In yet another wonderful piece, “What Orson Welles Can Teach Us About Direct Marketing,” Denny Hatch talks almost wistfully about the intimate power of the (well-crafted) direct mail letter.

He quotes at length from freelancer Malcolm Decker. Here's a passage for every direct mail fundraiser to remember …

“The Direct Mail Letter
With the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and the National Do Not Call Registry, once again direct mail is riding highthe workhorse of direct marketing.

And the linchpin of direct mail is the letter, that emotional and intimate message from one writer to one reader that talks benefits, benefits, benefits.

In the words of freelancer Malcolm Decker:

The letter is itself is the pen-and-ink embodiment of a salesperson who is speaking personally and directly to the prospect on a one-to-one basis.
The letter is the most powerful and persuasive selling force in direct marketing, once the product, price and offer are set. The writer creates the salesman, usually from whole cloth, and you must be certain that this sales representative is truly representative of your product or service as well as of your company.

The letter is likely to be the only person your market will ever meetat least on the front end of the saledo dont make him highbrow if your market is lowbrow and vice versa.

Make sure he speaks your prospects language. If hes a Tiffany salesman, he writes in one style; if hes a grapefruit or pecan farmer or a beef grower, he writes differently. (cause he talks diffrunt.) I develop as clear a profile of my prospect as the available research offers and then try to match it up with someone I know and put him in a chair across from me. Then I write to him more or less conversationally.

The salesperson in the letter is doing the job he obviously loves and is good at. He knows the product inside and out and is totally confident in and at ease with its values and benefitseven its inconsequential shortcomingsand wants to get his prospect in on a good thing. Here is someone with a sense of rhythm, timing, dramatic effect and possibly even humorgetting attention piquing curiosity holding interest engaging rationally anticipating and assuaging doubts and ultimate winning the confidence (and the signature on the order) of the prospect.

The great direct marketers of old knew that they were not writing to dots and blips, but rather to a warm, breathing, feeling person.”

But to get the full flavor of what Denny is getting at, including how Orson Welles fits in, be sure to read the whole piece.

Roger & Tom

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