Small Business Ideas

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Fake handwritten letters – Do they work?

by Taylor White

Nowadays when I check the mail I’m happy to find something other than a bill, ad or junk mail. Handwritten notes are so rare that it’s actually nice to find one in my mailbox, if only to break up the monotony. Who doesn’t want to come across a hidden gem every once in awhile?

Which is why I’m that much more annoyed when I open what I’ve already decided in my head is a party invitation, only to find a sales flyer for an appliance repair shop inside. What?! I feel tricked! I was already planning my outfit.

As a consumer, I feel cheated. As a marketer, I have to admit I’m slightly intrigued. They peeked my curiosity enough to get me to take the first step, but what about my follow through? What are the chances I’ll act on their offer?

My gut tells me that this type of direct advertising increases the actual open rate, but not necessarily the actual sales. In fact, I think in many instances they have the opposite effect. People feel cheated or tricked, so immediately throw the letter in the trash (er, recycle bin) and are left with a negative taste in their mouths. Consumers are smart, and nobody likes to feel they’ve been duped.

The last ‘fake’ direct mail we received at home was postmarked locally and hand addressed to my husband. He leerily opened it, because by now most of us are on to this game. We laughed when inside was a newspaper clipping of an ad for a nearby car dealership, with a handwritten yellow post-it note that read “Thought you’d want to check this out!.” It was simply signed, “-G” as if they were such good buds the sender didn’t need to bother with his entire name (Gary? Gus? Gerald? Grover?).

These are almost as bad as the fake Christmas cards from my close “friends” from the pest control business who I’ve never met in my life. I guess with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Bottom line – advertising is crucial to helping your business succeed, but you have to be smart. What works for one industry doesn’t work for others. Know your business, know your customers – and don’t insult their intelligence.

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