Alternatives to Yellow Letters

67 Replies

Warning: Lots of Questions!!

I'm in the process of sourcing my envelopes, paper, etc. for my direct mail campaign for Absentee Owners. My initial plan is to use a "handwritten" font for the marketing copy on the yellow letter while actually handwriting the envelopes (prevents me from buying another printer that can accept envelopes). I'm having a very hard time finding any lined yellow paper that comes separately and not linked together in some way like gum top or in note pads.

When people say they are mailing "yellow letters" are they really yellow? Or do people use lined white paper instead? Has anyone done any testing to see if there is an appreciable difference between "handwritten" letters on different types of paper? What about using no lines and printing your marketing copy on a blank sheet of yellow paper?

I've seen ideas of using lined paper templates and printing those and your marketing copy at the same time, but that seems like a waste of ink to me. In addition, I only have a black/white laser printer so the blue and red lines would not show up. Anyone have any success with this method or alternative ideas?

Finally, I want to do this myself and not use one of the yellowletter.com companies that are out there.

Who would've thought that buying paper would take up this much time and effort? Not me! Any insight is greatly appreciated.

I had a hard time finding loose leaf yellow lined paper, too. In fact, for my first round of mailings, I actually bought notecards with yellow envelopes and hand-wrote 200 cards to preforeclosure homeowners.

After my hand nearly fell off, I found what I was looking for on Amazon. Search using the terms "yellow composition paper" or "yellow filler paper" (without the quotes) and you should get a variety of options - some really bright colors, some more muted, like your standard legal pad. You can also get yellow #10 envelopes on Amazon. Good luck!

Originally posted by @Brandon Foken :
Who would've thought that buying paper would take up this much time and effort? Not me! Any insight is greatly appreciated.

Brandon, I feel your pain! I have spent much time scouring the internet, office supply stores, dollar stores, and many other places to find good affordable paper. I'm guessing you want some paper that hasn't been gummed because no matter how carefully you tear the paper at the perforation, it won't be perfect and will continually jam your printer? Done that, been there.

My initial fix for that was to buy the gummed tablets, tear the paper, then up end it and use the side that wasn't gummed as the end I fed the printer.

The advantage to the yellow paper over white and lined over not is that even at a glance, either through the envelope, or when it's first opened the eye sees and confirms to the holder that the note is handwritten and encourages further reading. But by all means, test away. There is no rule which says you can't tinker and see what works best for you.

I would reconsider about buying a second printer....the Epson Workhorse 645 only costs about $80 and handles envelopes of all sizes very well. I have found it to be a big plus when the writing on the envelope matches what's on the letter. It will save you hours of time and many hand cramps!

Oh, I should mention that I use the smaller, half sized tablets of yellow paper. I haven't found those ungummed at Amazon, or anywhere else.

@Michelle Cheri Thanks for the google search phrasing, I found exactly what I was looking for, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003U6N2PQ/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&smid=A22378Z03K0GID.

@Jerry Puckett Thanks for the tips. I'm now considering purchasing the Epson printer for two reasons: 1)So I can print "handwritten" envelopes and letters which allows for the same typeface on both pieces and 2)So I can use blue ink instead of black. Hopefully the paper linked above will work with that printer.

Originally posted by @Brandon Foken :
I can use blue ink instead of black. Hopefully the paper linked above will work with that printer.

Excellent choice. After many man hours and hundreds of tries, I finally got the right shade of blue that looks just like it came from a pen: (r, g, b) (0, 35, 102). Enter that into the custom color field on your Word doc. (hex is #002366 if you're using a text editor that takes it.)

As for the Epson taking that paper, it depends on the weight. Try to get as close to the weight of traditional copy paper as you can with any printer that uses a tray feeder. If it's a gravity feeder, such as the rear tray of a canon, it matters much less.

@Brandon Foken : Excellent! That's actually the same type of paper I ordered, at a better price. When I ordered mine last week, they were out of stock. It seems that elementary school composition paper is the stuff we've been searching for.

@Jerry Puckett : Thanks so much for sharing the color coding for the ink. That will save me (and many others, I'm sure!) a lot of time that would have been spent tweaking the settings.

