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They Wrote Me a Letter
By Ray Jutkins   Printer Friendly Version

Promotions for conventions, trade shows, and incentive programs will generate greater response if you follow these guidelines.

There is no known limit to the number of times you can contact your prospects by mail. You can contact them whenever you have a new message, or until dollars spent versus dollars returned no longer shows a profit.

The most effective mailing consists of a letter, a brochure, a response form, and a business-reply card or envelope. People really like attention-getters, too, such as coins, buttons, stickers, and other gimmicks. Try them, they'll like it.

Copy

  • Copy is "king" in direct mail, more important than any or all of the individual elements -- even more important than graphics.
  • Ignore grammar rules in favor of crisp communication.
  • The opening paragraph in a letter or brochure should contain no more than 11 words for maximum effectiveness.
  • No single paragraph should have more than seven lines of copy. If it does, break it up to simplify communication.
  • Be sure to tell your prospects what's in it for them. Don't assume they know or understand. Tell them what you want them to know -- and what you want them to do.

Letters & brochures

  • Most people look at the letterhead of a letter first, then the salutation, the signature, and the postscript. Design letterhead and letter content to take advantage of this eye flow. Two-color letters work better than one-color, four-color is rarely worth the additional cost (though a four-color reply form often more than pays for extra printing costs).
  • The best size for letters in North America is 8½ by 11 inches. "Executive" letters, from the CEO or president of a major corporation, can be monarch size so they receive special attention.
  • A two-pager is more effective than a one-pager. Four pages are even better than two, except for lead generation, where a single page often does the best job.
  • Computer letters get better response than those that are typewritten, providing personalization is meaningful and low key.
  • Form letters with indented paragraphs are better than those without indentations.
  • Specially designed letterheads, tailored to fit the message, will often work better than standard letterhead.
  • Change of pace in a letterhead's appearance will increase response in a series of mailings.
  • Letters should be signed by one person only, with a title that is meaningful to the audience and ties in with the message. A signature in blue ink is expected.
  • Using a postscript will usually increase response.
  • A separate letter with a separate brochure generally does better than a two-in-one letter and brochure combo.
  • A large, four-color brochure printed on heavy stock almost always warrants the extra cost. This is not necessarily true for lead procurement and fundraising campaigns, however.

Reply forms & envelopes

  • Always ask for specific actions. Don't assume the reader knows what is in his own best interest.
  • Make it easy for your reader to respond. Print the reader's name, title, company, and address on the reply form.
  • "Busy" forms, which look important to many people, often produce more responses than neat, clean-looking forms.
  • An envelope to go with the form is vital. In fact, two response "devices" in the mailing are even better: say, an envelope and a card.
  • Postage-free reply cards generally bring more response than those to which the respondent must affix postage.

Envelopes & postage

  • Variety in types and sizes of envelopes will pay, particularly in a series of mailings, and window envelopes are better than closed-face envelopes.
  • Label addressing is almost always as effective as typewritten or stencil addressing. Hand-written addressing, except where appropriate, has an adverse effect upon response.
  • Third-class mail is as effective as first-class.
  • Postage-metered mail gains the same response as a live stamp, except for "personal" appeals, such as invitations.


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