Free Drinks? Tell Me More

Marketers forget people open snail mail addressed to them personally. A well-conceived letter will grab and hold people's attention and produce results.In the scramble to conquer social media, some marketers have forgotten the latent power of the out-of-favor direct mail letter.

Snail mail, disdained as old school, has ironically cleared out the mailbox for smart direct mail solicitations.

Portland Center Stage got it right in its recent letter pitching subscriptions to its upcoming season of shows. "Free drinks? Check. $30 tix for friends? Check. Monthly payment plans? Check. We offer all kinds of sweet perks for our season ticket-holders."

The letter goes on to list "10 things we'd like you to know about season tickets," including your own personal ticket agent, access to best seats and virtual valet e-service.

The letter even shares a "Fun Fact" – tickets are printed with heat, not ink. "We use a special thermal paper that changes color when exposed to heat. If you drag your fingernail across the ticket, it will generate enough heat to leave a faint line. Ooohhh. Even our tickets are magic."

The conversational, enthusiastic tone is matched by on-the-money information about the value of being a season ticket-holder. The letter isn't splashy. In fact, it isn't even illustrated. A mailer describing the PCS 2014-2015 lineup was enclosed. (Who wouldn’t be enticed by "The People's Republic of Portland," written by Lauren Weedman, a former "correspondent" on The Daily Show.)

Evidence shows people open mail that is personally addressed to them, which isn't always the case for email or online outreach. Once you have the door open, you need to give someone a reason to keep it open.

Cynthia Fuhrman, PCS director of marketing and communications, wisely began her solicitation with answers to questions you wished people would ask. The first two words of the pitch are "Free drinks." That hooks most people to read on.

Her letter is two pages long, but is packaged well. It follows the familiar pattern of a list of 10 things. Each paragraph is short, to the point and colorful. "Are you living la vida loca? No biggie. Season tickets are super flexible. Switch performance dates at your leisure." 

Fuhrman appeals to the secret ambition of being an insider. "Season ticket holders get a discount card for local bars, eateries and retail stores. Last year our season ticket-holders were treated to a 'Buy One, Get One' offer for jumbo cupcakes." 

Becoming fluent on social media is important. But don't forget how to leverage an old-school letter. They still work, if you know what you're doing.