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The Art & Math of Direct Mail Letters

In a marketing letter, the sum of what is written, how it is presented, and the targeted audience, should equal a relevant message that builds brand recognition and compels the reader to take action - which optimally progresses toward a sale. Marketing letters are typically lead generation tools, not direct sale mechanisms.  Sales will typically take place in subsequent interactions. The direct mail letter is the key to opening the door. Therefore, give your letter suitable attention by considering the following components.

The Envelope: Devote time and energy to the envelope. Think about the audience, what kind of direct mail they see every day, and how your presentation can stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t necessarily mean bigger or more colorful.  Sometimes loud gets attention. Sometimes the simple black and white envelope with a return address and a stamp is better received.

The Message: Compose a message that is relevant to the needs of your target audience.  Are you talking to the finance officer, the marketing director, the president of the company, the head of household?

The Benefits: Clearly communicate the benefits of your product or service.  Don’t list features of the product or give a resume chronicling how wonderful your company is. Most people want to know how their life will be made better, not the specifications of the product. 

The Tone: Be brief and concise, warm and genuine. Speak conversationally but stick to the points. You know your product or service is great. Convey this in a way that is solid, but not pretentious.

The Language: Use language appropriate to your audience. Technical rigid speak is effective if you are communicating with like-minded professionals who relate to multi-syllabic words and complex sentences. Writing at grade school level, or using industry specific jargon, is appropriate for many audiences. Simple, straightforward, easily understood letters are best in most circumstances.

The Offer: Every direct mail package you drop in the mail should contain an offer. The offer is the incentive or reward that motivates prospects to respond to your mailing. Here is a guide to effective offers that included a list of power words that evoke feelings and actions.

The Urgency: Create a sense of urgency by using deadlines and expiration dates.

The Guarantee:  Include a guarantee of your product or service. This can engender trust and nudge people to respond who might not otherwise.

The White Space: Use white space as a design element, not as something to fill up with text and images. Opening up a letter can be accomplished with subheads, bulleted lists and sidebars.

The One Page Letter: Produce a clean one-page letter that is easy to take in. A dense lengthy letter may look like black gobs on a page. This may overwhelm and turn away the reader.

The Scan: Use subheads, lists and post scripts as tools to allow the reader to scan the letter and get the main points. They will read the meat of the letter if sufficiently inspired.

The Postscript: Many people will scroll down to the postscript before reading a letter. Make the best use of this element by restating your offer or proposition.

The Response Mechanism: Postage paid business reply cards inserted into the envelope with the letter are easy and convenient for the recipient to send back. Make it as easy as possible for them to respond. Toll free numbers and websites with short urls (for ease of remembering and typing) are also effective response mechanisms.

The Testimonial: Testimonials about your service or product are excellent ways to convey benefits to the end user.

The Test: Once you have established the letter and mailed it, track the responses. Make one change to the next mailing and track the responses again. Use different phone numbers and/or codes on different letters. The code on the business reply card tells which letter it was packaged with. Gather statistics to aid in the development of future marketing campaigns.

You now have the tools for creating a successful direct mail marketing campaign. Your next step is to request a free direct mail consultation from

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