Want More Copywriting Clients? Here’s a Surprising Way to Find Them

image of postage stamp

As a freelance copywriter, I’ve put together a nice portfolio of major corporate clients, ranging from Bay State Gas to Pizzeria Uno. And I found most of them in a rather unusual way.

I didn’t use SEO or pay-per-click. I didn’t go to networking events and shake hands with half the Rotary Club. And I didn’t take out billboards by the highway that said AWESOME COPYWRITER FOR HIRE.

I got most of these lucrative gigs in a way that wouldn’t cross many people’s minds — a way that’s unconventional and highly effective.

I sent them a sales letter.

Not the kind that’s an HTML page, but a good, old-fashioned paper letter in an envelope with an honest-to-goodness stamp.

The same copywriting techniques you use for online pages can be moved to the physical mail world. (In fact, that’s where they came from in the first place). Direct mail can still be surprisingly effective, and it has a few real advantages.

Why prospect by direct mail in the internet age?

I conducted my first direct mail campaign in 1997 and got an amazing 11% response rate of prospects asking for my information kit. From that I landed several high-paying, long-term clients. After a hiatus to focus on magazine writing, I decided to get back into copywriting this year and garnered a good client base (and a lot of interested prospects for my pipeline) with my very first wave of direct mail.

Here are a few benefits of prospecting via mail as opposed to e-mail:

  • You stand out. When hordes of other freelance copywriters are shooting off e-mails (which are all too easy to delete), you stand out from the crowd by sending a nicely-presented mail package.
  • You can customize your mailing. With e-mail, you wouldn’t want to send an unasked-for attachment because you run the risk of being labeled as spam. So all the prospect gets is your bare-bones e-mail introduction, and you hope like crazy that she clicks on the link to your online portfolio. With a direct mail sales letter, you can include your business card, a reply card, a sample, a white paper — anything you want.
  • You don’t feel overwhelmed. E-mail can reach prospects all over the world and in all different industries — but just thinking about where to start can be overwhelming. When I tried prospecting via e-mail, my efforts were scattershot and mostly fruitless. Using snail mail forces you to focus on either a particular geographic area or a type of business. For example, with my first campaign I concentrated on businesses of a certain size in my home state of Massachusetts.
  • Prospects can keep your information on file. I recently got a $1,000 assignment from an exec who kept my information kit on file for over two years. It’s difficult for your potential clients to dig through (or even remember) old e-mails, and often a lot easier to pull a paper packet out of a file.

Want to try the low-tech way to land clients? Here’s where to start: the essential components of a simple direct mail campaign.

The letter

Multi-page sales letters typically pull in clients better than single-page ones, so my sales letter is two pages long.

It starts with a question that readers are sure to answer “Yes” to, tells the reader about the benefits my clients experience when they work for me, and makes the offer of a free information kit with my samples, client list, testimonials, and fee schedule.

Sound familiar? It should — the ingredients of this paper letter are the same ones you’d include in an effective landing page.

If you’re looking for the mechanics of writing a killer sales letter, you’ll find articles on persuasive copywriting every week here on Copyblogger. Even better, sign up for Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter. It starts with a 20-part tutorial that includes lots of tips for writing killer sales copy.

The mailing list

For my first campaign, I went through a business directory at the library and entered likely prospects into a Filemaker file. I then called every one of those businesses to make sure the information was up to date. Only then did I compile my mailing. Time consuming, yes — but also effective.

For my second campaign (which started late last year), I bought a list of 900 marketing executives in my new home state of New Hampshire from Hoovers.com for around $225. (There are tons of list services out there, but most of the ones I found had a $500 minimum order.)

I stupidly had faith that a purchased list would be as accurate as the one I compiled myself — and received an e-mail from a prospect complaining that both his first and last names were spelled wrong. (Though, thankfully, he still did ask for my information kit.)

Now before I send a letter I always call the business to check all the key information, or I at least verify the information online. You’ll save yourself from making a poor first impression with someone who could turn out to be a great client.

The reply card

I include an old-fashioned reply card that the prospect can fill out and mail back. My mailing address is on one side, and there are blanks for the prospect’s name, phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address.

The prospect can choose to receive my information kit via snail mail or e-mail, schedule a phone call to discuss a project, or be removed from my mailing list. (By the way, to date, no one’s ever checked that last box.)

For my first campaign, there was the question of whether to include postage on the reply card. I did this for the first wave or two, but another, more experienced copywriter told me that something as small as a stamp is not a barrier for people who are genuinely interested in contacting you. In other words, if someone really wants to send the reply card back, they’re fine with sticking on a stamp. I stopped stamping the cards and my response rate didn’t budge.

