Yellow Letter Marketing Defined
Yellow letters are a widely proclaimed marketing technique that boasts a 10-15% response rate. The premise is to hand-write a letter in red ink on yellow paper offering to buy or sell a product or service. Since this technique uses invitation style envelopes and live stamps most recipients will open and read it vs identifying it as junk mail to be discarded. Additionally, since the letter is handwritten, and personalized to them it helps to build rapport.
Materials and Cost Savings
One time / fixed cost items include a printer and word processor such as Microsoft Office or openoffice.org (free download). So long as it supports mail merge any word processor will work. Additionally, we’ll use a digital scanner. Since we’ll only use it twice you might consider borrowing a neighbors or friends vs purchasing your own. You’ll also need your marketing list complete with first name, property address and mailing address. To create these lists you can use an online service such as listsource.com.
A do-it-yourself campaign can provide significant cost savings when compared to many online yellow letter services. To give you a sense for the savings a 1000 letter campaign online may cost $1.40 per letter totaling $1400. Doing it yourself may be as cheap as $650 for a savings of $750. Note that I didn’t price shop on the raw materials so you may be able to beat this by buying in bulk or finding a better deal. These items can be picked up for prices similar to below at any office supply store such as Walmart, Staples and Office Depot.
- Color ink at $25 / 250 letters is $0.10 per letter
- Invitation style envelopes (4 3/8 x 5 3/4) at $8.38 / 100 envelopes is $0.08 per letter
- Yellow writing pads (8 1/2 x 11) at $10.88 / 600 sheets is $0.02 per letter
- First class stamps (for return service) are $0.45 per letter
- Total per letter cost is $0.65 + tax
First, I should say this is a non-trivial amount of work. If I had to guess I would say that I’ve put in a solid 30 hours from start to finish to get my very first 700+ letter campaign out the door. Now that I have more experience with the process I could cut that in half for a similarly sized campaign. You should certainly consider the cost benefit before getting started. That said, this is great option if you’re focused on keeping your marketing costs low, just getting started, or are on a tighter budget. You can multi task while printing and stuff the envelopes while watching TV. Given the savings there is certainly room to outsource this work to someone looking to make some quick cash. Alternatively, you may just use this technique until you’ve closed on a few deals. After that, your time is at more of a premium and you might prefer to use an online service.
1. Creating a personalized font
If you haven’t heard of fiverr.com prepare to be shocked. The premise of the site is to purchase various services for $5. Go to the site and search for “font” then and choose from one of the service providers that has a good rating. Here is the workflow:
1) They will send you a template that you need to print.
2) The template has a number of boxes for you to provide samples of your handwriting including A-Z, a-z and special characters
3) Once complete, you’ll need to scan the page and provide them with the resulting image file.
4) They will create your font and return to you within a day or so.
5) When you receive the font you can install it to your machine using their instructions. Now you can author and print documents using your handwriting!
A few things to keep in mind:
1) Try and introduce some variability in your font by using less than perfect handwriting; things like left, right, top or bottom justifying some characters, and varied character sizes.
2) Be sure that your font has a consistent slant to it so any sentences you write will flow nicely.
3) Try a thinner pen such as ball point and keep that pen handy so you’re able to match it down the road.
4) This pen does not need to be red as we’ll introduce color later on.
Bottom line try not to make your font perfect or it will have obvious characteristics of a computer generated fonts such as comic sans (regular character spacing, all characters lined up perfectly, no mistakes).
2. Creating your Yellow Letter Template
Type, print and review some sample text using your new font. If your font is believable on its own you can skip step A and move on to step B. If it looks too synthetic, you can retry step 1 (for an additional $5) applying any observations you have. Otherwise, you’ll need to complete steps A and B to create your yellow letter template. In either event, your finished product will be something like the following where [XXX] and [YYY] are automatically populated using data from your marketing spreadsheet.
I am a real estate investor and am interested in your neighborhood. I see that you have a house at [YYYY].
If you’re interested in selling, please give me a call at 555.555.5555. We’ll pay closing costs and…
A) Creating the foundation for your template
The foundation for your template will be a scanned image of a handwritten Yellow Letter. To do this I suggest you first create a printed copy of your Yellow Letter using your custom font. For the printed letter, be sure to leave space for the salutation (i.e. Dear [XXX] from above) and a full line for the property address (i.e. [YYY] from above). You’ll also need one sheet of your yellow pad paper, and one sheet of blank printer paper. First place the yellow paper on the table. Next overlay the printed copy so that the text corresponds with the lines on the paper. Finally, place the blank sheet of paper on top so that you can copy the printed version using your handwriting. The purpose of this step is to match the font closely but introduce additional variability so the result is more readable. You may need to adjust the pages a few times so the resulting copy matches the line spacing on the yellow paper. You may have better results using a window so that the sunlight allows you to see the lines form the yellow paper and the letter that you’re hand copying.
The next step is to scan this document using your scanner and creating an image file that you can put in as the background on your word processor. The best setting for the scanner is text mode (this preserves the contrast eliminating dust and other impurities). Also, set the dimensions of the scan to 8.5″ x 11″ so that the resulting image will fill the space in your word processor and should line up perfectly with the lines on the yellow paper.
Open the image in your favorite graphics software and change the font areas from black to red. Finally, paste this image into your word processor and set it to sit behind the text.
B) Setting up mail merge
We have the foundation for your Yellow Letter. Next you will need to add the salutation and property address placeholders fields so that the mail merge can substitute unique values on each page. To do this you’ll reference your spreadsheet that contains the first name, property address and mailing addresses for your target campaign. For instance your salutation will say “Dear [XXX]” where [XXX] is the field referencing the specific column in your spreadsheet. Using red text and your font you can type this text and position it so that it is in the correct position relative to the background image or other text.
Mail merge is a large enough topic that I would suggest you do a quick search to find the many online resources (Google and YouTube) for setting up mail merge in Microsoft Word and Openoffice.org. Also, if you’re using Openoffice.org and notice strange print behavior you should take a look at the work around that is needed if you print an odd number of pages
Now you should try printing on your yellow paper. Most likely, you’ll have alignment issues; these can be addressed in a number of ways:
1) Try adjusting the font size of the blank lines above your text. For instance, you’ll have some blank lines before and after the salutation. Adjust the font size for these lines up or down to scoot the subsequent text.
2) A less exacting method would be to adjust the top margin so the text area moves up or down.
3) You may need to adjust the paragraph or character spacing to match your paper.
4) Remember that the image from step 2A can be adjusted up or down so that it aligns properly.
5) Lastly, try adjusting the view (or zoom level) to 100% and then hold your yellow page up to the screen to see how close you are.
Make the necessary adjustments and try again. A couple of gotchas if you have an inkjet printer:
1) Don’t fill the paper feed too full as the page alignment changes as the number of pages are reduced.
2) Raise the backstop on the paper feed to avoid shifting as the printer draws paper.