Easy Direct Marketing Methods
Strategies for Letters, Post Cards, Newsletters,
Testimonials, and Referrals.
©2004 Jeffrey Dobkin
Selling is tough: too many people selling too few clients, and ouch -
trying to show value when all you are selling is a product that no one
really thinks he needs… But you knew all that. Here’s how to get more
business and keep the customers you have.
Send a “Thank you for your business” letter.
I’ll bet you ten bucks that I know the last piece of correspondence
your customer received from you: it was a bill. Right? OK - 99 out of
100 of you pay up. Break this cycle of bills with something
refreshing. Send a bottle of champagne. Just kidding. Send that
bottle to me, Schramsberg/NAPA is just fine. To your clients and
prospects, send a couple of refreshing “Thank you” letters.
Spend the 74¢
To keep customers happier and longer, twice a year send them a letter
simply thanking them for being a customer. Let them know their
business is appreciated. Paint a picture of your firm on high alert 24
hours a day: if they need you - you’ll be there. Let them know you
appreciate their business and that you are eagerly waiting to serve
them. Your customer retention rate will soar. Your customers will be
happier; therefore, your customers will be your customers, longer. As
for me, I’m still waiting for that bottle of champagne.
Now I’m not talking about the pre-printed “Thank You” card you get
from your accountant each Christmas. Ugh. That’s close to worthless
(don’t tell your accountant, I’ll start getting nasty letters). I’m
talking about a real, bonafide letter. Signed personally by you, or at
least someone who works with you who is willing to sign all those
letters with your name... in a blue pen. Yes - twice a year. Cough it
up: postage 74¢. That’s not much of a cost to retain a customer. Do
you know what other companies call your best customers? Prospects. I
personally think a letter is the cheapest customer retention strategy
you can use, and the most effective. Hummmm... cheapest; most
See, nice guy that I am, I started off this article with my best tip
first. It’s all downhill from here. Or is it?
Don’t start a Newsletter.
That’s right, don’t. You’ve got to be crazy to start a newsletter.
90% of the ones I get are terrible: no direction, poor copy, lousy
photos… everyone’s dressed. Nothing like that Hooter’s newsletter I,
er, a friend of mine signed up for 2 years ago. What? What do you mean
you don’t think there’s continually fresh and interesting news from a
Most newsletters are written with no clear objectives, and some just
ramble on in a dialog “about” and “by” the president… like someone
cared about his babble on the new boat he just bought. In reality -
where I virtually think we are - newsletters are just a lot of work.
They may start out with some enthusiasm, but soon become the drudgery
of month after month of hard work, eventually assigned to someone as a
thankless job no one really wants to do. Without lively copy, great
design, consistent frequency and timely delivery, newsletters lose all
effect of branding and building customer loyalty.
Case in point: Q). The number one priority of a newsletter? A). It
must be read. To be read it must be fascinating and interesting beyond
belief. Remember, if it ain’t read, it ain’t working. See my article on
newsletters on my site: www.dobkin.com for this and other articles of
marketing tips I’ve written.
Instead, create a series of post cards.
That’s right, slightly oversized 5-1/2” x 8-1/2” post cards print
nicely 2-out of an 8-1/2” x 11” sheet. Spend some time on graphics and
copy to make them really interesting and clever. Since I just
mentioned “newsletter,” I know some readers are now hell-bent on
creating a newsletter, so you guys can title your post card “The
World’s Tiniest Newsletter.” Then design it like a tiny newsletter.
Well, I hope that made your day. Still stuck on newsletters? Call this
number and complain: 610-642-683. If I really cared, I’d have given
you the last number, which is 2. It’s our fax machine. Or at least
the fax machine of our competitor.
Post cards can look good printed simply in one or two colors… so they
can be inexpensive to print. While I don’t mind one color printing, I
do always prefer an upscale sheet of paper (we use bright-white Cambric
Linen). Don’t use glossy stock unless your post card is printed in 4
colors, as the post office mail sorting rollers will leave black marks
on it. Mail post cards every 4 to 6 weeks for consistency, or to
maintain Top-of-Mind awareness.
Write about anything… as long as it’s interesting. The limitations of
space ensure the brevity of copy; and since it’s so short, this
generally will make sure the card remains interesting and read to a
Somewhere, somehow on the card, say “Call for a FREE booklet!” to
encourage people to call. If you’re a service organization, say “Call
for a quick quote!” People will call. Hey, if the objective of the
card is to generate a call and it doesn’t, it didn’t work, did it?.
