What inbound marketing does really, really well is eliminate the cold call. After all, when you have scores of interested people taking the time to visit your landing page or blog and then leaving you their contact information the odds are pretty good your call will be taken.

This behavioral bridge is amplified when they have taken advantage of a download (white paper, case study or some other relevant piece of information) and have something really tangible… and it has your brand on it!

What we are actually describing is an effort to create a warmer environment and avoid a cold one. To accomplish this a good sales professional will usually “prime the pump” with an introductory letter (print or e-mail) to make his/her reason for contact known, introduce his/her product or service, present his/her company’s value proposition, and set up the real objective… getting an appointment.

Landing pages can play a large role in this, and a good letter is designed to trigger a visit to a dedicated landing page. The landing page can provide a lot more information (testimonials, images, product reviews) than a single letter can (or should!). And the right marketing platform (we use and recommend Hubspot©) makes creating and deploying landing pages quick and painless.

Inbound Marketing is Cold Callings Best FriendHowever, this article is intended to remind us of some best practices from the past. I would like you to consider one important but often overlooked aspect with the introductory letter tactic…

The quality of the paper that you use, the design of the letterhead that you use, the ink on the page… all of these come into play and can separate the wheat from the chaff! Want some proof?

We were retained to redesign an existing corporate identity package for a prospective client, and to prove the best efficacy we ran a test. 400 introductory letters were crafted and distributed to a totally cold list, a B-to-B list which we purchased. All of the companies played in the professional services arena and all were privately held companies. All of the letters were identically messaged, with the call to action being a visit to one of four landing pages for a complimentary report download (which, thanks to our website platform, we can easily build effective landing pages and track them back to the respective letter).

Here is how we constructed the mailing:

25% were printed using a solid toner Xerox Phaser printer with 32-lb HP Premium Choice paper (great hand-feel and very bright). We used a full color letterhead design (which we designed and were striving to get client adoption of) – variation A
25% were printed using an HP Officejet Pro Inkjet with 24-lb Hammermill paper (still better than almost anything else), using the same full color letterhead design – variation B
25% were printed using a monochrome Dell laser, with a store brand 24-lb laser paper on the identical but preprinted full color letterhead – variation C
25% were printed using a monochrome Dell laser, with a store brand 24-lb laser paper on the client’s existing one-color letterhead – variation D

Here are the results:

Variation’s A and B more than doubled the response rates of C, and had far better response rates than D. Variation A was slightly better than B but the difference in the paper quality is mostly in weight and unless compared side by side the difference isn’t really appreciated. But I do enjoy watching people run their hands over a report I’ve brought to a meeting having used the combinations found in variation A.

So when you are using a introductory letter campaign to support a call-based sales tactic consider the design, the printing, and the paper because it does have an effect on the behavior you wish to drive in the recipient.

By the way, 69 recipients downloaded the report, 18% overall (net of the bounces, but that is a matter for another post all together, isn’t it?).