3 Keys to Writing an Effective Letter
The letter is a direct marketing mainstay and often the centerpiece of a campaign. Certainly, getting a prospect to open the envelope is paramount, but what's inside is equally as important.
That means the letter is crucial to engage the audience and, ultimately, get recipients to act. Here, Steve Swanson, marketing manager for Better Homes and Gardens, offers insights on how to create an interesting and effective direct mail letter.
1. First and foremost, know your audience, and write to its needs in its language. Everything starts with relating to the readers. Talk in their language, and engage them with stories or offers that are relevant to them.
For instance, Better Homes and Gardens customers are typically your average "middle Americans," as Swanson calls them. Therefore, the magazine "makes the letter folksy for our audience because that's the style that appeals to them," describes Swanson. Find the voice and tone that works for your audience.
2. Shorter is not always better. Despite popular opinion, shorter copy isn't necessarily more desirable for consumers - and it doesn't always pay for marketers, even in this era of high paper and postage costs. In fact, in the case of Better Homes and Gardens, a four-page letter works better time and time again than a two-pager. "I still haven't found a two-page [letter] that works better than a good four-page [letter]," says Swanson. "We've tested it the past five or six years, and four-page still works best for us."
So, if you're thinking of shrinking your letter, test it to make sure it's the right move.
3. Make it easy on the eyes. While long copy isn't always a bad thing, people don't want a sea of never-ending words laid out before them. If a letter looks too tedious to read, chances are people won't even try. Swanson suggests using the following techniques to give your letter the appearance of an easy read:
- Make sure the copy isn't too blocky. Use short paragraphs and simple language.
- Use breaks and white space to give readers a chance to think about the message.
- Underlining and bolding text attracts the eye and allows readers to scan the letter.
- Test things such as handwriting in the margins and bullets to draw attention to important information.
The letter is an important aspect to any direct mail package. Make sure it hits home for your audience and clearly states your offer or call to action.