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10 March 2014 by Gary

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE GOOD OLD-FASHIONED LETTER

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE GOOD OLD-FASHIONED LETTER

Increasing the number of customers is a key objective for any business. To do this, making connections with new contacts is an essential part of any engagement marketing strategy. Almost everyone is busy tweeting, LinkingIn, managing content and sending out emails to potential customers. The result is a very noisy arena in which it is not always easy to capture the attention of individuals.

We receive fewer letters than prior to the digital revolution. Royal Mail’s letter business has suffered from the increasing use of emails, as well as texts, social media and other forms of digital communication; estimates suggest this letter business is expected to drop by 40% over 5 years.

Easy to write and fast to send, cheap email campaigns are an effective alternative communication, sending a personalised message to a digitally savvy audience. The business user gets an increasing number of emails however and picking out the important ones, those that are urgent and need a response are the priority for recipients.

I wonder if individuals are neglecting an effective form of communication when looking for new customers. One of the most effective means of introduction seems to have been discarded. What about the good old-fashioned letter?

To start a sales ‘cold calling’ process, the letter is still an effective way of grabbing the attention of the contact you are interested in meeting. Whilst there is always a chance of your letter being deposited in the bin, in this digital age, the post box is less crowded, fewer letters are received and there is less competition to get noticed. Letters are opened once a day usually in an environment that is more relaxed than an environment that expects an immediate response such as incoming emails.

It is a fact that co-ordinated marketing activity works better using different channels that can be complementary. If used in the right way, a letter can form one component of a tactical armoury for businesses to attract and introduce themselves to potential customers. It can get over the initial hurdle that many organisations use to prevent sales introductions – it can be useful to reach key people.

Before using the good old-fashioned letter there are a number of things that you need to consider to improve your chances of it being effective.

1 Be clear on purpose

Make sure you know what the aim of the letter is. Usually these are best used for an introduction that is professional and has an objective to generate appointments, either a qualifying telephone appointment or face-to-face meeting. Techniques can improve the possibility of the recipient being interested in seeing you….

2 Grab the reader’s attention

It needs to be effective. Usually readers will decide within the first few seconds if they are going to read it or not. It also needs to be efficient; it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to read and the fewer words there are the better. No more than 3 paragraphs or 5 at tops if they are brief.

Use a headline to spell out the key message or proposition and spend time considering this, perhaps after you have structured the whole thing. Use a visually attractive font and a size of type that is not too small or big. If you want to send something with the letter make sure it adds value and remember not to be too gimmicky or send something that distracts from your objective.

3 Use the right words

Winston Churchill gave sound advice on the subject of writing: ‘Use simple words everybody knows’. Place yourself in the other person’s shoes and talk to the reader in a language they understand. Your style and tone should make your letter appeal and incorporate relevant, credible, technical, industry or business words that will be recognisable to the recipient.

4 Get the reader interested

When preparing the content of your letter include what’s important to the recipient. Do your research and make it relevant to the individual and their company. Remember it’s about the individual you are writing to – their market, their customers and their company. It’s not just about you. You should include significant things relevant to the organisation though, for example experience of a recent project completed in a similar area of business.

5 Fuel the desire

Ensure the receiver sees future contact as potentially beneficial so that they want to pursue it. If possible inject uniqueness. Make your letter unique and play down your ego or what I can do. How would you know what you can do until you have at least spoken with the recipient and understood more about their position? Wherever possible make sure the letter follows a single theme throughout and is not just a hotchpotch of benefits.

6 Generate action

There is no result if nothing happens. Action is required. If the objective of your letter is to establish an appointment on the telephone or in person then make that clear in the letter. You don’t need to be specific about the time that you intend to follow up but you need to be clear as to what the next stage is. Also you do need to follow up the letter, make contact, develop a rapport with the individual or the team and discuss the contact appointment.

7 Reach the right person

As a final point, ensure the letter is addressed to the right recipient. If you need to research, social media is a great way of searching to help find people and link them to job titles or organisations. Consider whether the potential recipient is a decision maker or one part of a jigsaw in the decision making process. Also consider how you are going to deal with barriers that may be put up.

Spare a thought for the good old-fashioned letter. It can be a useful tool to make an introduction and secure further contact either on the telephone or in person, complementing digital communications.

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