Long live the letter: is it dead already?
Regularly I meet and work with agencies who have mixed thoughts about the ‘sales’ letter. Most digital agencies turn up their noses at the letter, however before working with them, I insist that they have their own letterhead designed and printed. Inevitably before I do this I have to explain how they can utilise the letter as an effective method of introduction and a professional way to keep in touch and develop the relationship. In some instances I categorically state that without the ‘good old’ letter our new business development strategy will be diluted or compromised. At worst, absence of the letter in our marketing and NBD game plan will not do us the justice we deserve in the market place.
Why is the letter a good tool? First and foremost it is seldom used therefore it creates a point of differentiation in NBD. It opens a line of general communication. I make a concerted effort each time I talk or meet with marketing managers, brand managers, marketing directors, etc to ask how often they receive a letter of introduction from agencies. Their response is reflected in the recognition the letter achieves a follow up call every time. Is it because it is a physical piece of evidence we have that someone has reached out? It reflects an effort and professionalism that an email does not quite convey the same way.
With some sectors the letter is well received. One agency with whom I recently worked was actually thanked for using this form of communication. This was a letter written to an existing client to ask for their advice about plans to gain more clients of the same sort (non- conflicting of course) from the same sector. The client in question was Head of Libraries so the letter was a no-brainer! We repeated this with another client and wrote to the Chief Executive of a Building Society. A valuable first class stamp this proved to be and I’m still calculating the return on investment for this lavish 62 pence spend.
Equally important is the plain fact it demonstrates you are taking time and showing some commitment in communication with the (prospective) client to show how much you want (or value) their business. Of course your NBD game plan might be to whiz loads of email offs, get the new business development junior to hit the phones and do whatever else seems cost efficient and works well enough. This means taking the little time it takes to craft a letter of confidence and intent doesn’t fit with your strategy. However if we are trying to demonstrate to the prospective client how much we want their business other than hoping to get lucky and be involved on the next pitch or included in the next review then we can prove this in a professional businesslike manner – the letter.
I recommend use of the letter to show the prospect where they sit in our new business database. Do we want them to think they are one of many businesses we are targeting or do we want to think they are one of a very few? Do we want to be perceived as one of many agencies wanting to muscle in and join the lottery or do we want to be seen as an agency which is focused, has a strategy in place and even a business plan? Invest the time and revive the letter. You won’t regret it.