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  • Charles Comenos

Sales Letters in B2B Lead Generation and Follow-up

Digital is instantaneous and measurable, but a well-written sales letter may help you stand out when it really matters.

Forward: Please don't laugh. This post is born in good part by professional nostalgia and a longing to connect to the the inky history of my profession. That being said, who doesn't like trying adding new, inexpensive channels to their marketing mix?

sales letters in modern marketing

Lead generation is hard. It’s so hard in fact, that according to this report compiled by the leaders of Linkedin’s largest group for technology marketers, 55% of B2B marketers consider increasing the number of leads to be their second biggest priority.

While digital marketing has become pervasive, and in many ways dominates the modern prospecting process, launching a content marketing effort to replace cold calling and other traditional forms of outreach can take significant time, money, and know-how to do properly.

There are notable downsides to digital marketing too, the biggest of which is that audiences have grown numb to the volume of digital communication they receive.

People Are Flooded with Communication

Today, the average business person receives about 121 emails a day. The result is that people are growing fatigued to even the sharpest messaging, giving the average email 15 seconds of their attention. In the competitive technology services industry getting noticed is already hard enough, these short attention spans make leaving a lasting impression almost impossible.

This is especially true when it comes to approaching larger clients.

Decisions makers are inundated with daily offers and promotions, which makes starting a conversation with them via email a poor choice. Cold calling, another historically important way for businesses to prospect is also on the decline. Today, most calls go straight to voicemail, and according to the Harvard Business Review, cold calling may be ineffective as much as 90% of the time.

But some managed services providers, software companies, and other IT services firms rely on prospecting to keep their pipeline full of leads. What are these businesses to do? There is one way that’s still relevant, cuts through the chatter, and provides a direct connection to the decision maker you’re looking to build rapport with. I’m talking about sales letters and direct mail.

Why are sales letters still a great way to prospect in 2021?

  • Sales letters stand out The attention economy is concept that all marketers should make themselves aware of. Mail cuts through the digital chatter, and people still love receiving it. According to a Gallup poll, 41% of Americans look forward to checking their mailbox every day. Another study by Epsilon found that 77% percent of people sort through their physical mail as soon as they get it. The fact that people like receiving mail that’s addressed to them gives snail mail a big leg-up over its digital cousin.

  • It tells your whole story Unlike email and other digital communications, which have been carefully optimized to convey as much information in a small space, it’s okay for a sales letter to go on for a few pages and include all the information relevant to your offering. This mean you get the space to make a thorough case for you’re the value of your products and services. Compare the length and depth of a sales letter to an email — which is supposed to be no more than four paragraphs in length — and you can see another unique dimension of snail mail. Want to include a full-color brochure? Attaching a PDF will most likely get your email deleted or caught in a SPAM folder; with direct mail it’s not a problem.

  • Snail mail shows that you care The last major benefit of a sales letter is that it shows that you care about your prospect enough to go through the extra effort of trying to start a conversation with them on a more personal channel. After all, you’ve not only written them a full-length letter, found the right person to address it to, customized the letter so it speaks to their specific needs, and put a real stamp on it, but you’ve also taken the time out of your day to carry it to the post office. There are numerous ways that you can accentuate the personal aspect of your direct mail as well, such as using different envelope shapes to make your prospect curious about your package and further stand out from the crowd.

What's the ROI of a Sales Letter?

Sending sales letters will never be as cheap as e-mail, and e-mail will always hold a dominant position in the lead nurturing process, as it’s a fast, low-cost way to share new content and stay in contact with clients who have opted onto your list.

But! In the technology services field, for example, where the average lifetime value of a client is routinely measured in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, the cost-to-benefit ratio of a direct mail campaign is well suited to making an initial contact with a high-value client.

Here are some reasons why managed service providers and solutions providers and other local or regional businesses in the IT world can expect the ROI of a sales letter campaign to be competitive with e-mail.