The information kit

When someone requests your information, it’s really helpful if you have something to actually send them.

For my first campaign, my information kit was in hardcopy and I kept all the components — samples, testimonials, etc. — in folders, ready for me grab the components when needed and stick them in a large envelope.

Now, I also have each component in PDF format so I can send the kit via e-mail if that’s how the prospect chooses to receive it.

You can use any electronic resource you have available (your blog, some great web sites you’ve done copy for, or even a well-crafted Facebook page) to support your direct mail efforts. Just because you’re prospecting by direct mail doesn’t mean you have to stay there.

The cover letter

Along with my information kit I include a one-page cover letter that restates my experience and the benefits I offer, and invites the prospect to call me to discuss any projects she may have.

If I have a particular interest in this company, I can easily customize the cover letter to show that I’ve done my research and understand that company’s needs.

The follow-up

Over the last 13 years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve learned the value of the follow-up e-mail or phone call.

Every few months, go through your database of all of the people who have asked for information from you — your prospects. Touch base with each one to let him know what you’re up to and to ask if there’s anything you can do for him.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but once you have a system in place it becomes second nature.

Also, I prefer putting in some work up front and reaping real rewards, rather than taking the seemingly easier route of shooting off e-mails to untested addresses and not get any response for my time.

How about you? Have you ever tried a direct mail campaign to land clients? What did you learn? Would you do it again? Let us know about it in the comments.

About the Author: Linda Formichelli is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success and runs the Renegade Writer Blog. Linda offers phone mentoring, e-courses for magazine writers, and an e-book on productivity for freelancers. She lives in Concord, New Hampshire with her writer husband, toddler son, and German exchange student.

P.S.

Whether you’re delivering your persuasive message by blog, email, direct mail, mass media, or carrier pigeon, you need to know about the essentials of content marketing and copywriting. You’ll find a free 20-part course on these marketing essentials in Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People newsletter. Sign up now!

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Comments

  1. Great article Linda! Who would have thought that snail mail could be a winner? In an age where In-boxes full of electronic mail can be daunting, it’s nice to know that a personal hardcopy letter can still get a result.

  2. Awesome. Way to go back to the old-school way of doing things to stand out from the crowd now that it’s “outdated.”

    However, my modern patience level would hate having to wait all that extra time, but it looks like it’d be worth it for the extra impressions made. I’m seriously part of the microwave generation, and the crock pot is just. so. slow! :)

  3. Linda, What a great post – thanks so much for sharing this. I’ve actually been chewing my lip a bit debating on whether or not I wanted to do a more “broad” direct mail campaign to generate leads or if I should try a local seminar. I’ve only done one direct mail campaign in the past and got a nice response from it.

    I compiled a list of all of my best clients that either currently worked with me on a steady basis (content marketing) or were just past clients that hadn’t worked with me in 4-6 months. Around December I created a single page New Year promo offering a discount on my services to help clients gear up for the post-Christmas season where consumer spending started to shift back to “normal”. All in all I sent about 20 letters and received 4 favorable responses to start some orders.

    Wonder now if perhaps a two page rather than a single page would have been more effective :)

    I think I may put the local seminar on hold and try to a small direct mail campaign in stead. I’m a big fan of sending handwritten letters to my clients and always get happy responses, cards and thank-you’s back in the mail. If you’d like to make a positive impact on clients I would suggest readers try this tactic as well for keeping current clients happy.

    Thanks again!

  4. Nice write, Linda. Couldn’t agree more. Even on a town level, opportunity exists. If you provide a service like copywriting, try and mention it when you buy products from local businesses. I’ve done this and landed a few website coding jobs in the past — and I wasn’t even trying to get the work. Just mentioned it and they mentioned how in need they were. You never know.

    P.S. You know…I’d love to see your pdf links here. :)

    Regards,
    Shane

  5. Thanks, Linda! I’ve had similar experience with direct mail–and with paid lists. As far as I’m concerned, your approach should be adopted by every copywriter.

  6. Amen. I actually have been known to call people up. And, people that you wouldn’t expect do business with me based on that.

    Some form of follow up is essental.

  7. Great post!

    I think that too many writers eliminated offline marketing from their toolset when actually the best strategy is to combine online and offline marketing techniques.

    Offline marketing definitely still works (as you point out here).

    Thanks for the practical outline of how writers can develop a direct mail campaign. :)

    • Yea I agree – a combination of on-line and off-line marketing can’t be beaten as long as they flow in the same direction and benefit each other in the ways that can be achieved to make a positive impact,

  8. Hi Linda

    It’s refreshing to see someone tell the world that you can use offline and online to create a living.