@Jerry Puckett After some digging I found the Epson only works for paper weights from 17 - 24 pounds so the 16 pound weight of that yellow paper might not cut it. I'll continue to look around for paper and printer that will work best together. Also - thanks for the blue color - I'll be stealing that!!

Originally posted by Brandon Foken:
Jerry Puckett After some digging I found the Epson only works for paper weights from 17 - 24 pounds so the 16 pound weight of that yellow paper might not cut it.

Man that's close. I'd risk it. The Workhorse truly is just that.

P.S. You can't steal that which is freely given!!

Originally posted by Brandon Foken:
My initial plan is to use a "handwritten" font for the marketing copy on the yellow letter while actually handwriting the envelopes

Hi Brandon,
I tried the handwritten fonts when I first started doing direct mail, and never had good luck with them. I finally realized that if I can tell (even in the slightest) that it's fake, then someone else can too. Peoples' B.S. meter is pretty sensitive when going through the mail.

But maybe that's just my experience - and the fonts and printers have probably improved a bit from 3 years ago when I did it. I saw in another thread that @Jerry Puckett says the fonts can work.

If the earlier supplied link on Amazon for paper doesn't work for your printer, try this paper out. This is what I use now:

http://www.pdamarketing.net/store_doodles.html

When I first started sending yellow letters it took me hours of googling to find a vendor that I used for a while and then they recently discontinued their paper. So I had to do the same amount of research, just about, to find these guys. The great thing about this paper is that it is made for your printer at home. And the company that sells it is a marketing company that also has a line of services for those in the field of real estate.

Lastly, if you want a way to compose these letters yourself and have them appear very realistic and not machined. I wrote a blog post on this about 5 years ago that will give you the step-by-step on how to do this all yourself.

http://www.justinmcclelland.com/2009/08/do-it-yourself-yellow-letter-marketing/

Hope this helps.

@Jerry Puckett After a ton of research and digging through technical specs of printers, I'm picking up the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus. Has good reviews and pretty speedy printing with the lowest TCO of any of the printers I looked at. Also had the ability to print 16lb. paper vs. the Epson's lowest is 17lb.

Blair H.Thanks for your comments. I poked around your website a bit and it is definitely a unique, interesting idea. If you don't mind my asking - are you paying people to hand write all of the copy and envelopes or a printed font?

@Justin McClelland I actually came across that tutorial during my marathon google searching yesterday - very nicely done! I looked at that paper you linked to, but cannot justify spending 16 cents a page for printer paper. I'll update everyone on how the paper Michelle found on Amazon works out.

Originally posted by @Brandon Foken :

Blair H.Thanks for your comments. I poked around your website a bit and it is definitely a unique, interesting idea. If you don't mind my asking - are you paying people to hand write all of the copy and envelopes or a printed font?

Hey Brandon Foken, Thanks for checking out the site. Sorry if I miscommunicated previously in this thread. We actually don't do yellow letters. We do yellow postcards. They pull about as well, and the respondents are better informed about who our clients are, what they do and how they buy - before they respond. Makes handling the responses a little easier.

Maybe I should look into providing yellow letters as well. They seem to be ever-popular. If we did do them, then yes, we'd be paying people to hand-write them, no printed fonts.

I posted this in another thread - how I used to have them done a certain way, here is the pertinent part reiterated, it may give you some idea(s) on how to improve the yellow letter printing process:

Oh, also, I almost forgot - handwritten fonts, in my experience, don't work. The envelope needs to be actually handwritten. At least the TO address. For the return address you can use a "kitchen drawer return address sticker" printed with your return address. And first class stamp of course.

Then, inside, the letter doesn't HAVE to be in red sharpie (as some say), it can be in regular ink pen. After I stopped doing my own yellow letters, I found a printing company (now out of business) that would do them for me. What they would do is have one of their employees write the template for the letter like so:
"Dear ,
My name is Blair, my wife is Sidra.
We'd like to buy your house at .
Please call me at 555-555-1234.
Thanks,
Blair"

Notice the blank spaces. So they'd write this template by hand, then photocopy with high-quality printers onto actual lined yellow legal pad paper ripped off a legal pad, and then the SAME guy who wrote the template would go and write in the owner's name and the address on each one by hand. Then of course they'd handwrite the outside of the envelope too. We used a regular #10 envelope.