Supersize the phone number and follow it by a longish laundry list of
all the types of products or services your firm offers (or that you can
get for your customers). If it’s a long list - and it should be - set
the list in small 7- or 8-point type - and print it on the lower
portion of the bottom of the card.
Here’s an example: If you sell insurance, since you live in Nebraska,
boat insurance probably isn’t your main livelihood, or flood insurance
either, so most of your customers probably don’t know you can get these
kinds of coverage for them along with their tractor insurance. By
listing all the kinds of insurance policies you sell on this card, all
your customers who own boats (both of them) will get the message that
they can call you for a quote. Other customers and prospects will see
other types of insurance they need also - and call for quotes, too.
The list of products services is not the main message in the card, but
it lets clients know that you offer a full depth of different products,
and they can get all their needs quoted and purchased by a quick phone
call to your office. Remember, if you don’t get calls from your post
cards, and thus additional business - they didn’t work. Your mailings
will go into your “we tried direct mail and it didn’t work” file. How
unfortunate. Know who’s getting those phone calls if you’re not? Your
competitors. Their post cards went into their “Holy Cow! Look how much
money we made from sending this little post card mailing!” file.
Why are phone calls so important? All your business starts with a phone
Any time you can make the phone ring - especially for a quote, you
have the opportunity to generate a sale, or perform a service for your
customer. Either way, if you look at this more closely as an
opportunity, you’ll find a phone conversation is a great way to
increase a client’s loyalty and endear them even more deeply to you and
If you can get the phone to ring from a mailed piece, the piece is a
total success, even if you didn’t get any business at that exact
moment. Here’s why I say this: I’ve been in direct marketing for… OH
MY GOD AM I THAT OLD ALREADY!. Anyhow, it’s tough to sell something
from a sheet of paper, especially insurance, which is sometimes tough
to sell anywhere, even in a stuck elevator for 12 hours with 6 doctors
whose medical malpractice policies have an ex-date of tomorrow. Come
to think of it, if you want a business decision from a doctor you’ll
have to ask his office manager or his wife. Either way, a “yes” answer
will take a month.
By trying to sell something directly from a sheet of paper, you get no
feedback, no buying signals. You can’t tell where the hot buttons of
your clients are. When do you back off? When do you press for a
close? All this may come subconsciously when you’re selling in person,
but I assure you a lot of thought has to go into a printed piece to get
to these specific areas with just the right timing, correct pace and
selling proposition to close a sale from a flyer that you sent in the
Armed with the knowledge that it’s very difficult to sell anything off
the page, don’t even think about trying to sell anything from your mail
piece. The objective of 99% of the letters, mailers, post cards and
brochures I create for clients don’t sell anything -- the objective is
simply to generate a phone call. My client is the one that does all of
the selling. With your brochure, you do the selling when they call.
Face the further fact: create letters and mailers with the sole
objective of making the phone ring. When the phone rings - the piece
worked. Voila. Now we know it was successful. Then you sell the client.
For an article I’ve written on post cards, just drop me a letter
requesting it: Jeff Dobkin, P.O. Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066.
No, an email won’t work. I’d like to make sure you really want it and
an email won’t show me this - I don’t want to get 5,000 emails
requesting stuff like the last time I offered something free on the
OK, let’s get back to more tips about your post card mailings.
Sending post cards every four to six weeks keeps your agency in “Top of
Mind” awareness of your clients.
When they need new products, or a quote… when they have friends that
need services -- they’ll think of you. Whoa. When they have
friends??? Can you say “referrals?”
Referrals and Testimonials
I don’t know about you, but I hate asking people for referrals. So
here’s a way to get them, and how to use testimonials in your
marketing. It’s even tough for me to write a personal letter asking
for a referral without sounding like a bleeding heart solicitation
piece I once wrote for the “Friends of Kaballah” association who needed
money for their campaign, “Guns for peace!”, but… a post card can serve
this function just right.
Let’s say someone refers a client to you, from the post card you just
sent them with the copy on it saying, “Thanks for all your referrals!
We appreciate our customers and friends who refer clients to us for our
fast and friendly quotes. Don’t forget: we’re always ready to help
anyone - whether they are our client or not - with any of their
questions or problems. Please let your friends and colleagues know to
just give us a call at 800-987-6543 - we are always happy to help.”
You remember that post card, don't you? So now what do you do?