    Far too many people are relying on video and high pressure tactics to shift products now, specifically the IM niche, so I think it’s time to go back to the old ways.

    Also an offline company will generally be selling a physical product, have an advertising budget, and is more likely to hire and keep using the same person.

    Andrew

  9. Hi Linda,

    I agree that old fashioned snail mail is still a great way to get clients. You have more control over building your client list because you select who you’re going to mail to. Another advantage: it’s way too easy to delete an email (even if by accident). With an actual letter, the recipient can file it away for later use.

    Combining old fashioned direct mail with online marketing is the best way to expand your client base.

    My absolute favorite way to get new clients? Face to face networking. Old fashioned, yes. Time consuming, yes. But meeting some in person and getting to know them is by far the best way to sell yourself.

    Great article!

  10. Thank you Linda for the great article. Lots of excellent information in there for a newbie copywriter.

  11. I do the same – I send out specially-printed postcards to my prospects. It works really well and I’ve had LOADS of new clients over the years as a result. And you’re right, snail mail is a bit of a novelty these days so my postcards do get read.

  12. Marshall Adler :

    Direct mail sucks! We are in the age of information and unfortunately a bombardment of commercials, advertisements and unwanted mailings. Direct mailing, postcards, door to door sales etc. is better known to us Internet Marketers as Intrusion Marketing. People are blasted all day with advertisements and unwanted media, the last thing they want to receive is direct snail mail sales letters from people trying to sell them more stuff. Sure if you send a mailing out to 1000 people you might net 1% response and get 10 people requesting your information kit.

    Sure you might also even land 1 client out of those 10 responses and sure you might make $1000 off that one client on one or two projects but the key datum is MIGHT. Direct mailing is an old conventional method of marketing that wastes time and money.

    I am a RTFM (Reverse The Flow Marketer) in that I believe in getting people to chase after me instead. I don’t prospect for new business. I drive traffic from major search engines to my landing pages and my content marketing either gets the person to fill out my extensive form or to leave. I convert 10% of all traffic I send to my sites and wake up every day to fresh, qualified sales leads in my inbox.

    I never chase after prospects, they come to me!

    • You’re new here, right? :)

      Here’s the thing: It’s far better to embrace the message than the medium. Success lies in making sure the message is meaningful and on-target, and reaches the right person at the right time.

      Virtually any type of media has the potential to do that. Conversely, it has the potential to be wasteful, intrusive and useless if the messaging and targeting are wrong. Simple as that. To suggest that any medium is always better (or worse) than any other is short-sighted. Instead, it boils down to a media mix that is 100% reflective of what your target expects.

      I can tell you with complete confidence that your methods–while working brilliantly for you–would not work AT ALL for the target markets of some of my clients.

    • I am a RTFM (Reverse The Flow Marketer) in that I believe in getting people to chase after me instead.

      Darn, I was ready to chase after you, but you used STFU – Stop The Flow Unnecessarily – by not providing a link.

    • 100% of my best clients are the people that I chased and sought a relationship with.

      Here’s something:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_eOqarWcFU

      That guy. He was grousing about a wanting to get the word out about a tax problem on twitter.

      His cell phone was on his website. I called it. I said, “Look, we can rank for this and have all the business we want.”

      He and I haggled, he wrote me a check. We’re still engaged 2 years later.

      Had I not called him, he would have missed on something like a quarter of a million dollars. If you refuse to connect…well, then you’re keeping your clients and yourself poor.

    • “Sure you might also even land 1 client out of those 10 responses and sure you might make $1000 off that one client on one or two projects but the key datum is MIGHT. Direct mailing is an old conventional method of marketing that wastes time and money.”

      How is it ever a waste of time and money if the direct mail cost me some stamps and a little time. I’ll take that single client conversion any day of the week. With most of SEO copywriting gigs I land (that include optimization, research, content writing and additional content marketing) most clients are valued at somewhere around $3500 just at the start of a relationship.

      I don’t know about you, but if I did a direct mail campaign that cost me very little to produce and only got ONE lead then I consider that a success – especially since most clients end up being long term relationships that pay out again and again. I don’t call that a waste of time and money at all – that’s a client I didn’t have in the first place so that’s a win.

      By saying you don’t chase contacts and you wait for them to come to you, you’re actually shutting down a number of ways to build clients. That’s like a client telling me that they already blog so they don’t need to do any other type of content marketing. Of course you don’t need to, no one is twisting your arm, but it’s smart to supplement your outreach.

      I suppose if you hate money though, your tactic works well.

    • Can’t say I blame them for chasing after you. You’re so charming.