We had good response rates doing it just like that. But no deals came of it. Probably because at the time I was mailing to Owner-Occ's with equity. The owner-occ's aren't necessarily a fun bunch to deal with - too much pride in their homes! But absentee-owners, they have more emotional detachment.

I actually had about a 5% response rate from sending out a handwritten envelope, with a regular printed out letter inside (on white paper) but I scanned a handwritten "PS" and placed it at the bottom of my letter (paying close attention to making the blue printed ink look like handwritten ink) and scanned my "signature" and placed it as the signature on the letter.

fwiw I also use the espon workforce and love it. Funny to find that's what @Jerry Puckett is using as well

Originally posted by @Brandon Foken :
After a ton of research and digging through technical specs of printers, I'm picking up the HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus. Has good reviews and pretty speedy printing with the lowest TCO of any of the printers I looked at. Also had the ability to print 16lb. paper vs. the Epson's lowest is 17lb.

Hi Brandon,
Good luck with that. I had an HP for a week a couple of months ago. I found that it did not handle my envelopes well. But then again, I use an odd size.

Bear in mind that a mail pieces sole function is to get your target to respond. Test your market. Tweak your copy, there is no pat way to write them, so your respondents can be as well informed as you would like them to be. I would test your media also since you're at the beginning, decide for yourself which pulls better, letters or postcards if you see them as a viable alternative.

Great job @Grant Kemp ! Very creative, and excellent response.

Paper should only cost .06 cents.

Handwritten vs font. Handwritten wins however fonts not bad just not as great.

Color of paper. Yellow, white and pink

Ink color. Red, blue and pink. Red wins. After millions sent this is not even a question.

Envelope. Invitation A6. Then a #10. Beige and baby blue unless pink letters then pink

Address. Match ink color and handwritten

Lined vs letterhead. Lined unless the letter is really long, the sender must be a professional.

Bottom line is do something. Anything even crappy is better than nothing.

Originally posted by @Michael Quarles :
Bottom line is do something. Anything even crappy is better than nothing.

Welcome back Michael ! It's about damn time. You were sorely missed.

( "....and there was much rejoicing!" - Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

@Michael Quarles Thanks for all the results on what works best from your efforts. And I agree completely - better to do something than trying to reach for perfection.

Just wanted to give a quick update that I printed 896 yellow letters and 896 envelopes over the last two days with my HP printer. Printer preformed pretty well and was relatively fast at 2.3 ppm.

I was concerned about the quality of the yellow paper, but found that it held up quite well. I found it best to stick to printing in 100 page intervals, not sure why but that seemed to help. The paper was still semi-stuck together on one end so I had to break those apart or my printer wanted to grab 10-15 sheets at one time. Other than that, I can't recommend that paper enough.

You can order yellow paper on Amazon in packs of 500 sheets UNBOUND. Here's the link:

There's also a company out there where you can fill out a template and they will convert your handwriting into a text for typing up letters. I think they charge $10 for their basic conversion (which should be all you'll need). You can then use mail merge to automatically insert their name. You can also print the address directly to the envelope. This will make you 10X more efficient.

Here's their website:

http://www.yourfonts.com/fontgenerator/280203.html

That has been the easiest route for me.

Updated over 5 years ago

Link for the paper on Amazon: [url]http://amzn.com/B003U6N2PQ[/url]

@Jerry Puckett
@Brandon Foken
You two recommended two printers and Brandon went with the HP. The Epson according to my research prints only one envelope at a time is that correct? Brandon what about the HP? Looking for a good printer that does at least 10-15 envelopes at a time. Thanks!

The Epson 645 will take up to 50 envelopes at once with a little tweeking to the tray. That's why I hate HP. Never could get it to grab envelopes right.

You guys need to be writing them anyway.

@Jerry Puckett
Wow 50! You mentioned tweaking of the tray? Can you be more specific please? And, is will it do A6 or invitational size?

Also, did you ever try using the red ink instead of the blue?

@Michael Quarles Yes, I'll probably end up writing them until I can afford to hire your company after a deal or two! :)

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