Did you check your mailbox today? Chances are you didn’t find any piece of mail particularly compelling. Bills? Statements? Flyers? Traditional mail has become largely transactional, and interpersonal mail is often limited to the occasional birthday or holiday card.

But while modern mail is rarely memorable, it doesn’t have to be that way. In an age where marketing messages and comments are confined to 140-character tweets and brief Facebook posts, a letter can actually stand out as a true differentiator. Here are the advantages of using this traditional channel in a modern way, as well as common pitfalls to avoid when tailoring the approach to your business.

1. Attention Grabber

Reachability is key. It’s unlikely your letter will be blocked — a huge advantage over email’s whitelists, spam filters, and one-click deletes. Your letter is much more likely to be opened and read if it comes in the mail.

2. Statement Maker

Writing a letter makes a statement. While emails reek of being automated and impersonal, a personalized or targeted message in the mail conveys to consumers that you’ve invested in getting your message to them.

3. Target Master

Geotargeting is imperative in many industries. Traditional mail makes this easy; when you contact a customer via a letter, you know it’s his physical address, while an email address could be anywhere in the world. And with an estimated 95 percent of the world’s population having access to postal services — compared to only 34 percent with Internet access — the reach of your letter has the potential to be much greater.

4. Action Prompter

Make it easy for your customers. Sending an agreement that needs a physical signature? Mail it so they can quickly sign and return it.

People are used to making instant decisions, but some transactions require a bit more thought. Putting your considered case forward in a letter means it may linger on a desk — and in your customer’s mind — longer than something that can be readily ignored or deleted, like an email or tweet.

5. Law Abider

Some documents simply still have to go through the mail. Modern mail automation systems make sending your documents just as simple as sending emails, and you can be sure your legal obligations are met.

Stay on Target

Traditional mail has the potential to be a fresh avenue for your business’s advertising, but it’s important to do it right. Advertising mail, particularly of the unaddressed variety, can be annoying to customers unless it’s well-targeted to recipients who are looking for offers related to their specific interests. That’s why it’s so important to:

  • Do your research. Data-driven insights are key to ensuring you’re matching your message with consumers who want to hear it and who will take action as a result.
  • Make relevance a priority. If customers are mistargeted, your letter may have the opposite effect that you want. It could turn them off from your brand. Ask yourself: How does my product provide value to this particular consumer base?
  • Make it special. When customers receive letters from businesses, they might think that either the company doesn’t have their email address or is sending something that legally must go through the mail. Lead this thinking one step further by conveying to customers that you’re investing in a more tangible form of communication with them.

Personalize Down to the Letter

Within the traditional mail avenue, there are a variety of choices when it comes to which type of letter to send. Which is right for your business will depend on your industry and desired customer action as a result of your outreach.

  • The thank-you or welcome letter. Which would create the better impression: an automated email thanking customers for signing up for a service or a signed letter in your mailbox? Volkswagen Australia thinks the latter; it sends such letters out to new customers. Other businesses mail activation codes to new customers. Confirming the residential address can be essential, but you can turn it into an opportunity to begin meaningful customer relationships by packaging it with a warm welcome message.
  • The promotional letter. Ford Canada sent a letter stating, “This letter is worth $1,500 to you when you buy or lease a brand new Lincoln.” During a six-month period, this letter was responsible for half the Lincolns sold in Canada. Promotions should be valuable and straightforward.
  • The “we-want-you-back” letter. Sending an email to a previous client is just not as strong as sending a physical letter. It also gives you the chance to add an incentive for return business. If you do this, you’ll easily recoup your investment in the cost of the mailing.
  • The “we’re-sorry” letter. As marketer Lois Geller writes, “I’ve seen a letter lift response by 1,300 percent over the much fancier control package, another letter pacify irate customers so they don’t mind paying shipping and handling, and another apologize for a mistake and wind up selling more merchandise than if the mistake hadn’t been made in the first place.” Letters are intimate and can be a meaningful when trying to regain trust.
  • The recruitment letter. With the rise of online applications, some recruitment companies are sending résumés out to potential employers by snail mail to get attention.

In a time when companies primarily contact their customers through email and social media, taking a step back to traditional mail can truly make a statement. Research and target your customers appropriately to make sure their mail runs are memorable for them and profitable for you.

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