  13. Surprisingly simple but surprisingly effective. I’m now suitably chastened and embarrased by my over reliance on email. You’ve reminded us of a simple pleasure in life: receiving mail that you can actually do something with.

  14. Thanks for your comments, everyone! I need to give credit to Bob Bly’s book Secrets of a Freelance writer, which helped launch my career in 1997. He’s the one who gave me the idea to offer an information kit in my mailing instead of directly asking for the sale.

    It’s great to hear from other writers who successfully use direct mail. I find it cuts through the clutter of e-mail, websites, etc.

    By the way, the one client I most recently landed sent my info along to an exec at another hospital in their group, so now I potentially have two clients from one letter!

    • Peter Bowerman (The Well-Fed Copywriter) also has some nice ideas on this, very much in the same line. And Dan Kennedy has an old school but very good book (The Ultimate Sales Letter) that translates the same methods to virtually any locally-based business (dentist, restaurant, massage therapist, etc.)

    • The Wealthy Freelancer written by 3 professional copywriters also highly suggests sending sales letters to your target market, and to include an offer of a Free Report.

      jigsaw.com offers a database of contacts including phone number and addresses. Their fees are about the same as what was mentioned in the blog post, but on the lower end.

    • Bob Bly’s Secrets of Freelance Writer is so great! It’s packed with tons of no-nonsense info and ideas. And the prevailing attitude is “hey, if you can write and have a decent head on your shoulders, you can do this, it’s not rocket science.” When I first made the jump to working for myself, I really appreciated the sentiment.

  15. It is interesting that this discussion is being had. The using of offline marketing to get more online work. We’re coming full circle. Read a post yesterday, maybe even here at CB, that not all businesses want to *make money online*. Some just need a portal for promotion of a brick and mortar. As we attempt to grow, we need to remember that not all business is done online.

    Great post and wonderful idea!

    Bernice

  16. A very helpful post that I agree with wholeheartedly. Adapting and experimenting, learning what works and what doesn’t. An amusing point of interest is that I use snail mail in a similar way to you and also always offer my newsletter sign-up too. The really interesting thing is that I get a newsletter sign-up of around 45% and can keep in touch with potential prospects via the email newsletter. But, then again, I have always been and always will be a believer in integrated marketing and always give clients and prospects as many options as possible to interact with me and me with them. Continued success to you!

  17. Using direct mail copywriting to land copywriting clients? Scandalous!

  18. I think this was a great article. Valuable information that I desperately needed. I am excited to see that direct mail is more effective than email. I believe its true too, when we check our inbox we are always prepped for the junk mail that we know is coming. So when we see something from someone that we don’t know and it seems like a pitch of any kind then it automatically gets deleted. It is way to easy to delete something with email. I know I do this, and many of you do too: I keep my finger on the delete key when I am scanning through my emails, deleting is a microspasm of my finger away!

    I was really intrigued to find out that not adding return postage didn’t affect your conversion rate. This is great news since it significantly lowers the cost of the campaign. I have often wondered this but have been too afraid to not do it. Now I am going to take the leap.

    What a great article!

  19. Excellent advice. I’ve been in the writing business for many years and have managed academic print shops that designed and sent out the direct mail info packs. I saw the best response from this type of promotion. Your thoughts on follow through are right on the money. As with all things, follow through attracts attention and garners respect which = prospective jobs.

    Thanks for the article. It’s easy to forget that there are other effective ways to generate prospects in this age of email and website traffic.

  20. Emily Wenstrom :

    This is the most practical, useful blog post I’ve read in a long time. Thanks Linda! Sometimes the long way around is the most effective. I’ll be holding onto this for reference and a reminder to myself for a long time.

  21. This is a great point and one that I think so many people forget. We are all guilty of chasing ‘what works’ so listening to those that seem to be doing well and blindly following their ideas and methods but if we want to truly stand out then we need to blaze our own trail and have people follow us.

    To give you an example; I used to work for a small company that only ever did fax marketing. Sure they had a website and went to a few trade shows but it was the fax mailshots that brought in the new clients every single week.

    You might be thinking, who even owns a fax machine in this day and age, but my boss knew his market better than anyone. His target market were solicitors (lawyers) and they all have fax machines AND what’s more they would read every fax that came out of the machine (because it could have been from a client sending copies of important paperwork) and his approach usually responded in an enquiry because it stood out from the usual unwanted emails etc.

    There was even an enquiry form that the client could fill out with a pen and fax back there and then (that proved a great direct response mechanism) and because it was a piece of paper, very often the client would store in their file and fax back when they did have a need for the service. Absolute gold!

