In a rising tide of content fatigue, a direct mail letter can be a surprisingly effective way to acquire customers
When everyone zigs, it’s time to zag.
Today the big zig is online. And the volume of digital communications is staggering. On any given day 145 billion emails are sent. We have gone from seeing 500 ads a day in 1970 to seeing 30,000 marketing messages a day today.
How do you reach customers with so much online zigging going on?
Zag to an offline channel. Do the unexpected and send a direct mail letter.
With the popularity of the internet, we have come full circle to a point where it is now remarkable to get a letter in the mail. On average, people see two brand messages a day in their mail. Two! Compared to all they see online, that represents a golden opportunity to reach and acquire new customers.
There are more reasons to revisit direct mail. It turns out people still like it – a lot. Multiple studies confirm this:
- 73% of U.S. consumers prefer to get brand messages in the mail because they can read it at their convenience
- 68% read their mail right away when they get it
- 62% of U.S. consumers enjoy checking their mailbox and getting mail
That last point underscores an important advantage of direct mail over digital marketing.
The engaging power of direct mail letters
Engaging with a piece of physical mail has powerful branding benefits you don’t get from digital communication. Neuroscience research has found that to be true.
A study by Millward Brown found that interacting with physical material – direct mail – is important for memory and brand associations. The conclusion? “Physical media leaves a deeper footprint on the brain and touches emotions more than digital media.”
Of all direct mail formats, none has more potential to touch emotions and get a response than a letter. Here is why …
A letter is instantly understood as a message from one person to another. It has a friendly, personal quality to it that is hard to duplicate in other promotional pieces of mail.
And a letter is easy to read. Everyone knows where to start, where to go next and where to end. It’s familiar. That is why decades of testing have proved direct mail packages with letters usually get a better response than those without them.
That’s not to say a direct mail letter will automatically get attention and readership. But a well-written and well-executed letter will. Here is how to write one.
10 expert tips for writing a direct mail letter that sells
These tips have been handed down by expert copywriters who made their career writing and testing sales letters to optimize response rates. They are based on successful results, not opinion or personal preference. Follow them to get off to a great start.
1. Start with the audience, not your product
A letter is a personal message. It is a one-to-one communication, so it should read like one person (you) talking to another. Corporate speak and product hype will kill your chances of building person-to-person rapport.
2. Make the opening line short and compelling
The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the next. You only have a few seconds to grab their attention and hold it. A short sentence that arouses curiosity is your best way to start.
3. Tell a story
People love to read stories. If you want to involve the reader, use analogies, parallels, slice-of-life scenarios and anecdotes to pull them in. Tie your story into the benefits you have to offer them and they will read every word.
4. Fire your biggest shot first
Lead with your strongest benefit, and do it quickly. The reader is looking for a reason why they should continue reading. The only reason that matters is what’s in it for them. Nuance and subtlety are not your friends here.
5. Use a typewriter font
Readers associate a typewriter font with the personal communication of a hand-typed letter. It’s a psychological cue. It doesn’t matter that you have 40 elegant fonts to choose from on your word processor that look nicer to you. What matters is that your letter looks like a letter to your audience.
6. Focus on readability
Appearances count. Make the body copy visually inviting and easy to skim. White space is as important as your words on the page. These formatting rules are from hundreds of tested response-winning letters: indent every paragraph; use ragged right justification; single-space paragraphs; double-space between paragraphs. Keep paragraph lengths to five lines or less.
7. Always break a page in the middle of a sentence
A period is a signal to stop reading, so don’t end a paragraph at the bottom of a page. You want the reader to continue to the next page. When you break a sentence at the bottom of the page, she will more likely jump to the next page to complete the thought.
8. Use an overline above the salutation
Old school direct marketers call this the “Johnson Box.” It serves as a headline or teaser at the top of the letter that pulls the reader into the body copy. It is the first thing anyone notices when looking at the letter. Tease just enough so the reader will want to read on.
9. Include a P.S.
The post script is another hot spot on the letter. Here’s why. A letter recipient will usually look at the signature to see who the letter is from before reading it. She will naturally read the P.S. underneath it. This is your chance to hit the big benefit or reference something from the body copy that will arouse curiosity to read more about it.
10. Tell the reader what to do
Make a call to action. Don’t leave your reader wondering ‘now what?’ after reading your letter. If you tell them what to do next and your copy is convincing, you can get the desired response.
Meet your customers where they are
With the focus on digital marketing we tend to put all our efforts on creating content for engaging customers online. It’s easy to overlook the potential of offline engagement.
All marketing success comes down to meeting your customers where they are. You can still meet them at the mailbox. With a direct mail letter.