You'll Get More Opens

The open rate of your campaign is an especially big deal when making first contact with a prospective client. If your message doesn’t get read then you’ve failed to achieve the most basic goals of your prospecting, which are to start a dialog with your prospect, make a strong first impression, and gauge if they have any interest in your products or services.

A sales letter not only gets opened at a higher rate than email, they live in your prospects office longer too. According to a study by UK marketing firm Proactive, the average lifespan of a piece of direct mail is seventeen days. During this time, it’s more than likely that the prospect will think about your business and carefully consider your offering. As discussed above, the lifespan of your average email is measured in seconds.

More Responses Than Email

Direct mail had the highest perceived response rate among any communication method with 66.1% of respondents saying they were likely to respond to a direct mail piece. This was 34.7% better than the perceived response rate with email. This perception translates directly into marketing success. According to data by Bizo and Epsilon, direct mail typically achieves a 4.4% response rate, compared to just 0.12% for email. That’s a 30x improvement over email!

People See Direct Mail Differently

Based on the data above, it’s not surprising that audiences also have a different emotional reaction to paper mail. According to Canadian neuromarketing firm TrueImpact, which used eye-tracking, high-resolution EEG brain wave measurements, and other methods to measure this difference, direct mail pieces had a 70% higher recall rate than digital advertisements. These results were corroborated by a joint study between the UK’s Bangor University and branding agency Millward Brown, which found that that physical materials produce more brain response associated with feelings.

Paper mail is more memorable than email. That seems correct on an intuitive level and the research backs it up. But what feelings does direct mail tend to elicit? According to this study from the market research department of the UK’s Royal Mail, postal mail is seen as a much more reliable, more believable medium. Email on the other hand was most often seen as “quick” “informative,” and “informal.” There’s a big difference between the two and the savvy marketer will exploit that difference to help make their company money.

What You Can Do to Make Prospecting with U.S. Mail Work

Careful targeting – In order for your sales letter to work, it’s important that your targeting be laser focused. Each sales letter should have at least one or two paragraphs that’s completely about your prospects’ business and addresses exactly how you can help them deal with those difficulties. This means doing research into their business, existing collateral, current clients, and any other publicly available information you can find to help give you letter an air of authority. Also, keep your mailings small so you can best keep track of response rates and follow-ups.

Address it from a real person – Don’t make the mistake of addressing your sales letter anonymously. Even great sales letters that are addressed as normal business correspondence can experience drastically lower open rates if they’re perceived as corporate mass mailings. Instead, have the letter addressed from a decision maker within your company like a CEO or a sales manager. It’s the personal touch that’s going to make your sales letter a success, and it’s important to establish that personal connection right away.

Keep it two pages in length – Though many people today will advocate for a single page sales letter, claiming that an attention-lacking audience won’t pay attention to anything longer, one page is a little too short. Most professional copywriters agree with me that when you’re sending a prospecting or sales email, two pages is the optimal balance between brief and informative that will attract prospects’ interest without boring them with too many details.

Send it priority mail – Want to make your proposal or pitch really stand out? Then send it priority mail. When was the last time you received a piece of priority mail that you didn’t open? The answer is most likely never, and that’s true for your prospects as well. Sending a well-crafted prospecting or sales letter priority mail guarantees a near 100% open rate, which is something that can’t be said of any other marketing channel. There are very few better ways to get started a conversation started note than with a great letter in a priority mailer.

A Sales Letters Campaign Depends on Good Copywriting

Though some people may have written off the sales letter as a relic of a different age, that's simply not the case. There’s strong evidence to show that a well-crafted, targeted sales letter can play a role in the modSalern prospecting process, especially when it comes to approaching that next big account.

Naturally, that’s where I come in! I have years writing sales and marketing copy that helps business better connect with their prospects and drive desirable business outcomes. If you'd like an expertly written letter to help you with your marketing outreach, contact me at or 215 392 0750 and let me know how I can help.


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Charles Comenos,


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