    He was one of the best direct response copywriters I had ever seen. It wasn’t unusual for a 100 recipient fax out to generate a response of 30-40 new clients! It was seriously that effective. He even did all the online marketing stuff we tend to do every day like split testing, headline changes, direct response mechanisms and so on. He just didn’t know it as that stuff

    That’s just some of the magic you can learn from ‘offline dinosaurs’!!

    • Yep. Ignoring techniques because we think they’re “old fashioned” is not a great idea.

      If your customer uses a fax machine, send faxes. (Although I think there’s some legislation around unsolicited faxes, so that has to be taken into account.) If they use stone tablets, put your marketing message on stone tablets.

      Do more of what works, and find your client where she is, not where you think she ought to be.

  22. Thanks so much for sharing this. I live in a small, rural area. Our local businesses could use a good copywriter, and I am working on getting my name in all the right places. Now, I’m considering direct mail!

    I’ll be passing this one on to friends…

    Debra

  23. One last thought – I’ve had some success with this very method – but have found that a modest investment in a really nice stationary stock, such as Cranes (order online), speaks volumes. No need to have it printed – a great inkjet or laser will reproduce logos etc. in character to the stock.

    I use a Monarch size, with Monarch envelopes. Just this week, someone who held onto one I sent last summer called.

    Then sign it in real ink. It’s the only reason I have to get out my Mont Blanc.

    It then feels special. Yep.

  24. I just bought a list from Hoovers. This morning I got an email informing me that someone on it has been dead for 5 years. So watch out! Checking the info might be worthwhile.

    • Absolutely — that’s why Linda mentioned doing just that. Hoovers is a budget provider, but even an expensive list will give you names of dead people, names of two-year-olds, etc.

      This strategy can be done on a very small scale (you might send as few as 10-20 letters a week), so there’s no excuse not to do a little follow-up call or email to verify the information. That’s obviously much more workable for B2B — if you call a consumer asking to verify you’ll probably get an earful of #$@%&.

    • Yikes! All the more reason to double-check!

  25. Hi Linda, wonderful piece of writeup. I have never tried this method of sending direct mails but this sounds like a great idea to me. Thanks for your advice.

  26. Linda, thank you for sharing your information. I think in this day and age of technology, we often times forget the “human connection” which is what you get from a direct mail campaign. People, or atleast I do, enjoy the personal aspect of doing business.

    I’ve hesitated about doing a direct mail campaign but am encouraged now to give it a shot!

    Thanks again!

  27. Hi Linda –

    Great post! I’m always telling the writers in my mentoring program to try direct mail — happy to have a case study now to refer them to for more details!

    I was always told you should include something bumpy in the envelope to intrigue them to open it — wondering if you’ve tried that strategy, including a pencil, fridge magnet or something?

  28. Great advice, Linda! Really loved all the detail you provided for freelancers.

    Many smaller companies can’t afford internal copywriters, and end up burdening over-worked (and often unqualified) employees with their writing needs. Copywriters would be wise to query local businesses with the sales letter you mentioned, or even a postcard – it’s worked for me in the past.

  29. Great point a Linda, and thanks for sharing it with all of us that are hoping to get into freelance writing full time :) I concur with you about traditional marketing tools – especially with emails that potential clients might label as SPAM!

  30. Brian, I like this a lot. If we gave Sherlock Holmes the header, URL, and picture, he could deduce the body copy perfectly. Now that’s what I call shrewd blogging.

    And great job, Linda. Reading other people’s stories and what’s worked for them is invaluable. I’m leaving this article thinking maybe I’d sell more paintings if I physically pitched prospective buyers. Maybe lazy Gmail just ain’t enough these days. Hmm

  31. Linda:

    Good article today. But it does raise a couple of questions:

    1. Isn’t mailing out direct mail pieces potentially expensive?
    2. How do you find an effective list of prospects to mail to?

    Randy

    • Good questions! The list can cost nothing if you do it the way i originally did — or it was just $225 for 900 names from Hoovers, though as I mentioned it’s a good idea to double-check the data. Then each piece costs me $.44 to mail, and of course there are the incidental costs of paper, envelopes, and printing. If I mailed to all 900 names (which I probably will do over time), the entire thing (including list and paper) will cost me about $700. I already earned $1,000 from the one client I snagged on my first wave of the new campaign, and she referred me to another colleague of hers. So even if I get just the one client from the entire mailing, I’m ahead of the game — though of course I expect much more.

      Whenever I’m considering an expenditure, I tell myself, “If I just get one client that pays X, the whole thing will be worth it.” For example, a few years ago i went to a writer’s conference where writers get to pitch their article ideas to editors. I spent probably over $1,000, which seems like a lot, but I landed a magazine client that hired me to write 6 feature articles over the next two years, most of them for over $2/word. Worth it to invest in your business!

