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Do Yellow Handwritten Letters Really work?

Updated on May 17, 2013

Have you heard all of the buzz about Yellow Letter Mail?

The use of handwriting in direct mail pieces has proven over and over again to increase response rates. Simply hand addressing an envelope can triple the response rates to a direct mail campaign. Now, what about taking it to the next level by handwriting the entire mail piece? Does it work? We heard all of the buzz about a simple mail piece called a Yellow Letter and just had to test it out for ourselves. We found most of the yellow letter response rate claims coming from real estate investor guru's who were selling their wares to up and coming real estate investors. There are also many handwritten mail services that now offer this product, some almost exclusively, and at a pretty penny too..... so it must work, right? We tested it, and were quite amazed at our results.

Yellow Letter Response Rates Rock!

We tested yellow letters and were blown away

Ok - first let me start by saying that Yes, I am a skeptic, and no, I do not believe everything that I hear. I like to see it for myself. I have been working in the direct mail marketing field for over a decade now, and have seen, and tried just about everything in the way of an intriguing mail piece. I have clients that have paid "out the wazoo" for high dollar mail campaigns where they were promised "great results"... some worked, and some completely flopped...well, most completely flopped. What a waste of money.

I began my quest for an inexpensive way to increase response rates for my mail clients, most of them were insurance agents at the time, so finding a new and exciting way to present an insurance pitch was a challenge, to say the least. We began testing the use of real handwritten addresses on the envelopes that we were sending out, and to make a long story short.... it worked! Eureka! We had succeeded at increasing response rates on our insurance mailers alone by nearly 300% on average.

Another perk was that we were able to spin off an entire business from one unique approach to addressing mail. But is it really all that unique? If you turn the clock back even 25 years, I think that you will agree that handwritten and hand addressed mail used to be fairly commonplace. But in today's age of "E-Everything", it definitely stands out in the crowd. As they say, "everything old is new again"..... how true that is.

So, I asked myself this question: "Why stop with just addressing the envelope with real handwriting, why not just hand write the entire mail piece?". When I initially asked this question, the answer was fairly obvious - It is cost prohibitive. Think about it, if you hand write a 50 word letter (and that's short), it would probably take about 10-15 minutes per letter, and that's if you're not trying to be too neat. If you had to pay someone to do this, wouldn't it end up costing at least $2-3 per letter? If I spent even just $2 plus postage per letter I would be looking at a two and a half dollar per piece mail cost --- That's $2500 to mail out only 1000 pieces.... ouch. At a 5% response rate that would mean that each lead (assuming it's a good one) would cost about $50.00. But 5%? Is that even possible? I'll explain how to drop the price on these letters down drastically at the end of this article -- but for now, you see where my mind was, and why I stalled off on taking it to the next level with hand written letters.

Here's where it gets good...

The mysterious yellow letter at work

Being an entrepreneur, I always have my radar out for business ideas and trends, especially with the state of our current economy. I had always been interested in real estate investing, but never really had the time to put into it - there is sooooo much to know, especially since it changes so much. In my poking around for info, I kept coming across these guru articles, and video's touting the success rate of Yellow Letters. I saw it so much that I had to take a closer look. What is a yellow letter mail piece? It is simply a handwritten note, short and sweet, on a piece of yellow, lined legal paper. That's it. Plain and simple.

These guru's said that yellow letters were getting between 5% and 15% response rates. Wow... really? I took into account that these guys were targeting a market of people that were desperate to sell their houses. I would think that any letter, or postcard would get a high response rate from this market... wouldn't you? So I put it off for a short while longer..

I had a few mail customers - they were real estate investors, that were using our hand addressed envelope service. I don't normally do too much nosing around, but if they volunteer response rates to me, I add it to my collective research notes. They reported to me the predicted increase in response rates when we switched them to hand addressed envelopes. Most were happy, and content. They were all using either black and white laser printed letters (personalized) and some were using full color flyers (not personalized). Some added handwritten "p.s." notes or sticky notes.. again, all were content with their response rates because they were much higher than they had been previously.

Finally, a client came to me with a request for a yellow letter mail piece. Ahhhhh, I thought - I finally get to see if this really works, and if it's actually worth the cost. So we mailed out a small test batch of 500 pieces. We used a yellow lined letter, like the one that you see pictured at the top of this lens. We put it in a handwritten envelope with first class postage.... and guess what...? It was a slam dunk! Really!! His mailer brought in a 12.6% overall response rate. Now some of these responses were just calling to say that there house was not for sale -- ok, nice. (well, some weren't very nice) but either way, who bothers to do that? This told me that not only were they all opening these letters, but they were reading them top to bottom - and were engaged by them - again ... Wow. After all the fat was trimmed, the final response rate was at 7.6%. These were "real" leads.

So I had to find out what the response rate was on this customers previous mailer - the one with the black and white laser printed letter --- It turned out to be 2.9%. This is why I'm so psyched about yellow letters.... because they increased this guys response rate by way more than double!!! And do you know what else? He used the same list on the 7.6% mailer as he did on the 2.9% mailer.... So the comparison was like science. The only variable, was the actual letter.

In conclusion

Go Yellow!

We have continued testing the mail piece and variations of the text and have found it to bring a solid, predictable response rate. Of course, there are many other variables to a successful mail campaign, one that is as equally important is the actual mailing list. We know that a targeted mailing list will bring a better response than a blanketed list will (unless you're a local pizza shop).

Yellow letters, when planned with great care can most definitely increase responses in almost any industry. Some fear that getting away from the stark, cold, clean cut look of a typical mail piece will reflect on their own professionalism. I believe, and this is based on results, that a yellow letter (or even a handwritten letter using letterhead) will tell your customer that you are a real, flesh & blood person -- and that you even have a soul! Studies show that people respond to people. If I answer the phone when a customer calls my office, I close more sales. If I let them all go to voice mail, my sales slump. So snap out of the "E-Everything" mode, and warm it up a little - It will be worth it.

But what about the cost? Well, I mentioned previously that a short handwritten letter could cost $2-$3 per piece.... but what if you could get the same results out of a letter that only cost you 35 cents? I can make that happen using our proprietary handwriting service - and no, I'm not talking about using a handwriting font (although some of them are pretty darn good).

We have created a production style system that incorporates real handwriting into high volume mail to keep the costs comparable to that of standard printed mail, and it's the perfect way to let our customers test out these wild and crazy yellow letters.... I'll leave it at that - you are welcome to contact me regarding this offer - or visit our web link at the end of this module.

I'm glad that you took the time to read this. You're probably like me, following a trail of bread crumbs to see if this whole yellow letter thing is for real... Well... you be the judge and please, come back and let me know how you did. There are many handwriting companies that offer the yellow letter mail service - I have seen prices that range from slightly less than $1 on up. Or, if you have time - try it out for yourself. Feel free to contact me if you need some ideas on how to convert your standard mail copy into something that would work with a yellow letter.. I'd be glad to help.

Again, Thank you for reading, and have a great and successful day!

Tanya Johnson, Director

T Johnson Marketing

302-727-0339 9-5, M-F

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      lawofficesoftware 5 years ago

      Interesting lens-havent seen this letter format before for a lens. Good information too:-)

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