If you are a business owner and you are involved in doing your own marketing such as magazine ads, marketing postcards and e-mails, do not ignore the junk mail that you get from other businesses. Cherish them. Getting junk mail is your best marketing education and a great for finding new prospects. You should relish it and bring it on. For two main reasons:
#1 You have just found a new prospect to put on your mailing list.
#2 You can learn from these mailings and see how they have affected you.
On the first item I have gotten a few new clients very easily. I did that by turning the tables on them. Whenever someone sent me some junk mail, I would stuff it away for a rainy day. When it came time to develop my own campaigns, I would write to the businesses that mailed me (their “junk mail”).
I even sold a book for a friend of mine based on getting a cold call. A woman called me up to sell me her website videos services. I listened to her spiel and then asked her to send me an e-mail with more information.
A friend of mine had just published a book about cold-calling, so I sent her a nice e-mail thanking her for her call. I expressed my understanding of how difficult it is to make cold calls to unknown prospects and then suggested my friend’s newly published book. About ten minutes later, my friend e-mailed me to tell me that she purchased the book from his website. So always look for opportunities with other people’s mailings and cold calls. It can be quite valuable.
In another example an electrician had sent me his “Winter Package” via snail mail to my old residence; it was then forwarded to me by the new owners. This marketing package consisted of a magnet with the company’s logo, a letter opener with their logo and a pen (again, with their logo): standard marketing crap. My first reaction would have been to just throw it away, but instead, I kept it and devised a plan.
I looked at the owner’s website to do some research about the owner’s company. After my preliminary research, I e-mailed the owner a nice note saying that I had moved and that he should take me off his mailing list so he could save money on future marketing materials and mailing costs.
After the initial note, I then proceeded to tell him how I could help him with his website and help him get more traffic to his website. I landed that client and we still work together to this day.
The reason why this worked is because he opened the door of communication, so he had to be receptive to my e-mail. Even if he honestly did not need my services, he had to believe in some kind of karma–if he did not honor my request then those he sent his “Winter Package” to would not either. There is always some psychology here and you should use it to your best advantage. If he ignored my quest, how would he feel about his own mailer?
Most mailer conversion rates are well below one percent. E-mails are a little bit higher, but they are still below the two percent mark in terms of actual business conversions (i.e. Where a consumer buys something, not just to click-throughs). My e-mail to his “Winter Package” mailer netted me a response rate of 100%! That’s a pretty good response rate: One prospect, one carefully worded e-mail and one new client. I turned the tables.
Getting the Best Out of Your Own Direct Mail Campaign
Nobody reads postcards. David Ogilvy once said that studies had shown (in his day) that more people read long copy than read short copy. That is so very true. Think about it. If you get a postcard with about ten words on it and couple of images on it, how long will it take you to absorb all of that information before throwing it away? Probably about three seconds; and another three seconds before you will have forgotten their whole marketing campaign.
Now consider if you wrote about five hundred words with a captivating headline like “How to Love Junk Mail.” How long would it take you to throw that away? I bet it will sit around for awhile; just like it will take you a while to read this whole article.
A better option is to send a personalized letter to your marketing prospects. How long do you think it will take someone to look at it? They have to spend time opening the letter, scan over it and then finally throw it away. That is about three times longer than a postcard and twice as long as a postcard with long copy. If you have a lot of copy, people are going to think you have something of value to say. If you only have short copy, people are going to think you have nothing to say, and like I said before, they can figure that out in about two seconds.
I once received a mailer in my mailbox that was an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper folded three ways like a standard letter and it was stapled shut. No stamp, just stuffed in my mailbox. On the outside I could see it was from a local house painter. I knew it was marketing material soliciting for my business, but I didn’t know what was on the inside because it was a stapled. But I had to know. I just could not bear the thought of throwing it away without knowing what was inside.
This brings me to another point. The more you invest in something (like opening a letter) the more you will give it more consideration. What do you like better: a gift that is gift wrapped in wrapping paper that must be torn open or a gift that is stuffed in a bag with some tissue paper? Things that are wrapped hold more (psychological) value.