      • That brings up a good point that I think a lot of people miss — when you buy 900 names, you don’t have to mail to all 900. And you certainly shouldn’t all at once. Send out a relatively small test mailing, see how that goes, then send some more. Split test a couple of different options. One really nice thing about this technique is it can be done in small increments.

  32. Terrific post and thanks for going the extra mile to include the name of the place where you bought your list–and also the problems you had with it. Those little details turn an interesting post into an actionable one. I think this is a great strategy for bloggers who want to connect better with their ideal readers/customers. I’m gonna try it. You gave me the info and confidence that I can pull this off (or do a heck of a job trying). Thanks!

  33. Linda, that was enlightening. A bit of work up front, but once organized, it sounds workable. This is the way we did prospecting in the old days, and it probably really stands out even more today. I like the idea of a pre-packaged info kit — may have to steal that one.

    You’ve given me some new things to think about. Thanks for sharing.

    Deb Ward

  34. Thanks for this very informative post. I have been slow to use this method of finding new clients. Peter Bowman in The Well Fed Writer and the authors of The Wealthy Freelancer, both recommend using direct mail letters and postcards as a means of finding new clients. Now you are writing about it on CopyBlogger.

    I guess I don’t need to be hit over the head.

  35. I wonder if this would work in Europe – and in the translation industry (I am a freelance Italian to English translator)…Does anyone have any experience of using this approach successfully outside the States, as it occurs to me that receptiveness to direct mailing might be a cultural thing?

    • So few people try it that you probably won’t be able to find anyone who can tell you how it will work out in advance — why not try it out? If you do your own research to come up with companies, you can try it very inexpensively.

    • Yes, it works.

      The problem in the UK is that we are lazy about crafting and writing a sales letter.

      Get hold of The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy (already mentioned here) and it gives you a process to apply.

      The mechanics are the same whether for US or Europe, it’s just the wording and nuance you change.

  36. Definitely going to be referring back to this quite often. For me, the follow up is quite possibly the most important part and just generally keeping in constant communication with the client. Thanks for this!

  37. Love this approach, Linda. You have great advice as always!!!

  38. Ah, a sound, sensible respite from the clangor of being compelled to tweet, bleat and screech online to attract clients. And I don’t know about you, but I find something calming in folding letters and putting them in envelopes. (I have my pet ocelot lick them.)

    Linda, always find good, actionable stuff in your writing—thanks.

    • I actually LOVE putting together the packets, even though I don’t have an ocelot to help me. Sign letters, address envelopes, attach reply card and business card, fold letters…it’s all a kind of meditation.

  39. It’s so funny to me how things change. A friend of mine and I recently started writing letters to each other. It’s amazing to me how thrilling it is to see her letters in my mailbox. Even though we email each other often, there is something so special about reading something that she had taken the time out to write.

    Just as it seems that snail mail resumes get more traction, it makes sense that getting clients through snail mail would work as well. Thanks for sharing

  40. Somewhere in south Florida, giant applause is thundering, ad Herschel Gordon Lewis gives you a big hand!

    His book Sales Letters that Sizzle is one of the best (most entertaining) copywriting books I’ve ever read, and it’s all about the power of selling (anything) with a well crafted sales letter.

    There is no “right way,” and certainly no “magic bullet” when comes to effective marketing. It’s all about whatever works.

  41. This is some interesting advice. I’d never really considered direct mail in this day and age. I guess that’s why it would be so effective really. Glad you shared this! Now then… off to the stationary store!

  42. You can even add Craigslist to the list as well!

  43. Great article Linda!

    Direct mail is still useful and when done well can produce great results, assuming you have the budget!

    I also recently blogged about some surprising places that I’ve been finding my clients from on my graphic design blog, namely a street party! I learnt heaps from that experience.

    Bottom line, you can find clients in the most surprising places, as long as you are prepared to try.

  44. Dan Kennedy (funny how many times his name crops up) uses the expression ‘cutting through the clutter’.

    I think that’s what a good sales letter does. Even if it ends up in the waste paper basket, you have physically ‘touched’ your prospect. And the reality is that you are probably going to have to touch them up to 5 + times before they are going to change their behaviour and pay serious attention to you – compelling headline or not.

    This great post makes it clear that it’s dangerous to think of yourself as either an online or offline player. You are both and the value you give to your clients is your understanding of this.

    The Information Kit suggestions are very helpful. Thank you.

