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2009: The Year of One-to-One Marketing

Great letters make for strong sales. Start the new year out right by building relationships one letter at a time.

As we kick off 2009, one thing is crystal clear: We're entering an entirely new era for marketers. Let's call this the year for building relationships. Right now, prospects want to make every purchase a safe one. That means they'll rely on companies or brands they know and trust. Closing sales will require a stronger emphasis on tactics that let you relate to customers one to one. And it's never been more important to craft a set of effective letters that you can customize for individual prospects.

Writing a great letter takes a bit of time and know-how. Whether you use it to follow up a lead, close a hot prospect or introduce your products and services, a well-crafted letter will be one of your most powerful marketing tools in the new year.

These six rules will help you write letters that motivate your best prospects:

Rule 1. Set a Measurable Goal
Every good letter must be written to make something happen. Focus on that goal before you begin, and decide what your letter must contain to produce the desired result. Make reading your letter worthwhile for your prospect, and it will reward you by advancing the sales process. If you're sending letters just to provide prospects with more information, you're wasting your postage and opportunity to move prospects to the next level.

Rule 2. Have a Strong Hook
Your letter has to immediately grab the reader's interest or it'll be discarded as junk mail. Depending on the type of business you're in and what you're marketing, your hook can be a special offer or a lead communicating a unique benefit. When your letter follows a phone call, highlight the benefits your prospect desires in the first paragraph.

Rule 3. Convey a Unique Message
Have you ever received letters from competing companies with virtually identical offers? Chances are you tossed them because you couldn't tell one company from the other. Take a look at one of your old letters. If it could have been sent by any of your closest competitors, rethink your approach. The message, pricing and offers contained in your letter must be unique to your business and tie into your branding.

Rule 4. Keep the Reader in Mind
Imagine you were face to face with your prospect, reading your letter aloud. Would you be comfortable, or would the tone be all wrong? Your letter is a one-to-one communication with a real person. Don't come on too strong or overpromise. Use simple, direct language, not flowery prose or impressive vocabulary. And because you won't really be face to face with your prospect, the look of your letter alone must convey your professionalism, so double-check for errors.

Rule 5. Write About "You the Customer"
Great letters are -directed outward. That means they stress what "you the customer" will get and not what "we the company" provide. Highlight benefits front and center, and use the body of your letter to describe the features. Then summarize the key benefit once again, and close with a call to action that gives the prospect a reason to move to the next step in your sales process.

Rule 6. Make Responding Easy
No matter what type of marketing letter you're writing, close by providing a clear and actionable next step. In some cases, the responsibility for that action--such as sending a written proposal or contract--will rest with you. When a special offer has been made, your letter should make it quick and easy for the prospect to take advantage of it via phone, e-mail and postal mail. The fewer hurdles your prospect must jump, the more likely you are to close the sale.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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