Letters: The Strategic Use of Letters
In direct marketing, a letter is the absolute best marketing tool available at any price.
Correction: giving away a new boat with a purchase is a better marketing tool. So let’s say a letter is the best marketing tool you can use and add the qualifier: for under a dollar.
Strategic letters can be used at every level: from prospecting, to turning prospects into customers, to securing sales, to customer retention, to building your brand and company loyalty, to creating a higher lifetime value of each customer.
Just ask insurance companies – you get a letter each year thanking you so much for all the money you spend with them, don’t you?
OK, perhaps we should phrase the question a little differently: Why do you suppose the insurance companies lose about one third of their clients each year –
is it because they don’t invest the 49¢ to send each customer a thank you letter each year? Yes, that’s a better phrasing.
Letters can be targeted to one person, a broad field, an entire industry, an income group, or defined by geographics, demographics, psychographics, whatever. They can sell, position, generate a call, revive old customers, drive someone into your store or website, invoke just about any kind of response or just make someone feel great about doing business with you. All for just 49¢. Yep. So… why aren’t you sending more of them?
From personal pitches to classless advertisements fraught with misspellings and typographical errors, a letter is a personal portrait of the sender.
A letter is actually the most effective single piece of paper in all of direct marketing. Any arguments?
(Do you know what the most effective single sheet of paper is in all of marketing? I do. You’ll have to email me for the answer.)
A letter is like a reflective pool, showing the image of the sender through the circular ripples from just the slightest touch or the falling of a stray leaf. Wow, how profound. You didn’t know us older guys still smoked weed, did you?
So, when you send a letter what kind of mark are you leaving in the business world? Is it crusty with jagged edges like my wife, or is it smooth and well researched like my secretary, carefully punctuated with a soft finesse. Does it have voluptuous curves and nice legs like her, too? Of course not… it’s a letter – and every letter has its limitations. Still, it can be most effective for bringing in additional business – even if it doesn’t have silky auburn hair that drifts gently down her forehead when she looks at the computer, and every once in a while you can see her looking at you out of the corner of her eye. I mean, I guess…
How’d you make out with last month’s campaign?
What – you haven’t done it yet? Grrrrr.
I’ll make you a deal. Complete this campaign and if it doesn’t work I’ll send you a refund of all the money you paid for it.
You do remember… last month we talked about the value of a letter campaign: 3 letters. (It was a short campaign.) You had promised me that right after watching Sponge Bob Square Pants that you were going to sit down and write 3 letters and send them to your top 100 prospects, and to your top 100 customers. Or, was that my kids promising they’d practice piano after watching…) Anyway, I’ll make you this bet. Craft your letters well, and I’ll bet it brings in business for you. Here’s how.
First, you write your objective. We don’t want to appear too sales-oriented with these letters, so we won’t actually appear to sell anything in the first two letters. Our primary objectives will be to build a stronger customer relationship, increase customer retention, and build brand and company loyalty. Sales will follow naturally.
Here’s the secret: the best way to meet our objectives is to first thank your current customers for their past business. “Over the past several years I have been happy to serve you.” Nope, sounds like a hooker quitting her job and leaving me a note on my dresser when she, um… I mean leaving her client a note on his dresser. But it’s close.
How about, “Enclosed please find…” No, no, no! I hate that! Hey, if you’ve included it, they’ve already found it. You don’t ever have to say that in a letter. As a publisher, I send books to a lot of people. It’s pretty superfluous for me to say in my letter, “We have enclosed our book…” No shit, they’d think, as they’re holding our book weighting 2-1/2 pounds. It’s the biggest thing in the box, dwarfing my letter that’s resting on top of it. Whatever your sending, I assure you they’ve found it just fine without your mentioning it. Well, at least in the past 20 years I’ve never had anyone call and say, “Geeze, there was a book in the package? Where? We couldn’t find it.”
So what do you say in your first letter?
You say “Thank you!”
”Thank you so much for your business. I appreciate it. There are hundreds of places you can purchase goods and services similar to our’s, but you buy them from us.
So please accept my thanks, I really appreciate your business and your trust.” Get the idea?
The second letter mentions the previous letter, to make sure they didn’t forget it. “In my last letter to you, I’ve tried to express just how much I appreciate the business you award to our firm.” And then go on to sell some benefits of doing business with your firm: “I’m not sure I mentioned it, but there are some things you get with our firm you won’t find in any of our brochures. First, you get our guarantee of complete satisfaction with every product you purchase from us. If you’re not happy, we’re not happy – and I encourage you to call me personally with any problems or questions as soon as they arise – so I can resolve any issues to your immediate and complete satisfaction. Next, with every order, with every phone call you receive…”
Painting a picture of a firm everyone wants to do business with is easy in a letter. But like any promise, it’s much easier to make than to keep – so you have a fresh chance to show them you mean it. As them to call. Every call you receive is an opportunity for you to increase the value you provide to the company you are doing business with. Please read that line again so I don’t have to type it twice. Yes, it’s that important.
The third letter again, entices the customer with benefits, then at the end encourages the reader to call with the soft sell of, “We’re here for you all day, every day. Please call me at any time to place an order, with questions, or with your comments about our products or services. I’m always as close as your phone. If you need me after hours, here’s my personal cell phone number:” P.S. It’s OK to turn your phone off after work – if it’s that important, they’ll call you first thing the next morning. But if you really want to provide that extra margin of service, leave it turned on.
The strategic use of letters: 1. when you want to attract a new client to call you, 2. to keep a client, 3. to provide a highly visible way to show your level of service is excellent, 4. to stay in top-of-mind awareness so when a client needs your products or services – or needs to recommend a firms products and services to a colleague – they will think of you first. And 5. to provide a highly personal level of service.
Jeffrey Dobkin is a specialist in direct response marketing. Specialities include copywriting, sales letters, TV commercials and scripts; persuasive catalog copy; website copy and content, and exceptionally response-driven direct mail packages. He also analyzes direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, websites and campaigns. Mr. Dobkin is a pretty funny speaker and a direct marketing consultant. Call him directly at 610-642-1000 to discuss your marketing needs or for free samples of his work. Ask him for a free copy of one of his books – you deserve it for reading this far. Thanks for reading this article.