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Addressed sales letters – how to make them work

I cleaned my desk today and found an unopened letter that arrived two years ago. It made me smile.
For you to understand why, I need to turn back in time to December 2008.
Here's the scene:

I went through the snow and into the Post Office. I said Hi to the postal workers and nodded to some other entrepreneurs who had come for the same reason – to empty their mail boxes.

I got hold of my mail and piled it up on the counter. Around me stood other postbox visitors and sorted their letters by interest (advertising letters went straight into the big green trash can - a horror film for a marketer).

I browsed through the mail pile, threw some of it in the trash and came up with a C-4 envelope that didn't look like anything more than the usual rubbish until my ... eyes ... stuck ... on ... the address label. But ... what ... the ...?!? I looked again as my brain wrestled with understanding what my eyes were reading, it was that odd.

It started as a little rumble from somewhere under my heavy jacket. The vibrations got more intense and soon it transformed into a roar of laughter that forced its way up through my throat and into my mouth.

Only lunatics laugh out loud to themselves when they sort mail so I fought hard to restrain the urge to let it loose. With all my might I managed to minimize it to a puffing sound. The sweat made my forehead wet as some people started to look my way with a worried look, probably thinking that I was close to having a heart attack.

But , what, you ask ... Above my name on this sales letter it was written in capital letters:
It was so unexpected and so appealing to my childish humor that day that I almost broke down with laughter.

(The letter actually came from a company that sells incontinence protection and even if I run a publishing house, of course I can be part of their target audience. And even if I don't need that kind of merchandise, I'm still responsible for the company's purchases and that would also mean that I should be responsible for the company's incontinence problems (if we had any, that is).

So what do we learn from this stuff (except that I'm obviously stuck in the “wee-and poo-age”)?

The most important thing we can learn is that your advertising messages have a terribly hard fight ahead of them when they leave your hopeful hands. Thus, we are talking about a real struggle here, not just a regular hard fight between a small and a great wrestler, but a struggle that stands between eight experienced karate guys and you.

The letter you send will be received by real people who are looking for a strong reason not to throw it away together with twenty other similar commercial letters every day - often directly into the large green trash standing next to the boxes.

Your job is to find the reason that makes them bring back your message to the office – they just have to do that! You MUST find that reason and not routinely write ”To the purchasing manager” or ”To the one in charge of office supplies” on your letter (because it screams  BORING).

To avoid the large green trash can monster that steals your campaign money - do this at least:

1. Enter the name of the recipient on the address label, preferably not ”To the purchasing manager.”This will avoid a gatekeeper who, as a matter of principle, always throws away any advertising material without a real name on the envelope, and removes your chances of reaching the right person.

2. Please write the addresses by hand (hire some school children to do the job if you don't have time yourself) – it's personal and private and it'll stand out.

3. Add something lumpy in the envelope so the customer gets curious and opens the letter.

4. Think about what is exciting enough for you when you get commercial letters in the mail. What would you get excited about that made you go;”Hmm, this I gotta open ...”!

5. The closer you get to accomplishing making the receiver say ” I'll be damned ...!”out loud in the mail room, the better of course.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

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"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
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