Write a letter

It’s easier to sell something specific than to sell the value of your business in general. Here’s a hack: write someone a letter about it

Friends, how are you…? Welcome back from Thanksgiving break and happy (ugh) Cyber Monday to you. 

My laptop died about a week before Black Friday / Cyber Monday and so it gave me the excuse to spend hours taking in digital, consumer direct marketing over the weekend.

Thus, I got a massive injection of FOMO (fear of missing out).

4 hours, 36 minutes, and 38 seconds left to claim this one-time offer and save $1,400

That kind of rankling thing.

Even if you understand how FOMO works (and employed it in your own marketing) it still agitates you. One of the many reasons people hate direct marketing in their gut.

So I want to talk about the other end of the spectrum, which you could call brand marketing. John Caples called it “corporate-image copy” and Ogilvy called it “image marketing”. Like direct marketing, brand marketing can take many formats:

  • slogan
  • tagline
  • article
  • LinkedIn profile
  • video
  • advertisement
  • case study

and more… it doesn’t have to be content.

The question becomes then, how to create brand marketing content? Brand marketing sells, in an abstract sense, the value of your business. Its allure. 

This is trickier than pure direct marketing, where your goal is just to sell; that’s a create constraint-framework for ideating marketing materials.

So what’s the ideation technique for creating “image marketing” content?

Write a letter (to one person)

And when I say a letter, I mean an email. Literally: open your email editor, put the name of a friend or acquaintance who understands your business in the To: line and tell them what’s on your mind.

This is how you write, for example, an opinion piece.

Well, not entirely. But it’s how you get ideas for one. Same for anything else.

It could be a very short letter too – emails don’t have to last more than one line. I’ve actually advocated “pitching” the length to match the email you are replying to – or if you’re not replying, the length of the last email you got from the person you are writing.

But whatever your length, here are the good things that happen when you write an email letter:

  • You address a very specific market  (By the way, have you ever noticed that the quality of an email quickly decreases in proportion to the number of recipients?)
  • You sound like your genuine self
  • You are not trying to sell anything (usually, at least, in personal emails)
  • You clarify your thinking [1]

And that is an excellent formula for “image” (brand) marketing. The other pieces still have to be integrated – namely, the focus on your recipient’s painful problem, and the solution you have for it.

But talking about that stuff in a natural way is essential.

I’ll circle back tomorrow – thanks for having me back in your inbox,


PS If you ever got a great idea for your business by writing about it in an email to a friend, let me know



[1] Sometimes at least. It takes practice for writing to be a more effective tool for clarity than speaking, and some combination of both is what works for most people. But here’s the thing: it’s almost impossible to describe your complex business in conversation if you have not previously described it in marketing-ready copy

Just as you cannot see if you do not draw, you cannot think if you do not write