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Wrestling a Mailer

July 24, 2009

Today I opened my mail and immediately tossed out the catalogs I didn’t have any interest in and a postcard from a phone company I didn’t want to do business with at this time. This left me with a computer-generated notice from a credit card company in a windowed envelope and a scruffy-looking, hand-addressed mailer (with poor penmanship) from a roofing company. I was intrigued. Not many folks hand-address the mail anymore.

Upon attempting to dislodge the envelope from the contents I discovered the paper had actually been folded down and closed up with at least four clear disc tabs – no envelope at all. The clear tabs were made from some alien substance as I could not tear them as you would an envelope seal. After a number of minutes wrestling this document since the pages really would not come apart, I was thinking, “Who in their right mind wouldn’t throw this away in sheer frustration?” But I tenaciously kept at the tug-of-war between paper, tabs and my hand muscles. The paper lost. Who uses a letter opener on a regular basis? Donald Trump? Nah. I’m sure someone opens all his mail for him.

The letter was in shreds by the time I could look at it, and it was a sight to behold! It was a badly copied letter on standard copy paper, and it looked like the company logo had been hand drawn or taped onto the page before Xeroxing. The letter had been typed on a typewriter at one point with big blanks for the roofer to hand write in the year he had replaced the roof and a note about the enclosed testimonials. Included in the mailing were the copied thank you notes (some written on post-it notes) and a messy references page.

Lesson #1: If you piss off potential customers by making it too difficult or impossible to open your offer, there’s already one strike against you. Make it easy to get to your offer. Put it in an envelope that opens normally, or only use one clear tab on a self-mailer. Stick to USPS mailing standards.

Lesson #2: Make a clean impression on prospects. Poor penmanship, copies of copies of copies and Xeroxed post-it note testimonials give an impression of…disarray!

Lesson #3: On the flip side, at least this business actually made the effort to reach out to the potential client base. It’s the first roofer advertising I’ve received in at least a year and maybe many more. Even though the presentation of materials was poor, I am more inclined to call this company if I need roofing work because the substance is there. And there were no grammatical or spelling mistakes. The testimonials were genuine, and a long list of recent references was provided. They put together a complete package – albeit a messy one.

The final lesson here harkens back to the basics: You don’t have to have an expensive and fancy brochure to gain the attention of a prospect. I am less concerned with a roofer’s presentation than I am the quality of his actual roofing work. Had this mailing come from an interior designer, a printer or other visual artist, I would have been appalled. After all, we graphics and marketing folks are expected to present polished material. Keep it clean and simple. Tell your story, and ask for the business. Two-thirds of the work is done if you just actually get the mailing out!

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