Besides opening that nice bottle of champagne celebrating the new
client you just got, and then sending me a nice bottle of champagne for
that new client you just got - you know, the one you already forgot to
send me from the… oh never mind… just send the referring person a thank
you letter. No, a call is not the same. With a call, after you hang
up the phone you cease to exist. And don’t even think about sending
them that pre-printed accountant’s thank-you card we discussed earlier
- it still won’t work. You send them a hand typed letter thanking
them. Right from your own computer. Signed by you in blue ink. Same
Here’s what we do around here when we get a referral. We send the
referring party a nice letter, a really nice letter, and a Cross Pen,
engraved with their name on it. Sure, we could have my company name
engraved on it, but the only person that would think that’s great is…
me. That pen goes inside their desk drawer. Big deal. But when we
have their name engraved on a pen - well, that pen goes in their shirt
pocket (man), in their pocketbook (woman), or on top of their desk
(neutered). And you just can’t buy that kind of “top-of-desk” real
estate. Or “top-of-mind” awareness.
Don’t worry, they’ll remember from whom they’ve received it - from the
nice letter you sent them with the pen. You, umm, did send them a
really nice letter with the pen, didn’t you?
Thank you very much for your kind referral of me.
I appreciate it.
I don’t take referrals lightly, or for granted.
A referral means that you thought enough of my services to recommend me
as a professional, and thought enough of me as a person to recommend me
to a colleague.
I appreciate your trust - and assure you I will always act well within
the framework of fairness and good taste, and will strive at all times
to provide exceptional value.
Thank you again for the privilege of your referral, the opportunity to
be of service to your associate, and your trust.
A call - or especially an email - is not the same. You see a “Thank
you for your referral” letter is a touchy, feely thing - kind of like
that cute little red haired secretary you had until your wife found
out. Don’t feel too bad, my wife won’t let me go out on dates, either.
What the letter really says is that you cared enough to sit down and
type a personal letter, print it out, sign it, find an envelope and a
stamp, and mail it. It was an effort. It shows.
Now they have a permanent record of your sincere thanks that can sit
on their desk for days, and if it’s anything like my desk it probably
will. I have letters from 1995 on my desk. But that’s in another
article I was going to write - about procrastination - but I keep
putting it off.
So you’ve just sent a Cross Pen to a person who just referred a new
client to you. What do they think? They think: how nice it was, and
start looking around to see who else they can refer. Is a new client
worth the $25 of an engraved Cross Pen. I think so.
Has anyone ever said anything nice about you or your firm? Oh. Don’t
worry, it hasn’t happened to my firm yet either. But when anyone does
say anything good about you, your firm, or your services, tell them
that it’s very flattering to hear, and ask them if they would mind if
you use that as a testimonial. Wait for their answer. After that
awkward pause, they’ll say sure. Then they’re committed. Then you
make it more formal.
You then say, “Can I write down what you said and send it to you in a
letter, have you look it over, and if it’s OK would you approve it. If
not, just let me know - that’s OK, too.” Most people, seeing that it
won’t be a lot of work for themselves, will say sure.
So you can now write down pretty much what they said - and you can
take some liberties here, they won’t remember exactly what they said -
send it to them in a well constructed letter and have them sign it.
You’ll get a letter with a great testimonial (because you wrote it)
that someone has signed-off on without causing them to do any work.
They’ll be happy. You’ll be happy.
Also, here’s a big plus: your testimonial letter will be free of any
spelling errors or typos that my own client’s letters always seem to
have. You know, that’s why letters and articles I’ve written always
have a few typos and spelling errors in them - so clients (and editors)
won’t feel embarrassed that they’re the only ones who make those
errors. And I’m a-stickin’ to that story. Anyhow, never trust a man
who only has one spelling for any given word.
When pitching to a new client, tell them the difference between your
products and services and others is incredible attention to detail,
on-time delivery, and trust. Then, bring out a really big book of
recent testimonials. It’s probably the most convincing sales tactic
you can use.
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of
How To Market A Product For Under $500!, and
Uncommon Marketing Techniques, is a specialist in direct response
writing. He writes powerful, response-driven sales letters, TV
commercials and scripts; persuasive catalog copy; and exceptionally
hard-hitting direct mail packages that increase sales. He also analyzes
direct marketing packages, ads, catalogs, and campaigns. Mr. Dobkin is
an exciting and humorous speaker and a more serious direct marketing
consultant. For more
information about Jeff's direct marketing books, please visit the NMOA