Are sales letters useful?
Marketing Ideas & Sales & Marketing for Professional Services

Are sales letters useful?

October 31, 2022

by Tony Vidler  CFP logo   CLU logo  ChFC logo


A traditional marketing practice for financial advisers has been sending “pre-approach” sales letters to prospective clients.  It seems that very few still do it, and yet I wonder if they are worthwhile in todays world? 

There is no doubt that most prospective customers are not exactly waiting around hoping a piece of snail mail will turn up from an adviser, and if they are already in contact with the adviser their expectations of speed of communcations is not going to be well served by snail mail…so why consider it at all?


Pre-approach letters are sent to give the adviser something to talk about….it enables them to create a new conversation.


They primarily serve the purpose of making an adviser get busy talking to people, rather than getting people talking to the adviser.  They are an “activity driver”, and in that respect sales letters just might still have a use.


If you were in the business of giving away $100 dollar bills to anyone that answered the phone, business would be easy wouldn’t it?  You have something of value to give them immediately.  You are not concerned by having people at the other end not answering, or for some bizarre reason not wanting a free $100 bill.  You’d just keep call people and giving away free $100 bills.  We do not have something quite so tangible and with immediate benefit to offer though.  Sending a letter first is for the benefit of the adviser, not the consumer, as an “ice breaker” and that is useful too.


It is useful because many advisers don’t quite know how to initiate a conversation with a prospective client without appearing too “salesy” so sending something in the mail feels like it will softly facilitate a conversation.  That is helpful, if only to the advisers state of mind.


From the perspective of giving the adviser confidence and a topic to talk about therefore, pre-approach sales letters have a use.

But there is a more powerful reason for using pre-approach sales letters today I feel.


Very few consumers get mail that is not a bill anymore. 


Handwritten envelopes with old-fashioned stamps and personal letter inside actually are quite effective in getting people’s attention these days.


I am not suggesting that they are the best marketing technique, but conventional mail should not be dismissed out of hand either – it may well have a place in your overall marketing mix.  Anything which stands out, or cuts through the clutter and gets attention, is worth considering.


If you are going to send letters to prospects with the hope of getting either their attention or their interest (or preferably both), there are some things you have to get right for the letters to be really effective I’d suggest.


1.  The headline.  Any pre-approach letter has to have a subject, and the headline should capture the attention of the reader and entice them to read on about the subject.


2.  It has to get straight to answering the WIIFM.  the reader is asking”what’s in it for me?” – and you have to give them a reason to read…and give them a reason to talk to you after they’ve read the letter.


3.  There has to be a CTA.  What do want the reader to do once they’ve read the letter?  There has to be a clear call-to-action.


4.  Write like you are having a conversation….BUT…spelling matters to most people – though grammar doesn’t matter quite so much.  Write conversationally, and use words that you would use in a conversation – don’t get hung up on sentence structure too much.  For heaven’s sake though do NOT use text-speak!  If you are writing to someone who can only converse in text speak, then text them.  Don’t waste a stamp.


5.  Do not exaggerate or use hyperbole.  People will be put off by the offer of a deal of a lifetime arriving in their mailbox….


6.  Include credentials & contact details.  Your return address, every possible way of contacting you or checking yourcredentials (including social media!) should be made available.  People like to do a little bit of checking before they decide to use an adviser – so make it as easy as possible for them.


7.  Use “you” at least twice as much as “I”.  Any letter has to be for the benefit of the recipient…not an ego trip for the author.


The final point is answering the inevitable question of “how long should the letter be?”.

A letter should be as long as is necessary while being interesting to the reader.  No more, and no less either.  Some of the best stories in the world run to a thousand pages, right? A story can be as long as it needs to be provided it is engaging and entertaining.  It really doesn’t matter if a letter is 5 pages long if it is engaging…people read novels all the time for entertainment, so the length is actually a moot point.  However, if you can hit all the key points and provide a sound reason for them to talk to you all within a single page, then that is better.


While letters will often be considered by many to be ancient history, even someone who is a digital marketing enthusiast should consider that they may well have a place in cutting through the advertising noise today.


If your marketing mix is lacking a genuinely personal touch that is not intrusive, then it just may be that a little bit of the old snail-mail might still have a use.


You might also be interested in this related article:
How To Figure Out Where You Should Compete In “Search”
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