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Direct Mail is Not Dead: How One Writer Landed a $5,000 Contract


Direct mail strategies to land freelance clients. Makealivingwriting.com

No one uses direct mail to market anymore. Email marketing is the way to go, right?

I don’t think so. When I was working my day job in the marketing department of a credit union, I wrote a fair number of direct mail pieces to sell financial products to current potential members. Since going freelance, I realized I kind of missed writing those letters.

Email marketing is ubiquitous these days, so sending a direct mail pitch sets you apart.

And, when it’s not a bill, people like getting mail. Direct mail gets opened more often than email. People spend much more time reading a mail piece. And even millennials say direct mail influences their purchases.

So I decided to put my old-school direct mail marketing skills back to work and create my own campaign to find freelance writing clients. And it worked amazingly well.

Here’s how I did it:

Direct mail marketing strategies for freelancers

After I wrote some blog posts for a marketing and printing company that discussed why they still recommend direct mail, I decided it was time for me to dust off my letter writing skills.

And it paid off – to the tune of $5,000. Here are the strategies I used to do a successful direct mail campaign.

1. Target the right people

Because of that day job at the credit union, I decided to target credit union marketing managers and offer to help them with some of the projects they just never have time to get off the ground.

I knew I wanted to go after the credit unions who were big enough to have an in-house marketing department but not so big that they already had a huge agency contract.

I found a group of 30 credit unions in that sweet spot using the National Credit Union Association database and researched the marketing director contact names.

  • Know your niche. That’s the best place to start to develop an effective direct mail marketing campaign. But don’t think you need to compile an exhaustive list of potential contacts. Do your research to find a small group of businesses, along with the right people to contact, and move on to the next step.

2. Write a killer sales letter

Like a letter of introduction, a freelance writing sales letter is an audition. You need to showcase your writing talents and speak directly to the concerns of your prospects. Then you need to make it clear that you are the right person to help address those concerns.

This is an excerpt from my letter:

There’s never enough time.

Your team needs to create promotions, work with front-line staff to make sure promotions execute correctly in the branch, keep social media feeds and the blog up to date, and prepare educational materials for members. Plus they need to plan events, work with local media to ensure that the community knows the great work you’re doing, and share member stories to help show how every member benefits from your products and services.

When I was on staff at my credit union, we had so many ideas. But it was challenging to find the time to execute on them with all of the day-to-day marketing tasks. We needed to outsource.

If you’re ready to launch more member education or personal stories, I can help. Or, if you want to offload the member newsletter, blog, statement inserts, social media, or other time-consuming tasks so your staff can focus on the bigger picture, I’m there for you.

  • Invest the time to write an effective letter. You’re probably not going to nail this in a single draft. Give it a shot. Take a break to think about it. Then come back to make revisions. It’s worth the investment of time and creative energy to get this right.

3. Put together a package that will get opened

Personal but professional, that was the look I was going for when I created my mailing package. I printed address and return labels with a logo and used stamps instead of metered stickers.

The complete direct mail package included my:

  • Sales letter
  • Personalized pen
  • Business card, and a
  • Free report I wrote on which marketing tasks to outsource and which to keep in house.

Direct mail marketing strategies for freelancers

I ordered pens from Amsterdam Printing and business cards from Vista Print. There are many vendors out there for these items, but these are the places I’ve found the best prices.

  • Expect to spend a little money. Don’t blow thousands of dollars on a direct mail campaign. It’s one reason direct mail has taken a back seat to digital marketing. But do plan to spend a little money on printing and mailing for a direct mail marketing campaign. I spent a total of $120, including envelopes, postage, pens, and business cards. Small change, compared to the contract I landed.

4. Follow up

My letter closes with this line:

I’ll shoot you a quick email in about a week – but if you’d like to reach out before then, I’m happy to chat.

Twelve days after dropping the letter in the mailbox, I send a short email to my contact:

Did you get my mailer about a week or so ago?

I know this is a busy time of year – you’re about to go into the budgeting and performance review cycles, if you haven’t started yet.

That said, a little time planning for marketing outsourcing can help with the budget, so if you can spare 30 minutes for a short discussion, I’d love to chat. (I can’t help with reviews. Those are a bear, and they can’t be outsourced well.)

If you can’t spare 30 minutes in the next month or so, I’d love to send you a packet of samples to help you see how you can outsource some of the work to make it easier for your marketing team to be successful. Just let me know whether you’d like a PDF packet by email or a printed packet.

Talk to you soon!

  • Improve your response rate. If you don’t subscribe to following up on LOIs and queries you send via email, fine. Some writers prefer to just move on to finding clients that are interested. But don’t do that with a direct mail campaign. You’re spending money, and time, to find leads this way. Taking a few minutes to follow up can help improve your response rate and get you closer to landing a new client.

5. Track your results

I have a column in my mailing list spreadsheet where I tracked my responses to this direct mail campaign.

I sent 30 packages and got:

  • Three “we’ll keep you in mind” responses.
  • One “I’ll be in touch later with a specific project that you’d be perfect for” response
  • One phone call that led to a $5,000 contract for some ebooks on personal finance topics.

That’s a 16 percent response rate. And the best part of that phone call? I didn’t have to sell myself, because I’d already done it in the letter. We just talked about the project and I sent my bid.

  • Metrics matter. When you measure your efforts and response rate for a direct mail campaign, or any other marketing activity for that matter, that data can tell you what works and what doesn’t to find clients.

Rinse and repeat: When a marketing strategy works
One $5,000 contract from a $120 investment in this marketing campaign was worth it. I’m prepping another batch of 30 direct mail packages. I’ll be reusing the sales letter, with a few updates that reflect the time of year and types of projects they’ll be planning. I’ve still got pens and business cards, but I get to add those ebooks I wrote as a fresh sample.

If you’ve been thinking about testing out a new marketing strategy to find clients, create a direct marketing campaign. Follow the steps I’ve outlined here and give it a shot. My direct mail experiment proved to be an effective marketing strategy to find a great client in my niche.

Have you landed freelance clients with direct mail marketing? Tell us about your results on Facebook.

Jennifer Roland is a freelance writer focusing on education, technology, and personal finance. Her second book, Pacific Northwest Writers: Perspectives on Writing, was published by Gladeye Press in 2015.

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