Writing mailshots and emails - checklist

Writing mailshots and emails - checklistWriting to customers and prospects can be an effective way to promote your business. Email and mailshots each have their own advantages; the important thing is to get the right tone of voice and come up with a message that will boost sales.

  • Clarify the objective of the email or mailshot. Are you collecting leads, driving traffic to your website, making direct sales or providing information? Email is often a good way to link to useful online content; mailshots are more likely to be sales-driven.
  • Identify your target audience - what do they already know about your business and products, what are their needs, and what objections might they have?
  • If appropriate, identify different groups of readers and consider preparing different versions of the mailshot for each group. Segmentation and targeted messages will boost your results.
  • Use software to personalise each letter with the customer's name and add your signature as a scan; you can also use software to personalise emails. However, with any personalisation, the letter or email must have specific appeal for the recipient; if it is too generic or badly targeted, it could backfire.
  • Consider which method of communication is most likely to get noticed and be appreciated. Email works best with existing customers, not least because they have given you permission to contact them in this way. Mailshots are great for blanketing your local area to drum up new customers.
  • Use a friendly and direct tone of voice. Focus on "you" (the customer) rather than "we" (the business). Avoid unnecessary jargon.
  • Decide what the main message of the mailshot will be and focus on the single major benefit you offer.
  • Decide whether you can write the mailshot yourself, or whether you should invest a few hundred pounds in using a freelance copywriter.
  • Produce a headline and an opening sentence which will highlight the main benefit and encourage the reader to read on.
  • Make a credible offer: explain the reasons for buying your product or service, anticipate likely objections and provide facts to back up your claims.
  • Maintain the reader's interest throughout, for example, by linking your proposition to topical issues, offering solutions to common problems or including provocative questions.
  • Use short sentences and keep everything clear, simple and convincing.
  • Format the mailshot as a personal letter, but make key points stand out by using bold or italics sparingly. Keep the look clean and uncluttered. Simple emails often get more attention than highly designed versions because they look more personal.
  • End with a call to action, telling the reader what to do next; make it easy (eg by including an email or web address, freephone number or reply-paid card).
  • Add a PS which restates your main point in a different way.
  • If you are posting or delivering a mailshot, think about inserts that could support your message, such as a free sample, a brochure, press cuttings or an order form. With email, add links to useful pages on your website.
  • Proof read your letter and try it out on colleagues and customers. Use sample mailings to test how effective it is.