Is Letter Writing the Next Innovation?

"Marketers are Writing Letters"Email boxes are overflowing, you can’t keep up with your Tweets, and you’ve even stopped checking Facebook every day.

The mountain of information on the Internet vying for our eyeballs is making a lot of people tune out. It’s becoming harder to get our attention.

The Old-Fashioned Letter

Have you noticed that the inbox where you receive printed correspondence is humming with activity? I’m receiving more letters and brochures than ever before.

Even so, it’s a trickle compared to the flood of email and social media messages most of us receive every day. Emails are piling up in our mailboxes. Half of them we delete without even reading them. I wonder how much impact these emails are having and whether an honest-to-goodness letter might actually be more powerful.

Savvy marketers are discovering that it’s easier to catch someone’s attention with a printed sales letter than to cut through the clutter of the recipient’s email box.

I’m talking about the old-fashioned letter with a date, inside address, a salutation, body of the letter, closing and signature. What passes as a “business” letter in email is really nothing more than some phrases and shortcuts like BTW (by the way) TTYL (talk to you later).

Driving You to the Internet

The old-fashioned letter is serving a different purpose than the letter of bygone years. Marketers are using letters and colorful brochures to drive readers to the Internet to buy their products and services. Most people still like the feel or a letter or magazine in their hands. It’s actually fun to scan through brochures and pick out things you might like to buy.

But the marketer knows that the letter or brochure is more likely to nudge you out of your chair and go to your computer to place your order online than to fill out the paper order form, write a check, and drop the letter in a mail box (just try to find one these days).

Ironic, isn’t it. Marketers are sending you letters and catalogs that are driving you back online just when you wanted to get away from the cacophony of the Internet!

Rules of Letter Writing

You would think it’s easy to write a letter. But the new style of writing is informal (credit the Internet) and people nowadays want to get information in short takes.

If you decide to start contacting people by mail, the new rules of letter writing are:

  • Get to the point quickly.  What is the purpose of the letter? To inform, to educate, to sell something? Tell the reader upfront. Be sure to use complete sentences that make sense. The old-fashioned subject, verb, object construction still has something going for it.
  • Include supporting facts if you want the reader to do something.
  • Summarize the action you want to the reader to take.
  • Include the timing of next steps. Are you going to do something for the reader or do you expect the reader to do something for you? By when?

It takes time to write a compelling short letter.

As the philosopher and writer Blaise Pascal famously said, “I made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.”

Leave a Reply


  1. What’s really intriguing, and maybe it’s just me, I’m getting more exhausted with a technology that is supposed to be so wonderful for the small business person.

    My email inbox – well – I delete more than half the 200+ emails a day without even thinking about it and on occasion take time to open – JUST to unsubscribe. Do I really need to know that my favorite pet company is having a sale? I’m going to buy when I need to buy.

    My street mail box – right now it’s the season for political smear campaigns. They go from the box, to my hand and immediately to the trash.

    The other mail, the category you have as marketers driving us to the internet. As I said in “my email inbox,” I just don’t need one more email.

    Yup; I DO want to get away from it.

  2. Jeannette I think mail may be a good idea, provided that you know the person. Or maybe I should put it another way – the person is already a customer.

    And, as always, you get invitations from companies like Chanel, Aspreys and so forth by normal mail. So any company who would like to be associated with that category of companies would do well as well.

    We all get tons of brochures and sales letters by mail and most of us throw them all away without even looking at the content.

    Would hence go a bit further and suggest that the best way to get attention is to send letters and brochures with special delivery (that you have to sign for). That will most likely pay off handsomely.

    • Catarina — most of us get a lot of “junk” that we discard and wonder why advertisers waste their money when “nobody” reads them. Fact is, advertisers know that they might only get a 1% response rate but that is enough to make money. It would be costly to send special delivery brochures, but it sure would get your attention.

  3. I get this. I am overwhelmed with all that comes my way by email and other sources. It is almost impossible to keep up. I agree with you. I delete about half of the emails that come my way before I even open them, simply because I don’t have time for them all. I have to be selective about what I open and read or I wouldn’t eat , sleep or take care to what I need to do… LOL

    Would I return to writing letter’s? I’m not sure. It is a thought worth pondering. 🙂

    • Susan — Even with deleting half my emails I sometime think I don’t have time to eat, sleep or take care of what I need to do!

  4. I’ll take the educator’s stance and add my two cents that the art of writing any letters, personal or business, is quickly becoming a lost art form. Your post made me instantly think about the time I had high school freshmen write letters to themselves at the start of the school year. What should have taken a relatively short amount of time escalated into a lengthy lesson on how to address an envelop (step by step) and where to put the date, saluation, and closing in the letter. Granted, most curriculums for computer classes do cover letter writing and memos, it just doesn’t sink in since people are not as exposed to such formats often enough.

    • Jeri — it’s sad because I know when I receive a hand-written letter from a friend it so refreshing that I can’t wait to rip open the envelope. I’m old-fashioned, I know, but I still send hand-written thank-you notes and my friends and family always tell me how much they appreciate them. Sure, you can send an email and I appreciate receiving thank-you’s that way too, but taking the time to get out the note paper, write a note, address the envelope and put a stamp on it shows that you really care.