Believe it or not, direct mail is still a valuable sales tool. 

You would have thought, with the proliferation of email marketing, physical paper letters had gone the way of the dinosaurs. But you’d be wrong. 

Practically every company now dabbles in email marketing. Even the advent of GDPR doesn’t seem to have had an impact on their frequency. 

That’s why, if you return to good old-fashioned paper direct mail, your company is going to stand out. But only if you do it well. 

To talk more about this point, I’ve resurrected a blog I wrote on this subject a few years ago. 

Here goes. 

You might think, because direct mailletters come from a wide range of different companies and industries, they have little in common. Well, you’d be wrong.

There are certain characteristics that make a successful sales letter. Of course, your offer and list will have a lot to do with your success rate, but the following factors will contribute to an engaging and powerful letter.

Time to get personal

Your first task is to build rapport. Talk directly to your reader and empathise with them. A sales letter is not the place to shout about your company. 

Your letter is intruding into someone’s life. They didn’t ask you to write to them. So, you must demonstrate to them you understand their problem and you can help by building trust and credibility.


Quite simply by:

  • Using “you” engages them in conversation. You’re not lecturing them; you’re confiding in them – you’re building rapport.
  • Telling them what’s in it for them – tell them how your product or service will benefit them; what they’re going to get out of this.
  • Speaking normally – now is not the time to show off your impressive vocabulary. Every day language will communicate your message far better.
  • Mirroring them – your readers need to see themselves when they read your letter. It should reflect their needs, desires, hopes etc.

Once upon a time…

A good letter will follow the same pattern as a fairy tale:

Once upon a time your washing was always dull, your whites never shone. But then one day your neighbour introduced you to a new wonderful detergent. Now your clothes are brilliantly clean. You are noticed by the handsome prince who sweeps you off your feet and you live happily ever after.

OK, a bit tongue in cheek, but you get the idea. Just remember, in your sales letter the hero of the story is your reader and there can’t be a happy ending until your reader takes action.

Be precise

Your sales message must be precise. If you want to build credibility, you must use facts and figures, testimonials and case studies. Simply by saying your washing powder is the best on the market isn’t going to convince anyone to buy it. But say that independent tests have proven your washing powder to remove 99.9% of all stains – now you’re talking.

Tell them what to do

If you have followed all the other steps and produced a strong letter that talks to your reader, builds rapport, empathises with them and gives evidence that your product works, but you fail to tell them what to do next – you’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

Your call to actionmust be strong and commanding. Tell them what they must do – call now, complete the order form and return it today etc.

Leave them in doubt as to what to do and what will happen next – i.e. goods will arrive in 28 days, one of our representatives will call you in 10 days etc.

Sally Ormond is a freelance copywriterwho works with companies all over the world. Her copywriting serviceshave helped numerous companies increase their sales and enjoy greater visibility within their market place.