How Snail Mail Can Still Boost Sales

Want to warm up your next round of cold calls? Want to stand out from the spam? Get reacquainted with an old friend — a finely tuned sales letter.

I get dozens of unwanted e-mails every day. Answering the ones that come from clients and business colleagues is my first priority, then depending on how stressed I am over deadlines, I might check out those hellos, jokes, and funny videos from friends and family.

But when it comes to unsolicited e-mails from businesses that feel their product or service will solve all my needs, the delete button is all too often my weapon of choice.

Many of these never reach my inbox as my Internet service provider weeds them out, so I never even see them. If they do manage to slip through this guardian of my time and sanity, they all too often get trapped in my browser’s junk folder and languish there for a few days before I right click my mouse and then left click “empty junk e-mail” and listen for the satisfying sound of them being flushed into cyber oblivion.

This begs the question: What do we do when we want to let people know about what our company sells? Ah, now the shoe’s on the other foot and that oh-so-righteous, trigger-happy finger on the delete button becomes our enemy. Thousands of articles have been written about how to get noticed among all the junk, but with an estimated 247 billion e-mails sent per day, our chances of getting noticed are not high, especially when we have to contend with the fact that 80 per cent of them are spam.

So, how to respond to the huge challenge of finding qualified leads? One direct marketing method that seems to have gone out of fashion is a simple sales letter sent by snail mail to a targeted company and individual.

{advertisement} I don’t know about you, but if my company receives a letter personally addressed to me, I open it. What’s more, I’ll actually read it, or at least the first few lines, before trashing it. What’s more, if it’s well written and captures my attention, I may read on, and even put it to one side for further consideration. There’s no guarantee that I’ll act on it, or buy what the writer is selling, but I may well handle the letter several times before finally consigning it to a real-life recycling bin. Regardless, a seed has been sown, and if someone calls to follow up on the letter, some small connection exists — a cold call has become slightly warmer.

OK, many of you will say snail mail is out of date, expensive, and slow. I agree — to a point. Certainly brochures, catalogues, and other printed promotional material are better produced and distributed electronically, but when making first contact, a simple one-page letter has an almost novelty appeal that can give your salespeople a fighting chance when they call a prospect for the first time.
For most of us it’s been a long time since we wrote a formal letter; we’ve become used to writing in shorthand: “BTW that joke about B2B ltrs made me LOL.” To help you back to the world of envelopes and stamps, consider these 12 tips to ensure your sales letter will be worth the price of postage.

Choose your prospects carefully. Only send letters to companies that might have a need for what you are selling, and send your letter to the person who can make buying decisions.

Beware of mass mailing lists. They are often out of date and overused. Send fewer, more targeted letters. Remember, junk mail is simply mail sent to the wrong person. Always ensure your contact information is up to date.

Avoid labels. They telegraph that it’s a sales letter. Often a nicely handwritten envelope will get opened, where one that obviously looks like junk mail may not even make it to your target’s desk. If possible, hand-write the salutation and personally sign each letter.

Before you start writing, take a look at any sales letters you have received. Look at what caught your attention. Which ones worked and which did you quickly toss?

Use professionally printed letterhead on good paper. Add the logos of relevant trade associations to which you belong, or the Better Business Bureau perhaps.

Don’t go font crazy. Use simple, clear fonts. I suggest something like Arial (a sans-serif font) for headings, and Times Roman (a serif font) for the main body. These have proven to be the most readable fonts.

You have about 10 seconds. Capture the reader’s attention and interest with a powerful headline. Show them that what they are about to read will be of interest to them. Ensure your opening sentence makes them want to learn more.

Keep your tone friendly. Write in the first person, and ask questions. Talk about things that motivate the reader, such as how your product or service will help them increase sales and profits; save money, time, or effort; increase efficiency, or improve customer service. Focus on the emotional value of your words, but at the same time write simply.

Demonstrate how simple and safe it is to buy from you. Tell them how good your customer service will be. Offer warranties and guarantees.

Avoid long blocks of text. Break copy up with attention-getting sub-headings. Use bullet points where you want the reader to take note of important points.

Tailor your letter with testimonials from businesses similar to your prospect. If you make claims, make them realistic; back up anything you say with facts. Think about those disinfectants that claim they kill 99.9 per cent of bacteria. Why not 100 per cent? Because the fractionally lower figure is simply more believable.

Encourage them to take a specific action. Offer a benefit in return for a quick response. For example, call you now, or go to your website and order.

Follow up every letter after about 10 days. Offer to answer any questions. When calling, avoid leaving a voicemail unless you have called several times and been unable to reach the prospect. Call at different times, especially early morning and late afternoon, when the prospect’s assistant may not be there, and they might answer the phone themselves.

What have you got to lose? Send out 20 to 30 carefully crafted sales letters, follow them up with
a friendly phone call and see what effect making physical contact with prospects has on your
bottom line.