To Letter or Not to Letter, That Is the Question

There are many, many times when we get asked, “Is sending a letter better?” With the fast paced world now, many people are worried that a letter will go unread, so sending a postcard would be better. Here I will attempt to answer that question, beyond just, “Well … it depends.”

There are many, many times when we get asked, “Is sending a letter better?” With the fast paced world now, many people are worried that a letter will go unread, so sending a postcard would be better. Here I will attempt to answer that question, beyond just, “Well … it depends.” So let’s take the time to examine letters and self-mailers/postcards, keeping in mind that there really is the option that it may depend.

So let’s dig in. You may be tempted to say that postcards would be best as they are by far the cheapest and easier for the recipient to read. However, we need to look beyond the cost to produce. Yes, an envelope with a matching letter is going to cost you more money to send out. The funny thing about that is, it may not be a bad thing after all. We have found that recipients spend less time looking at the postcards and self-mailers. They are immediately identified as advertising. A well thought out and targeted personalized letter may provide you with more responses.

Benefits of a letter:

  • A letter is a little sneakier since it does not announce itself as an advertisement
  • Chance to provide more information about your product or service since you are not limited on space
  • Provide a reply device
  • Provide a brochure to keep or show others

Benefits of a Postcard/Self-mailer:

  • Catch the eye with images
  • Easy to understand with little effort on the part of the recipient
  • Cheaper, so more cost effective

In order to find out which is right for you, it is best to test your list. Split your list and send some people personalized postcards or self-mailers and the rest a personalized letter in an envelope. The key factor in what works for you is your audience. You need to find the best fit for them. What works well for your competitor may not indicate what works well for you. Track your responses to see what works best.

I have heard many people say that the younger generation is not going to read a letter so send them a postcard or a self-mailer. Well, while it may be true that the younger generation is not reading the whole letter, they are reading enough of it to get the point. Make sure that you have bold words, bullet points and a strong PS. This is what they are looking at as they skim the letter. Give a letter a try if you have not done so before, you may be surprised by your results.

In summary, postcards, self-mailers and letters are all good ways to market your company with direct mail. Each one has pros and cons. Test, test, test to see how your audience responds. Knowing who responds to what can help you provide direct mail your recipients want to receive. Assume nothing, test, track and test some more. See how creative you can get.

7 Magic Ways to Maximize Otherwise Boring Fulfillment and Collateral Pieces for Profit

Sure, fulfillment and inserts aren’t as sexy as other forms of marketing, but they can be viable ways to bring in steady, ancillary revenues. I’ve seen some online publishers bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars with a carefully thought-out insert program. For instance, taking a direct mail control piece and adding it in customer fulfillment packages as an insert. A no-brainer, right? Wrong! You’ll be surprised how many businesses are leaving money on the table by not doing this.

Sure, fulfillment and inserts aren’t as sexy as other forms of marketing, but they can be viable ways to bring in steady, ancillary revenues.

I’ve seen some online publishers bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars with a carefully thought-out insert program. For instance, taking a direct mail control piece and adding it in customer fulfillment packages as an insert. A no-brainer, right?

Wrong! You’ll be surprised how many businesses are leaving money on the table by not doing this.

Are you leveraging your fulfillment kit? Do you have a strategy for your inserts?

Here are some simple ideas, when applicable, for print and electronic fulfillment that help encourage sales (cross-sells) and help customer lifetime value:

  1. Personal Welcome or Thank You Letter (whether it’s for newsletters, products or services. It could highlight all products OR current top sellers). This is the first thing a new customer will see. Make sure it is written in a personal, comfortable tone—welcoming the customers and reiterating what a good decision they just made and thanking them for their purchases. You can also add a little verbiage about your core values and what makes you unique in the marketplace. Be sure to reiterate any product guarantees you have, as well as customer service contact information.
  2. Cross-marketing Piece. This can be a current direct mail piece edited for insert purposes. A flier highlighting a current hot product OR a natural, synergistic upsell from the product ordered. Or a “customer favorites” catalog. This encourages continued purchases now and down the road.
  3. Coupon or special discount offer. (or if electronic, coupon/promo code for online ordering). Consider offering a special “thank you” coupon or a “share this with a friend/family member” coupon for additional sales and viral/word of mouth marketing.
  4. Free Sample. (Women may remember Avon used to include tiny little lipsticks or perfume with their order. This approach can be translated in most any business—it could be a small, economy/sample size product, a bonus report, or more. Customers love, love, love freebies!
  5. Renewal at Birth. This is a popular publishing term. If you’re selling a subscription service or continuity program, you can include a renewal order form with your first issue at a special early discount rate.
  6. Packing Slip. Many people overlook this fulfillment piece, but it can be used for more than printing out what is being sent to your customer. You can print your return policy/instruction on this piece of correspondence, as well as adding several product return reasons to help evaluate customer satisfaction and product refinement, going forward.
  7. Feedback/Testimonial Form. Have a form to solicit customers’ feedback and testimonials. This information could be priceless, as far as customer service, marketing, and new product development. Make sure your testimonial collection process is compliant so you can use stellar comments in future marketing efforts.

As most direct response marketers know, the first zero to 30 days is when a customer is red hot—as legendary entrepreneur and best-selling author of, “Ready Fire Aim,” Michael Masterson, would say—in their “buying frenzy.” So don’t leave ’em cold. Give them cross-sell and upsell options.

Leverage this timeframe with your communications and turn your fulfillment pieces into another way to increase sales and relationship-build with your customers.

You may just turn on an additional revenue stream for your business!

The Bowels of the Mail Beast

While my duties have shifted (radically) over the past few months, I still review our giant mailbag (over 1,000 pieces a month) in order to uncover the trends in direct mail, along with finding intriguing new pieces or others that have stood the test of time. Recently, I took a look inside many of these increasingly colorful mailers to see what trends were popping up.

While my duties have shifted (radically) over the past few months, I still review our giant mailbag (over 1,000 pieces a month) in order to uncover the trends in direct mail, along with finding intriguing new pieces or others that have stood the test of time. Recently, I took a look inside many of these increasingly colorful mailers to see what trends were popping up.

First, just like the outside, the slimmed-down approach is also visible inside, with more 2-page letters instead of 4-page letters, for example. More reply cards are perfed to the letter, which usually means that the letter is only one page.

I’m also seeing fewer copy tactics like the Johnson box, bolded copy, subheads, margin copy, multiple P.S., etc. It’s almost as if the marketer no longer believes that prospects 1) have much time and 2) even remember what a letter looks like anymore! Apparently, prospects don’t want to read much, yet with the scarcity of long letters in the mailbox, perhaps the chances for long copy succeeding are actually better than ever today?

Funny enough, the letters — long or short — with shorter paragraphs and readable font (that’s large enough, even up to 14 pt.) still strike me as the most effective. The small, cramped copy in long paragraphs on a single page are a turn-off, in my opinion, compared to the letters that still take their time, lead with a great story, etc.

Of course, many mailers these days don’t bother too much with story and simply get right to the punch, with their offers, their missions, etc. They often start with the reply card as the first thing the prospect sees when cracking open the envelope. This seems ludicrous to me, but it happens more and more.

Component-wise, there are fewer of them. Buckslips are an endangered species, while brochures are holding steady, largely because they sometimes replace letter copy entirely, or at least in part. Freemiums are also disappearing, but when they do appear, they’re less bulky and likely to be simple things like a bookmark, decal, a certificate of appreciation, etc. Even address labels have decreased, while calendars have become rare.