Snail mail in the age of email.

Direct mail vs. emailWhy post?

In this article I explain the benefits of posting a letter to your customers rather than emailing them. It also gives you some great tips on how to get your letter opened and acted upon.
 It’s targeted at small to medium sized businesses.

Mailing a letter to your potential customers is a great way to get your sales message in front of them.

You’re probably thinking, “But it’s so much quicker and cheaper to email them!”

Well that’s exactly why posting a sales letter can be a better idea than sending an email. By posting your customer a letter in this email age you’re  saying: “I’m so sure you’ll be interested in what I’m offering that I’m investing time and money in writing to you.”

I’ve noticed that even my internet service provider – who, of course, knows my email address – posts me sales letters advertising their special deals.

By sending a letter, you can be more confident that your message will be read and acted upon – that’s if you go about it the right way.

And the evil cynic within also figures it’s harder to unsubscribe to posted letters than to emails.

So how do you get the best bang from your buck with a sales letter?

The biggest hurdle with a sales letter is getting it opened. If it has to go past a receptionist who has been instructed to bin all sales materials you have a real problem. And even if it goes straight to the customer, they may take one look at the envelope emblazoned with your logo and do the same.

Over the years I’ve learned some simple strategies that you can use to give your letter the best chance of being, opened, read and acted upon:

1.         Be mysterious

If your envelope doesn’t reveal that it’s a sales letter, you’ve got a better chance of it at least getting opened. So unless you have a really irresistible offer, leave the envelope blank. Just put it in a plain, good quality envelope with no logos or anything so it doesn’t look like a sales letter.

The sender address can be just an address (no name) in tiny type on the back.

Your potential customer will then feel obliged to open the letter to find out what’s inside.

2.         Hand write the name and address

If your mailing list is small, hand writing the envelope is a practical and effective way to increase the opening rate of your sales letter. It helps if you can also hand write the return address on the back, but a printed return address, minus your business name, will do.

3.         Put a stamp on it

A proper stamp, as opposed to a franked stamp can further increase the opening rate of your sales letter by making it look more like a personal communication.

How to get your letter read and acted upon

Now that they’ve opened it, what can you do to maximise the chances that they’ll read and act upon it?

In a well-written sales letter every word is carefully crafted to make the message clear and succinct. At the end of the letter  clearly state why the reader needs to act now. Explain what they need to do next. Give them only one or two options for responding, not a long list.

Here’s a sample of  two direct mail campaigns I wrote for Australian Conservation Foundation.

Other tricks

Of course there are lots more tips and tricks to writing effective sales letters. There’s issues like: Should it have a PS? Should I have a special letterhead printed? Should I sign it by hand? Should I keep it to one page? Should I enclose a reply paid card, a faxback, a brochure or a business card?


That’s where I can help.

I can help you weigh up the cost-effectiveness of using snail mail or email for your next sales campaign, and I can help you with the copywriting and strategy that will get the best response, whichever one you go with.


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