  45. Yep! My little Access database shows me the “stalest” contacts each morning, and I phone, email or MAIL to them so that everyone is “touched” every two months.
    I use customized postage stamps with my own face on them, not because of any republican feelings, but for WOW! impact.
    http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/personal/productsservices/atoz/picturepostage.jsf

    Yesterday I took delivery of exquisite cream “invitation” cards. For those contacts who play hard-to-get, I set aside a day a month in advance to take them to lunch, then MAIL to them an expensive-looking invitation to meet me there. It’s tough to ignore a “You are invited” card when it comes through the mail.

    http://torontrepreneur.blogspot.com/2009/08/you-wont-be-hearing-from-me-soon.html

  46. Yay! Direct mail. As a veteran direct marketing weenie, I applaud. A few things I wanted to mention about the list though. (I could go on and on, but that would be an entire post).

    1) When you order a list, ask when it was last updated – the fresher the better

    2) Beware of “buying” lists – they tend to be older. It may seem like a good idea – you can reuse it – but the older it gets the more outdated the list becomes. Lists are like fish; the older they are the more they stink. You’re better off renting.

    3) $225 for 900 names comes to $250 a thousand – that’s a lot of money for a directory.

    4) Many list brokers do have minimum orders, but there are ways around that.

    5) If you use a list broker, find a good one – it can make a world of difference

    6) The list is the most important part of your response (the more targeted and accurate it is, the better). It’s 40% of your response rate.

    7) Build up your own list – and feed and nurture it carefully. Don’t burn it out.

    And I too would like to see a DM program called Ocelot.

    • Jodi, thanks for your great tips! My list definitely turned out to be more of a directory since I now have to confirm each name — but it’s still kind of worth it to me because it cuts so much time from my search. Also, just not having to enter the names into a database is a relief for me! However, next time — I will compile.

  47. Why is it that it’s ok to buy or manually build a postal list and mail it, but it’s considered spammy to do the same with email addresses? I’m not saying either approach is right or wrong – I subscribe to the whole third tribe thing – but I’ve never understood the dual standards in this regard…. and I’m a marketer who has to juggle ‘ethics’ with ‘results’ for clients all the time…

    • ” … spammy to do the same with email addresses …”
      I think postal mail, too, can be spammy.
      Earlier examples in this thread mention the junk mail in my (4th-floor apartment) mail box for driveway-sealing, windows, and re-roofing.
      There is a difference between unsolicited postal mail to someone I don’t know, and unsolicited postal mail to someone I do know. In the case of my invitation cards, they are being mailed to people who know my name (from earlier phone calls or emails or mailings).
      I know your comments weren’t aimed at me, but every channel gets spammy – email, postal, phone, fax etc.
      Our job is to make sure that we can’t be considered spammy, and that to me suggests some personalization of the message.
      In my case, the invitation MUST be unique because I’m arranging to meet someone at a specific time on a specific date.

      This is a great thread!

      • Agreed, just baffles me that a personalised sales email to non-opt-in lists will generally be frowned upon as being spam (however personalised) and yet the same content in a sales letter will be considered ‘direct mail’ amongst marketers. As you say, I’m not pointing fingers at all, I use DM & email frequently.

        Online, the mantra is ‘build your email list’, yet offline it’s ok to sift through websites for addresses and buy lists. Maybe we should be incorporating ways to garner postal addresses as well as asking for email addresses when building our opt-in lists??

        • Andy> garner postal addresses as well as asking for email addresses
          I use a mixture of phone, email, postal and face-to-face (suits me for my kind of market).
          I figure that my objectives include “touching” each contact every two months at the most.
          That is, there does not go by a two-month period without I’ve been in the front of their mind.
          I like to vary my vehicle, and use whatever seems most appropriate at the time.
          Same argument for foot/bike/bus/car/taxi/rental etc.

  48. Excellent article…great to remind folks that snail mail is for more than ads from credit card companies and utility bills. With all the hype about social media marketing, snail mail will soon get more than it’s traditional 5-seconds of a recipient’s attention.

    Its tough to get past the firewalls in many larger companies…we’ve used a combination of post cards and targeted emails, but the good old-fashioned sales letter has the best chances of getting through the gatekeepers and into the hands of decision makers.

    One thing I’d like to add: old-fashioned direct mail is an important part of any effective multi-channel campaign., and should complement emails and other communications.

  49. Linda

    Great article. Everyone rushed to abandon snail mail and a few years ago it was overwhelming the amount of junk mail that was received. Now, the amount of email received is overwhelming. If people are receiving 75+ emails a day why would we think that they are going to spend more than 3 seconds with a sales email?

    Direct mail is and has been very viable when you do match your message to your target, are prepared with follow up materials both to be sent via mail and in digital format as you have pointed out above. Direct mail fails when you are not targeting your market properly and providing them with the information they need to take the next step.

