or organization which knows the people you want to reach. A good
list broker can target your clientele much more accurately and produce a
better return on your mailing. Whether you want a specific age group,
economic level, specific past purchasing history (i.e. they have
recently bought a car) or whatever, a broker can sell you such a
specific list at a reasonable cost.
you have experimented and tested enough to come up with a successful
mailing, your ability to handle additional business may be the only
limit to how often and how many pieces you mail. Don’t let the glamour
of other advertising methods get in the way of increasing your profits.
Start experimenting with direct mail and see firsthand the power of a
TIME: How to create a winning letter