Direct Mail Packages Without a Letter Make No Sense

CBeyond sent this piece as First Class Mail with a tracking number in a card stock 9-1/2" x 12" outer and included an Amazon gift card tipped to a one-sided 4-color insert. But no letter.

NAC (North American Communications) sent a fold-out chart (seen on top here) outlining the latest 2014 USPS rates, with nothing else in the envelope.

I have been scratching my head in astonishment with the receipt of two recent B-to-B mailings sent to me at the office … and neither of them included a letter.

The one from CBeyond was sent First Class Mail with a tracking number in a card stock 9-1/2″ x 12″ outer and included an Amazon gift card tipped to a one-sided 4-color insert. The other was from NAC (North American Communications) with a nifty chart outlining the latest 2014 USPS rates.

Why is a letter so important?

Because any direct mail package—B-to-C or B-to-B—contains a number of components that, together, make a sales team.

We all know that the envelope’s purpose is to get opened. As Malcolm Decker puts it … “the envelope knocks on the door to see if anyone’s home.” But, once the envelope is opened, the letter becomes the most important member of the team. It is certainly what I look at first. To quote Malcom again: “It is the salesperson who is speaking personally and directly to the prospect on a one-to-one basis.”

In short, a letter is the one opportunity for the writer to make an emotional connection with the reader. All else in the package — circular, invitation, order mechanism — are rational.

“When emotion and reason come into conflict,” wrote John J. Flieder, “emotion wins every time.”

To continue into the package: “The folder or brochure is the demonstrator. It demonstrates in graphics what the letter can only say in words. It should convince the reader in images that that everything the letter says is true.” Here’s an important point: Because this element is impersonal, the voice should be different than the very personal one used in the letter.

Imagine the difference if a person from CBeyond had written me a letter introducing themselves and touting the many customer benefits they offer instead of the no-name message printed on the insert above the gift card. Or if NAC had enclosed a letter with their freemium that spoke of their solutions and to keep them in mind for a free quote … or made some kind of offer!

Peggy Hatch is a senior advisor at NAPCO Media. A direct mail copywriter, she co-founded Who’s Mailing What! with her husband Denny Hatch. Her previous position at NAPCO Media was Group President for the Target Marketing Group.

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  • Kurt Medina

    Peggy – RIGHT ON! Too many of today’s marketers ignore the fact that BOTH a letter and a brochure in a mailing give you the opportunity of TWO DIFFERENT voices speaking to your prospect. The letter, as you point out, is the personal voice of the sender and the brochure is the corporate company “announcement” voice. As a result, the copy writer has to very carefully differentiate how each is written. If they both say the same thing in the same tone, one has just wasted a major opportunity. Make them different in tone! And finally, if you had a choice of either a letter or a brochure … pick the letter every time!

  • Robert Doscher

    Peggy- But, a direct mail package with an illustrated letter generally out pulls the full brochure package at a lower cost. I’ve used it a number of times and the illustrated letter without the brochure has always won. Hi Kurt! Hope you are doing well.

  • Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh

    We’ve increasingly seen that printed pieces are becoming more interactive and have some sort of digital element to capture the consumers’ attention. Although, without personalization, the direct mail package may come off meaningless. Print makes emotional connections and memorable impressions in this fast-paced, always-on world. Its impact can be far greater than simply blasting a mailing without focus and relevancy. Studies consistently show that the best marketing results come from campaigns that smartly mix media —old and new, analog and digital, print and electronic. So, partner your offering with a personalized message to break through the clutter and reach the end user.

    – Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh, Vice President, Marketing Communications & Customer Engagement Programs, Xerox