  50. This article is one of the most helpful articles I have read in a long time. There has been some mention above about a book known as the Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy. Just wanted to mention that when I went to order it yesterday I found that he has a new edition being released this Monday, Feb 14th. Can’t wait to read it !

    • Tahnks, I’m glad you liked the post! And now I HAVE to order that book. :)

      • I don’t know how I missed this post. First of all, thank you to Linda, this is a subject very close to my heart. Secondly, the guy above who mentioned direct response FAX letters, that is a phenomenal response rate!

        I discovered direct response copywriting after stumbling across Gary Halbert’s newsletter site a few years ago and I devoured and hand wrote every one of his sales letters! aswell as John Carlton’s, Joe Polish, Joe Vitale, Claude Hopkins, John Caples and a few more.

        For those who want to learn Direct Mail and Direct Response properly, go and have a look at Gary Halbert’s site and actually read those letters, they are a gold mine of info. I only wish Gary was still with us, he was the real deal.

        You can and should combine offline and online marketing, and as Linda pointed out, it is possible to to do cross media successfully. In fact, I would argue that offline leads tend to be better ‘quality’ than online, providing your sales letter pulls of course.

        Loved this post, made me smile, thanks again Linda!

        Andrew Harkin

  51. Linda, I use snail mail with great success for the many reasons you list and discuss here. Great job. I just hope that your readers take you lead and determine if it can work for them as well.

  52. Linda, thanks for this article. It’s a point well made, and great irony that in order to stand out you’d have to go back to doing something that has terms like old-fashioned and snail applied to it. What can you say? If it works, it works. Whatever gives your business that marketing edge. The fact is this is the modern age, a time when people debate over kindles or paperbacks. So it follows every business standard will have its own such dichotomy. And it is super nice to have something you can hold. On the other hand, I just heard that 91% Americans are complaining about physical clutter in their homes. So not everyone would want to hold onto someone’s packet. Buuuut, wait, there’s e-clutter too. Oh well, the cycle continues. ;)

  53. Linda,

    I cut my teeth on direct mail marketing over 20 years ago. I’m taking a digital marketing class right now because I felt that my direct marketing skills had gone the way of the dinosaur. It’s nice to know, that I can leverage these skills to not only attract new clients but also write better copy, who knew?

    To go further, what course work do you suggest I take next?

    By the way, I feel a certain amount of smugness that response rates for direct mail are better than that of email marketing. 10 Points for the old school approach!

  54. Thanks for that message Linda. I would love to see what your return card looks like. I have done direct mailing before (didn’t have the knowledge of Copyblogger at the time so it was more of a flier) and did not have much success. It got to the point where I sent an email to the folks and asked them if they or someone they know would be interested in my service, as I did not want to waste their time. A few unsubscribed and a few connected me with leads. I need to get back on that horse again as I need to get in touch with colleges before their graduation.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Your Ambassador,
    Bruny

    • My return card is very basic: My address on one side and then a form on the other side for the prospect to fill out. I ask for their contact info, and then they can check off when/how they’d like me to get in touch with them. I print it out on card stock and cut it to size using a paper cutter. in the past, I’ve had them printed out professionally as well.

  55. Thanks so much for all your comments. I’m thrilled that my take on direct mail resonates with so many writers. And yes, I definitely advocate combining it with online efforts…I just landed a $3,000 gig — through Twitter!

    • Just a quick one Linda, well done on the $3K gig! apart from that, have you got many new clients via Twitter? I follow people and organisations who fit my ‘ideal client’ profile, and try to address them, but so far it seems more of a ‘brand awareness’ exercise more than anything.

      I am going to ask my twitter followers and subscribers on my blog this Friday. Just thought I’d ask you now.

      Andrew

  56. What an awesome idea! I’m so wrapped up in the internet that I haven’t even considered using direct mail to market my services.

  57. Linda,

    I like the idea of a reply card!

  58. Linda,

    I have been saying this to clients and colleagues alike and most of them look at me like I have lost it! Direct mail still works wonders. Excellent post.

  59. Thank you!

  60. Hi Linda,

    I’m new to your blog (I’m always late to the party) – but I love it. Great information and suggestions. It’s very generous of you to share so much .

    All the best, Alan

  61. Hi Linda
    What I do is look at print ads in the local newspapers, let them know what’s wrong with it and send them a letter with the ad attached. I offer them a free 20 minute call on how they can improve the ad.
    To those who don’t respond, i send 3 lumpy mail follow up letters.

    Cheers
    Farhad

    • Interesting, Farhad…I’ve heard of this tactic and always wondered how prospects would react when confronted with their mistakes by a writer. What kind of response do you typically get?