When your business is the new kid on the block, you can't just leave it to chance or word-of-mouth publicity that customers, vendors and the press will start beating a path to your door. Whether your letter of introduction is delivered by the postman or via the Internet, its tone should be a balance of warm approachability and cool professionalism that will make your readers want to pursue a connection in person and learn more about what you do.
Research your target audience and the most cost-effective, expedient way of reaching them, says Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson, authors of "Writing That Works; How to Communicate Effectively In Business." The more you know about your core demographic's education, income, lifestyle and buying habits, the more accurately you can tailor text and graphics that will resonate. Keep in mind that the method and timing of your delivery are predicated on whether you're notifying them of a date-specific event such as a grand opening or advising them of exciting products and services they may need in the future. In the case of the latter, a hard-copy letter is likely to have a longer shelf-life than e-mail correspondence.
Embrace the art of "the elevator speech," suggest Lena Claxton and Alison Woo, authors of "How to Say It: Marketing with New Media: A Guide to Promoting Your Small Business Using Websites, E-zines, Blogs, and Podcasts." If you were meeting a new customer in person, this refers to the amount of time it takes you to persuade them in the course of one elevator ride. Consider that most people spend that same short duration reading a marketing letter and determining whether the content is relevant to their lives. Make a list of the three most important things you want your readers to come away with from your letter before you start composing it. According to Roman and Raphaelson, it's critical to keep a tight focus and avoid information overload. If you try to give your readers more than three elements to remember, they'll likely end up remembering none of them.
Start your letter with a strong hook to grab your readers' attention. Successful introduction letters often open with a question, a startling statistic, or a short anecdote that encourages the recipient to read more. Examples:
What if you could satisfy everyone on your holiday list at a total cost of less than £65?
Twenty-eight per cent of small business owners like yourself have had their identity stolen and don't even know it.
When I was 9, we lived above a cheese shop and I thought it would be the greatest job in the world to own one. Twenty years later, I can happily confirm that it really is. With just one visit to Cheese Please, I think you'll be smiling, too.
Project a tone in your correspondence that is appropriate and consistent with the nature of the business. What your customers read in print should be what they can also expect from you and your employees in person. Incorporate bullet points to draw attention to specific points of interest about you and your company. Highlight what differentiates your business from the competition in terms of unique products, lower costs, safety features, ease of use, guarantees and time-saving components. Project confidence and create a call to action such as attending an open house, setting up an appointment, redeeming a coupon, or filling out a short questionnaire.
Enlist someone who is unfamiliar with your business to review your letter for its readability, organisation and content interest. Proofread your material thoroughly to ensure that it is error-free and that your contact information is complete.
Jan Norman, author of "What No One Ever Tells You about Starting Your Own Business: Real-Life Start-Up Advice from 101 Successful Entrepreneurs," recommends using opt-in e-mails as an easy way to build a customer list. A letter introducing your business should not exceed one page although it is permissible to include a business card, response card or brochure in the same mailing.
Use humour sparingly and avoid the inclusion of industry jargon that may not be familiar to outsiders.