Archive for Letter writing

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.”

Writing a Letter Will Amaze and Delight

[tweetmeme]I received evidence today that letter writing isn’t dead.  I just finished tossing my junk mail, as I do every day.  But in between all the magazines and discount flyers for Broadway shows, I was delighted to spy a letter from a new bridge partner containing several instruction sheets with conventions we’re working on.  Now, Susanne didn’t have to send these to me.  It was a favor and she could have given them to me when we play next week.

Writing a letter will amaze and delight

But her envelope stood out in my pile of mail.  This got me thinking once again about how important writing a letter, preferably by hand, still is to us.  We cringe under the deluge of email correspondence, deleting most of it without reading.  Even a juicy subject line may not be enough to grab our attention.

But a letter?

We can touch the envelope containing the letter and shake it to try and guess at its contents.  Sort of useless but we do it.  We know that someone else actually held this envelope in his hand and wrote the letter inside.  Would you believe that the old-fashioned letter actually has a sense of mystery about it? What will be revealed when I read it?  (Envelopes we receive screaming “Save Money Now,” or “0%” Interest” printed on the envelope don’t count — more junk mail).

I’m talking about what is obviously a personal letter — even though the letter may turn out to have a business purpose.  So don’t be afraid to seem out of date when you send a client or prospect a personal note.  You will amaze and delight her because it obviously took some time to get the paper and envelope, sit down to compose the letter, address, stamp and mail it.  How thoughtful of you to send me an article on a subject I’m deeply interested in, or to invite me for cocktails or a seminar.

Thank you note

Don’t forget the thank you note, while we’re at it, which my good friend Andrea Nierenberg wrote about in these pages a few months ago.

I’ll end with a funny question my grandson asked me recently, “When you were young, did you use a quill pen?”  Yikes, I’m not that old.  But, yes, I did use a pen to write letters when I was younger, before taking the lazy way out too often now and thumbing a note to someone on my new smart phone.  Whew, glad that’s off my plate.

Is Letter Writing Dead?

I mean 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 short-cuts like BTW (by the way) TTYL (talk to you later).  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 formal letter might actually cut through the clutter.

Now you would think it’s easy to write a letter. I accept that the new style of writing is informal (credit the Internet) and most often your letter will be read in an email.  People nowadays want to get information in short takes.  So 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 – you know, 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.”