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So call me old fashioned, but just consider when you last wrote to a client and sent them something other than an invoice or statement?

When was the last time you sent a personalised letter to a prospect to invite them to have coffee and a chat?

In today’s world of technology it seems we may have lost the art (and relevance) of hard copy as it’s all too easy to whiz out an email blast or send a text. And that’s a shame, but also an opportunity…

So the shame part, well think about your birthday – how sad would it be if no-one had taken the time to write you a card, buy a stamp and walk to the post box on the corner of the road to send it to you. The point is that takes a little bit of though and a little bit of effort which is why sending a personal letter to your business contacts is so worthwhile.

Now I’m not suggesting printing out a copy of your newsletter and sending it, nor am I talking about a direct mail piece that’s sent to 1,000s of names on a mailing list that you have purchased. What I am suggesting is that a personalised letter can have far more impact than you might imagine… so let me tell you a little story about how this worked for one of my clients.

Tom is a solicitor. He set up his own practice some five years ago and asked JCK to help him spread the word about his business. He specialised in lease enfranchisement and conveyancing so one of his first target markets was the local estate agents and surveyors, as he understood how they could help him grow his business by referring work to him.

Now much as he didn’t like the ideas – the first thing I suggested he did was to pick up the phone and give them a call to arrange a meeting. And of course it worked… he met some interesting people and work started to come in. However there was one estate agent that would never take his call and this was a large, high profile, independent estate agent so it was a prospect that was really high on Tom’s hit list.

So I suggested a letter… but a letter with a bit of a difference, and for a solicitor it was way out of his comfort zone. Why? Well here’s what I suggested he did…

  1. The most obvious – write the letter explaining that Tom had been trying to call to arrange an informal chat over a cup of tea several times.
  2. Recognise that the estate agent probably hadn’t returned his calls because he was a very busy person (it’s usually true – most prospects don’t return your calls because they have far more pressing things to do in their own businesses).
  3. Then the tricky bit for Tom… enclose two tea bags with the letter and offer to bring the milk and biscuits with him if they could agree a date and time. All the estate agent had to do was put the kettle on.

Now being a fairly straight laced professional Tom was horrified at the thought of being so cheesy, but with a bit of perseverance coupled with Tom’s strong desire to meet with this estate agent he finally relented and sent the letter.

And guess what two days later the meeting was booked and Tom was a happy chap!

The feedback from the estate agent… well he acknowledged that he’s received the telephone messages but that as I said above, returning the calls wasn’t high on his agenda but the letter had made all the difference, firstly because it had made him smile and secondly because he finally understood how important it was to Tom because he also acknowledged the effort Tom had put into thinking about the contents of the letter.

And that’s the point really… not enough people take the time to go back to basics and get out the pen and paper.

Before signing off there are a couple of other key points when writing to clients or prospects.

  1. Always hand write the address and use a stamp rather than a franking machine. The letter is far more likely to be opened as the receiver definitely knows it’s been sent by a person rather than a mailing house.
  2. Including any item (it doesn’t have to be a tea bag) will always get your letter opened – we all love receiving ‘gifts’ so a bulky envelope that contains something will get opened before anything else that has been received that day.
  3. Lastly, but most importantly get the person’s name correct. There is nothing more off-putting than receiving a letter from someone that hasn’t got that bit correct (take heed all of those people that write letters to Joanna / Joe and send them to me!)

So my advice… now that you have read this, turn off the PC and get out the pen and paper….

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Stickings

Jo has worked in the media industry for over 20 years. She has worked with businesses of all sizes - from corporate companies and the public sector, to owner managed SMEs and micro businesses. She loves helping clients with their customer attraction and retention strategies particularly when this involves a multi-media approach. She has a down to earth, no nonsense approach and a 'let's get on with it' attitude which keeps clients coming back for more.

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