Direct Mail Strategy: The Wonders of White Mail
When I’m teaching a workshop and use the term white mail, I get blank looks from about half the group. They are unfamiliar with the term. White mail is unsolicited correspondence from your customers. While I don’t know this for a fact, I assume white mail got its name from the plain “white” envelope it arrives in—rather than a printed reply envelope provided by you, the marketer.
I once was an official reader of white mail for the personalized Christmas card program at Walter Drake, a multichannel marketer of household merchandise and gift items. So, I know from experience the enclosed message can be anything from a change of address or catalog request to an order, complaint, compliment, or an update from a customer who feels he or she has a personal relationship with your company and wants to keep you informed. I’ve read white mail written by everyone from sweet, little old ladies to convicted felons writing from their penitentiary cells. All were Walter Drake customers.
Whatever their reason for writing, you should treat these customers and the contents of their white mail as though they were solid gold. White mail isn’t triggered by an offer you’ve made—a money-saving discount, free gift or free shipping. Instead, a customer voluntarily chooses to write you. This simple act requires motivation to (a) look for an envelope, (b) compose a message, as well as (3) locate, apply and pay for postage. Anyone who goes to this effort to contact you normally has something of value to share. Treat it appropriately.
Sure, there are crackpots who send you junk. But for the most part, your white mail contains information you can use to improve your service, expand your product line, praise your employees, strengthen your advertising and solidify customer relationships.
How to Handle Your Company’s White Mail
Whether your white mail arrives in the hands of your postal carrier or electronically via e-mail, there are two key steps to maximize the value of what you receive.