In 2004, I held a mini-workshop on the topic of effective mail marketing. At the time, I had already been using my own system for several years but I needed to help the students come up with a letter of their own, otherwise most of the homeowners would have received identical letters and none of them would have been effective.
One of the students was a mother and mostly worked at home. She had a big smile as she asked me to read her letter and wanted to get my thoughts on it.
I read it fairly quickly but it took an extra 30 seconds for me to look up at her because I was horrified with what she had written.
It was awful. It was horrible. It was beyond tacky and I didn’t remember ever seeing a letter that was as bad as hers was. The letters she wanted to send would all be going to homeowners currently in foreclosure. My experience with homeowners in foreclosure has shown me that “gimmicks” and “cute, happy” type letters are not very effective.
What my student had come up with was a letter that had a 3-inch piece of string taped over the words, “Tie this string around your finger to remind yourself to call me.”
I shook my head and asked her if she was really serious about sending it out. I went on to tell her examples of what has worked before and what hasn’t. At one point I remember that I had told her that her letter was quite possibly the tackiest foreclosure letter I had seen and pleaded with her to not send it.
She was such a sport for taking my harsh critique, as it was obvious I had really hurt her feelings (I ended up calling her the next day to apologize for being insensitive).
She sent it anyway.
Out of the 100 or so she mailed out, she got over 20 replies! For those with a marketing background, I am sure you are as amazed as I was. The average response rate for pre foreclosure mailings is about _ of one percent. In other words, one reply out of 200 and her letter got an amazing 1 out of 5!
My opinions and beliefs on mail marketing changed forever after that student taught me that valuable lesson. She taught me that no matter how bad a letter may seem… Send it! If ONE person responds to an awful mailer that results in a deal…Then it was a great success!
Since then, anytime a student asks me what type of letters work best… I tell them that any letter can work. I also tell them that what doesn’t work is… Not trying!
To end on a lighter note…
That student called me a few months later and told me she had sent out a letter that included the words, “Call me because I am your Life Saver.” She had taped a single, wrapped Life Saver to each letter. I asked her how it worked and she told me that the Post Office returned every single letter because the machines at the Post Office couldn’t process them. Considering the lesson she had taught me before that…I was happy she didn’t listen to me and tried anyway.