It’s just in our nature. We like things in wrappings because we feel they are fresh and worthwhile. They have not been exposed to the elements and they have been put in a safe environment for our personal protection and use. A letter accomplishes this safe haven.
A postcard, on the other hand, is exposed to all sorts of elements and prying eyes. It doesn’t seem personal enough. Everybody has seen it, like a cheap wh–you know what. Who would value that? Not me. Send me a sealed envelope and you got my attention—at least my indelible curiosity.
So, the letter I received (in my mailbox with no stamp) from the local house painter was now getting the best of my curiosity. I opened the letter and read it. I read the whole thing and left it on my kitchen table. At that moment I actually considered having my house painted even though my house was painted just two years ago. I bring this up to illustrate a point. Marketing does not have to be about glossy postcards sent in bulk mail. One homegrown letter in a mailbox will get people’s attention.
Not only does it not have to be about glossy postcards, I am here to say that it shouldn’t be. Period. Postcards are a waste of money. Now you have been told.
Think about the last political elections. Did the mailers seem bigger to you? They did to me. The postcards I received were about three times bigger than I had ever seen before, but they were just as easy to throw away. Throwing away a 9 x 11 postcard is just as easy as throwing away a 6 x 9 postcard. But a letter with long copy would be a little harder to throw away. I would have to know what it says before I threw it away.
I have heard some studies that have actually shown that personalized letters can show up to a 60% response rate versus a measly 1% with a postcard.
Postcards vs. Letter a Christmas Analogy
How many times can you walk by that gift under the Christmas tree without wondering what it is inside? It may be a big special box with your name on it. It will arouse some curiosity, maybe a lot or maybe a little, but it will still arouse some curiosity and that nagging feeling will not go away until you open that gift on Christmas Day.
Now imagine instead of the gift being wrapped up, the gift was just sitting under the tree with no wrapping and just a tag with your name on it. You may be impressed by it or you may not be, but you would certainly not be curious as to what it was. You would just walk by and go about your busy day. This is essentially what sending a postcard does. It puts everything out there all at once and arouses no suspicion, no curiosity, no intrigue.
Postcards also require no special efforts in terms of getting the message. The only effort involved is to flip the card over and glance at the other headlines. A letter requires a little more effort. To make that effort pay off people will actually read the letter. It’s true. You can make a more compelling argument in long copy form in a letter on standard eight-and-a-half by eleven paper than in just a few headlines on a postcard. You can describe all your benefits to the prospect, how you are unique and so on. A postcard just allows for a few headlines. There are just not enough suckers in the world.
Here is an action item. Send out about 60 mailings in letter form and see how well it is received. I will bet it will be a lot better than 1000 postcards. It would be easier to do and a lot cheaper. You can print the letters yourself. The extra cost in stamps (letter vs. postcard) would be offset by the design and printing costs.
Remember that this point of view is coming from someone who made a living by making things look pretty, like magazine ads, websites and so forth. But the reality is that these pretty pictures do not really sell the goods. They are just marketers’ way of justifying their fees. It’s the copy that sells the products. You have to explain to your prospects who you are and what you want from them. It’s an education process that could never be accomplished from just a postcard.
Writing Your Letter Campaign
When you write this letter, the last thing you want to do is stuff your business card in it. This is the kiss of death. What you are essentially doing is taking that postcard mailer, shrinking it down and stuffing it into a letter. You just defeated the purpose of the letter.
I once received a letter from an accountant in my area. It was addressed to me personally and I could see that it was from an accountant. I needed an accountant, so I opened it to see what he had to say. After I unfurled the letter, two business cards came falling out. I immediately threw the whole thing away. It was insulting. He was assuming I was going to do business with him and the extra business card assumed I was going to do his marketing for him, too. The address on the letterhead would have sufficed; no need for two business cards. I would have figured out how to get in touch with him.
Don’t make the assumption of doing business. You want to arouse curiosity and interest. Stuffing business cards into a letter like that is making an assumption of doing business. Never do that.
Fashion the letter to point out the problems a typical customer of yours may have before using your services; invite the reader to come to your website. Don’t try to make the sale in the letter, like asking them to call you up. Nowadays people have ways have getting more information about you and your company (like the internet and your website) Nobody wants to call you just to be sold to again.
