- By Ingrid Cliff
- Published 06/8/2008
When working with businesses on letters they send to potential clients trying to get an appointment with them, we often see the same mistakes being made over and over when we look at their existing letters. To help you not make the same mistakes, here are our top 10 tips for effective appointment letters. 1. Be realistic in the response you are looking for. People are not sitting by the post-box waiting for your letter. For most people you have to prove to them first why they should read (and not bin) your letter and second why they should give up some of their precious time to see you. Industry statistics talk about a 2% – 5% OPEN rate. That means only 2-5% of all of your letters actually get read. Out of those figures, industry statistics vary between a 1%-20% actual response to your offer. There are things you can do to improve these rates, but at least you now know what you are up against. Up to 98% of all people won’t read your letter, let alone action it. 2. What list are you using? A good list will make your mailing. If you are mailing to people who you already have a great relationship with, you can expect your response rates to increase. If you are mailing to a cold list of names you have gathered from the Yellow Pages, or just delivered to PO Boxes, your response rates will be much less. 3. Headlines and subheads. People scan letters before reading them. Make sure you have clear and enticing headlines and sub-headlines to make them want to read more. 4. Spelling, grammar and layout count. If you send out a letter full of typos, poorly laid out and looking unprofessional – you can count on getting a very poor response. Good layout, with clever use of bold, colour, underlining, larger fonts and copy doodles all boost your response rate.
5. Go with the flow. Your letter must flow logically and consistently. You want them to understand the features and benefits of what you are offering and how these will make their lives easier. You want to take your
audience through a gradual development of ideas, building them to a point where they know clearly whether or not what you are suggesting will meet their needs and wants. 6. How credible are you? People want to know you have background, knowledge, experience and expertise in the area. They want to know that other people have used your services and are fully satisfied with the results. Demonstrating your credibility through including testimonials or case studies will help potential customers feel comfortable with you – enough to want to take the next step. 7. Strong call to action. Many people send out a letter seeking an appointment and do not make it clear what they want the person to do. Are they to wait for your call to make an appointment, call you to make an appointment or contact you for more information? Tell people clearly what you want them to do and they will do it. 8. PS. If there is a PS on a letter people will read it. Use your PS to reinforce a key point or your call to action. PS’s increase your response rate. 9. Follow up. A single mail shot with no follow up rarely works well. All letters should be either followed up with a phone call to the person, or a second mail shot a few weeks later. Many people intend to take action but simply forget. Following up significantly boosts your response rates. 10. Test & measure. Businesses need to test and measure the responses to all marketing. How many responses did you get to the one letter? Now try sending out the same letter to a different sample with just different headlines and sub-headlines to check the response rates. Try changing the call to action with a third sample. The top direct mail companies all tweak their mailings until they get a control piece – one that consistently performs well. Once they have a control piece they keep using it, every now and again testing a sample with a new piece to see if it beats the control.
Small business can do the same thing. Use sample sizes of about 100 minimum as this will give you some indication of trends (Big business uses about 10,000 as their minimum but few small businesses have the budgets to work with those numbers).
Ingrid Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter with her Brisbane Copywriting Business (Heart Harmony). Ingrid writes a free weekly small business newsletter packed full of articles and tips and Small Business Ideas blog for small businesses. www.heartharmony.com.au
by Ingrid Cliff