Written by Jeff Bush, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

Does this sound familiar? You’ve invested thousands of dollars in a direct mail campaign. You’ve waited weeks for the letters to be printed, mailed and reach the mailboxes of seniors with equity. You wait by the phone… and it doesn’t ring. What went wrong?

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about direct mail. I have been in the business for 20 years and have mailed millions of successful pieces, and I can tell you this: Direct mail works. It just has to be done correctly.

There are two crucial elements to a successful direct mail campaign: a strong offer and a strong data list. In other words, you need to send your mail to the right people and give them a good reason to call you. A successful direct mail campaign should generate a 0.5 to 1 percent response rate, and if you have done these two things, you have positioned your campaign to do just that.

That being said, you can achieve these two elements successfully and still have a major hurdle to leap: How do you get the seniors on your list to read your letter? The average person spends less than five seconds looking at a piece of mail in their mailbox. How do you capture their attention in mere seconds?

Sometimes, the simplest, most time-honored solutions are the best: Send them a handwritten letter.

Seniors with equity are a unique market segment. They come from an age before email and the Internet, a period when people took the time to sit down and write someone a letter by hand. There is a certain tradition to it, a certain respect for the process. The unconscious logic is if someone took the time to write a letter, the recipient will take the time to read it.

Now that your customer has opened your letter, you have earned another five or six seconds of their attention. Their eyes will be drawn to your opening paragraph, so it is important to deliver your strong offer within the first two sentences. They will typically scan down the body of the letter and focus at the end, so it is crucial to have a strong P.S. message. I prefer to reiterate my strong offer and place my phone number right next to it so they are side by side.

As effective as a handwritten letter is, there are some challenges from a production standpoint. Writing and addressing a letter by hand is a time-consuming and labor-intensive effort. There is only one way to do it, and that is the correct way. Beware of cutting corners: Trying to cheat the process could have a negative effect. For instance, writing a single form letter and inserting a typed variable name will diminish the credibility of your campaign.

Handwritten campaigns also require a larger initial investment due to the labor involved. However, direct mail campaigns are like most things in life: You get what you pay for. If your 5,000-piece campaign yields a 1 percent response

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rate due to the extra money you spent on handwriting your letters, that equals 50 inbound calls. These are not live-transfer telemarketing calls. These are seniors with equity who have made a conscious decision to call you. Leads do not get much warmer than that. If the initial investment allows you to fund five to 10 more loans a month, wouldn’t it be worth it?

If you are looking to fill your pipeline with warm leads, consider a handwritten campaign and ensure your customers read your letter and receive your offer!