Is Direct Mail a Good Strategy for Freelance Writers?

on September 17, 2012 in Marketing
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Some freelance writers spend a lot of time sending query letters via snail mail to editors. Although this is a great way to drum up new business, there is something else I want you to think about: traditional direct mail.

This could be anything from post cards to sales letters. Rather than send these pieces to an editor of a publication, you are instead focusing on corporate clients. From small local businesses to larger nationwide operations, if you get your mailer in front of the right person you may be surprised at how well it converts.

Let me be upfront in saying that I don’t send direct mail on a regular basis. However, this is something I do a couple of times per year.

For me, sales letters seem to get the best response. In a nutshell, this is what I do:

  • Create a list of 100 businesses that I want to target
  • Write a “template based letter” touching on what I offer, the benefits of hiring me, and other related details
  • Send all 100 letters at the same time
  • Sit back and hope to hear from a few interested parties

Tip: although I use a template, I personalize each letter by addressing it to a particular person or department. You can usually find a contact name on the company’s website.

Some people will call upon reviewing my letter. Others will contact me via email. Either way, the next step is to discuss the prospect’s requirements while also talking up your services. You should also offer to email samples of your work.

All in all, direct mail is a great strategy for freelance writers. Best yet, this is not something that most are doing. Subsequently, the competition is relatively low.

Thanks for sharing!
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6 Comments

  1. Kimberly September 17, 2012 Reply

    I’ve had good experiences sending email queries too. I agree with finding a contact name/email when contacting prospects. LinkedIn is also a great tool for targeting contacts.

  2. Chimica R. September 18, 2012 Reply

    Direct mail is wonderful! But it’s a complete art. It’s something that takes time to master because it’s not something many writers do. When I do direct mail — I give away a free report to get some eyes on the actual information. The idea would be to offer them advice on something that they need and go from there. Also make sure that the service you are offering fits within their business. Things like brochures, website content and postcards are all great things to market to companies. But the sky really is the limit — if they ask for something that you normally don’t do — see if you can do it at a later time.
    A lot of my success has come from direct mail so I know my stuff. Great article!

  3. Peter Bowerman September 18, 2012 Reply

    Good to be reminded of an effective strategy like direct mail. And yes, as Chimica points out, there IS an art to it, but people shouldn’t be be discouraged from sending some because they’re afraid of not having it be perfect.

    If indeed you’re unsure of your skills, then keep it simple, and perhaps focus on doing a direct mail postcard, which has less of a “science” attached to it. Just focus initially, as Chris notes, on benefits (what’s important to the client), not features (all about you and your services). You want to discuss features, but not before having them realize you “get” them and their world.

    Outfits like modernpostcards.com or overnightprints.com are good places to have your cards printed for cheap. They have big design libraries as well, so you can pick one of their designs, add your own text and get cards printed cheap.

    And all direct mail experts will agree on this: Frequency trumps creative. If you get in front of prospects more often than others, even if your mailing isn’t as wildly creative as the one who does it less frequently, you’ll win.

    One thing I have to take issue with, Chris is the last line of your instructions:

    “Sit back and hope to hear from a few interested parties.”

    Do that, and you’re likely to have a monumentally unproductive outing, especially if you’ve only mailed to 100 or so. You HAVE to follow up with people, and if you do, you WILL increase your response rate.

    There are always people who get mailings, set aside, fully intending to follow up at some point, and that day never comes, as it recedes further and further into their desk piles. If you follow up, you bring it back on their front burner, and don’t be surprised if they thank you for doing so…

    PB

  4. Amandah September 18, 2012 Reply

    I haven’t tried direct mail, but I’ve been thinking about it. I worked as a graphic artist for a direct mail magazine company so I have a connection.

    It pays to do your homework before sending out direct mail. I agree with Chimica, it’s important to offer writing services that businesses need. Make a list of companies you want to target and check out their websites or cold call them to find out what type of writing services they need or think they don’t need, like a blog or white papers.

    Thanks for this great reminder about direct mail.

  5. Anne Wayman September 18, 2012 Reply

    I’m with Peter – try adding a line like “I’ll call you in a week or so.” Then do so… and you can honestly say they are expecting your all ’cause you told ‘em you would. Huge difference.

  6. Peter Bowerman September 18, 2012 Reply

    Even better, Anne! Tell them on the card that you’ll be following up, and yes, do it.

    PB

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