You’ve no doubt seen enough examples of direct mail letters in your own mail to know they appear somewhat different to the standard business letter. That’s because they have a very different job to do – they have to sell!
Don’t, however, feel obliged to be “weird and wonderful” if you feel that approach is unsuited to your type of business or your personal style. Still, use these guidelines to make your communication less formal than usual:
The letter’s appearance
- Use a decent stock paper. Don’t print on both sides if it’s going to show through.
- Unless it’s a formal business letter, avoid using your standard letterhead.
- How long should it be? The thing to remember is that it is not length itself that makes a message effective, but content.
- Two pages are better than one cluttered with print. But three are even better! The final page proves to be the strongest place to spur the reader Instead of a date, use the space for a short headline or announcement. Something like, “For proud homeowners!”
- Place the most powerful benefit in your headline, or at the start of your letter.
- Personalise as much as you can. Use the person’s full name and address, rather than Dear Motorist etc. This applies especially when talking to your Primary Market (the existing customer). Otherwise begin with at least a friendly salutation like “Dear Customer”.
- Avoid the appearance of masses of text to be read. Ways which help are by:
- breaking them up into manageable paragraphs and columns. (Five to seven lines per paragraph work well);
- leaving wide margins on both sides, top and bottom as well;
- indenting some paragraphs instead of placing them close to the margin. This also helps draw attention to important elements of your message. The number of spaces you use for such indentations is optional. You can even vary them.
- Avoid the temptation to use those clever devices offered by your word processing software such as even right hand marginsand perfectly proportioned print. They don’t belong in a direct mail letter.
- Use short sentences.
- Make very important paragraphs stand out by making them shorter and centring them in the letter.
- CONSIDER USING CAPITAL LETTERS TO EMPHASISE IMPORTANT STATEMENTS OR PARAGRAPHS.
- You could even use a thick pen – blue works well – and place a solid, handdrawn circle around important paragraphs.
- DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN YOUR TEXT. IT MIGHT BE VERY NOTICEABLE, BUT IT BECOMES DIFFICULT TO READ AND GETS DOWNRIGHT BORING IF IT GOES ON FOR TOO LONG. ALSO, IT DOES TEND TO MAKE YOUR MESSAGE SEEM LIKE A LOUD SHOUT, DOESN’T IT?
- Underline key phrases.
- Use a highlighter to make words, sentences or even passages stand out. This helps the reader refer back to important points at a glance.
- Extra attention can be gained by using ‘tricks’ like handwriting in the margin, e.g., “I thought this advance news would interest you!” Use handwritten asterisks and “NB’s”.
- Illustrations can enhance your message and grab attention if they are relevant. Use them with text typed around them. A photograph of yourself could be placed above your signature.
- Always consider using a P.S. A postscript to a letter is an important part of a sales message. (This is often the first part of the letter read after the sender’s name!). Use it to stress some part of your sales message.
- Stay away from script typeface. It might give an overall good appearance, but it’s difficult to read. It’s okay for short messages, such as on a postcard.
- Use colours, tones and tints on blocks of text or accompanying tables and charts.
- Try to create a visual effect of movement, action and excitement rather than clinical lines of type.
- The signature must always be present. Have it printed in blue if you’re doing a large enough mailing. Make it legible … people like to know who’s doing the talking.