View Full Version : Sales letters or sales emails?

14-03-2006, 09:47 AM
Hi everyone

My main marketing is through targeted letters to HR or Training Managers in hotels/tourist attractions (I offer courses). I then do a follow up phone call a few days after they receive the letter.

However a good half of the people say they've never received my letter. I am sure that secretaries or whoever sorts the mail just chucks the letter in the bin.

I've thought about sending emails instead, as this in theory would be guaranteed to reach the right person if I have their email address. But I'm just worried that people's first reaction to unsolicited email is to delete it without even bothering to read it. Plus, is there also some kind of law about unsolicited emails?

Does anyone else have this problem in here? Have you found any ways around it?


14-03-2006, 11:06 AM

I am in the same position, I have been sending marteting mail to local schools, trying to get some school portrait work, I have been advised that such mail is checked by the office staff, and most likely binned, therefore I'm also looking at the possibillity of emailing the head teacher direct.

The regulations regarding email marketing can be found on the 'Information Commissioners Office' website.


14-03-2006, 01:19 PM
You have two issues here.

The first one is direct mail. Most people expect to get a great response from direct mail but the commonly quoted (and pretty accurate figure) for response rates to direct mail is 1-2%. So if you send 300 letters, expect to get 3 responses. Response rates also depend on things like personalisation, content of the letter, call to action, response mechanism and follow up. These will all help to increase response rates. There are several ways you can get round gatekeepers (the people who stop the letters!). if you personalise the letter and mark it private and confidential there is a better chance it will land on the right persons desk.


You are right to think most people delete emails before they even look at them - especially if they are from a source they don't know. You may have problems with firewalls and you can expect a response rate of somewhere around the same as direct mail letters. Getting hold of email addresses is difficult and you have to follow certain regulations. The legislation that was introduced in 2003 applies to consumers (Mr Smith at home), sole traders and unincorporated partnerships in the UK. The legislation that applies to this set of people basically says the following:

1. You can't email them unless you have permission to do so.

The only way you can get round this is if you have previously sold them goods or services, collected their email during negotiation or sale and are offering them another product or service that is similar. You must also have previously given them a chance to opt out and they didn't take it.

If you do 'pass the test' for being able to send them an email you mustn't hid your identity and you must allow them to opt out of recieving emails from you (every time you send them an email).

In theory corporate organisations are not covered by the regulations, however it is a bit of a grey area as email addresses could be seen as personal. Shaky ground!

Basically you need to get permission to email people before you do it.

Hope that helps


Copywriter, editor and proofreader

14-03-2006, 02:17 PM
Thanks Nic

I really appreciate your detailed reply. I do personalise my letters and I've considered marking them confidential, though I thought it might be in some way a bit dishonest as it is obviously a sales letter with no confidential content. Maybe I'll give it a go though - is it standard practice with sales letters?

Given what you say about email and legislation, I think I'll leave that idea.


James Smith
14-03-2006, 03:02 PM
Have you thought about positive marketing, ie advertising and networking, as opposed to what I call “negative” tactics of bothering people? I know junk mailing and cold calling can work, but you are as likely to generate a negative image as a positive one. I for one refuse to buy a certain market leading brand of accounting books because the ******* kept ringing me at one point. I buy from the rivals who leave me well alone apart from an annual “here is this years list of books” mailing.

I am registered with the MPS (just like the TPS) and still get oodles of junk mail. I just don’t waste my time looking at it. My assistant bins the lot although if I do open the post I do get lots of offers for training courses or training products of some description, so its hardly a quiet market you are aiming for. These are all probably “targeted” mailings in the senders eyes, ie they have bought a list of accountants.

If I want to buy something I go buy it.

14-03-2006, 03:53 PM

It's not standard practice to mark things confidential but I've seen it done a million times. It is also cleverly used by larger companies as a ploy to get you to look at things - think about the junk mail you get which is marked 'urgent!'. I must get three or four of these a week.

I'm with James on the advertising and networking to grow business. However, letters do work and what people seem to object to is the harrassment rather than the letters themselves. You won't ever convert someone who isn't very interested so think about who you are targeting very very carefully.

Sometimes you have to take a totally lateral approach to marketing - the best response I ever got to a mailing was a secret personalised code I sent to clients - nothing else on the flyer. The team was split about 50/50 as to whether it would work but it got a 20% response rate. But this requires some creative thought and costs more than sending a letter. Think about doing something to stand out from the crowd.

14-03-2006, 04:29 PM
Hi everyone

You're right James, no-one likes being bothered by sales calls. However, the majority of the time I get positive feedback on my course when I get through, even if they don't want to sign up there and then so this is definitely a marketing strategy that I want to continue to use. Maybe it's because I am very targeted with who I approach and do lots of research.

I offer quite a unique service - a one day training day in 'International Communication Skills' which involves very basic phrases in three lEuropean languages tailored to the organisation's specific needs. I find that the phone call is necessary to explain the service further and talk about ways the course can be tailored to the organisation.

To be honest, I wouldn't know where to start with networking as my potential clients are quite diverse - museums, hotels, shopping centres, airports - where do their training managers hang out? I've thought about advertising, but it's too complicated to explain what I can offer in just an advert.


James Smith
14-03-2006, 05:30 PM
Fair enough Anna, several of my clients do nearly all their marketing as you are doing it, and I think it can work well for some people. I know from my own marketing that if you find an “in” with someone it automatically feels a lot more comfortable than if you have nothing in common so I imagine your research must pay off.

I should point out that even as an ardent old misery about sales calls I will more often than not actually listen briefly to someone if they claim to have sent me a letter, even if I haven’t seen it, especially if it sounds like they actually bothered to read the website before calling so they know who I am and what I do.

So I would from your point of view keep doing what you are doing.

From an advertising point of view, I would target a particular segment and try their trade magazines. Eg you mention hotels; it’s a big sector, with more potential work than you could probably ever deliver in a lifetime. To access this you can perhaps get some space with a good old fashioned set of articles – magazines always want good quality content. You write for the article nothing and in return get a by-line to your website, and sometimes even a free run of adverts. This will give you some profile and allow you to explain what you do. With magazine advertising I have found you need to be in for several months before you get much response, and the continuing adverts after the initial articles helps people remember your name.

I actually get quite a good response from some of the classifieds I run personally, I have one for example in a landlords magazine as I do a lot of buy to let tax return work.

Hope that helps.


14-03-2006, 05:47 PM
This is also an area that i am now entering. I have recently set up a publishing company - nothing flash, its just me! - in order to market and disrtibute my childrens stories. The problem is how to get the product into schools - my target market - in order that they can see the product and order more, hopefully.

I have done a certain amount of local 'networking' ie. going around to local schools and showing them what i have to offer but if i am to target every primary school then i will have to send out promotional leaflets and such. Because i will also be sending out a sample i hope that the envelope will be opened rather than being dumped.