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.”