They would rather anonymously visit your website and check you out. If your website is interesting enough and you have a lead capture system, then you have succeed. Having your phone number in there (and a demand to call) is like having salivating sales people at the store front during holiday season in a bad economy. Nobody wants that kind of harassment. Be cool, man. Be cool.
Another reason for the letter format is that you can address your recipient personally (you are sending your mail campaign with real names, aren’t you?). On the front of the letter you can say, “Mr. John James” and on the inside of the letter you can write “Dear John”. People love to see their name up in lights and writing Dear in front of it is even better.
I would like to just take a moment to let you know that there are not enough suckers in the world that would justify embarking on a lackluster campaign. A huge mistake direct mailers make is that they are banking on the fact there are just a plethora of people and someone is bound to call. Not so. I have seen mailer campaigns with several thousand mailers that turn up an absolute zero response. That’s true; absolute zero. Anyway, that is another whole article.
Getting Quality Leads
When you treat your prospects like a number, don’t expect to get quality leads. If you treat them personally expect quality leads.
How do you get these personal prospects? You get them from all the junk mail you have been compiling. You have been saving all of your junk mail, haven’t you? You should if you expect people to read your junk mail. Show some respect.
To me, it’s kind of like shopping at a big shopping center. When you are in your car, you curse all the pedestrians that are in your way; you are just trying to find a parking spot but people are walking every which way and right in front of you. But when you get out of your car, somehow the cars are the problem and all you want to do is get to the main shopping entrance without getting run over.
Receiving marketing materials (i.e. junk mail) are no different. You curse them when you get them, yet expect everyone to gloat over your beautiful piece of art with your clever headlines. Don’t think like this.
I love getting e-mails from businesses I have never done business with or that I have never met because I just found another prospect to personally contact. They opened the door.
That’s another prospect to put on my e-mail list. You should really relish your junk mail. Now, of course, getting e-mails from giants like Amazon and Wal-Mart are not exactly your prospects but getting e-mails from a local restaurant is. If there is some kind of no-reply return address, just go to the website and get their information.
Write to them and say, “Hey I got your information via e-mail and I thought your business could use some new flowers (that is if you are in the flower business). They have to pay attention to you because they e-mailed you. I have done this many times and it is highly effective.
Keep Marketing Materials
Remember to keep all the postcards and junk mail that are sent to you. The best thing you can do is put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. If you are sending a mailer for your business, compile of stack of at least twenty or thirty postcards and study them before you engage in your mail campaign.
There are a high percentage of businesses that do not do this. They are under the illusion that their business is special and that people really do want to hear what they have to say about their business. Just ask your yourself: were you that interested when someone sent you a postcard about their business? Probably not. In fact, there was a 98% chance you tossed it out immediately. You threw it away, scoffed at it and probably said something under your breath about hating junk mail.
I don’t even look at postcard mailers (when I am not collecting them for research). I don’t even give them a second thought. I just feel the dimensions and know that it should be thrown out. If I check my mail at night with my bad eyes, I can easily go through my junk mail just by feeling the dimensions and the glossiness of the postcards. But a letter, I would stuff in my pocket and bring it into my home so I can get a better look at it. Not only that, but a letter would get more of my respect. I have no respect for postcards; I use them as Frisbees, coasters and all sorts of utilitarian objects. People do not receive (standard personal) letters anymore and it would be very refreshing to get one.
Even if you took a regular sheet of paper–like my painter–folded it like a letter and put stamp on it, it would be so much more successful and better for you. You don’t have to hire a graphic designer; you do not have to pay for printing costs. It is a totally do-it-yourself method and a lot more effective. I am telling you this is much more effective than glossy postcards. Marketers worldwide would refute this opinion but it is true. Writing a letter is much more effective.
How do you get a coveted list of prospects? By networking. Sending a thousand mailers this way would be tough to do on your own, but not sixty. You have probably have met sixty people at various networking events and they gave you their business card. They want to do business with you. That’s the great thing about a letter. You are reminding them that you are to do business together. There is no sales-y approach to it. It’s business.
Ash Waechter is a direct response copywriter who helps small businesses sell more products and services online. He also writes SEO copy for attracting readers from around the web.