The Pretty Ugly Principle - How to Get Your Marketing Materials Opened and Read - Lead Generators International
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The Pretty Ugly Principle – How to Get Your Marketing Materials Opened and Read

Industry Insights by LGI

Do you ever get that vague and uneasy feeling that the marketing and sales material you send to your prospects gets ignored or worse tossed into the trash can?

In today’s high-tech e-world, an old-fashioned approach to marketing- such as direct mail-  is not necessarily a bad strategy. Call it ‘retro-marketing.’ But if you use the same old techniques to direct mail there is a better than even chance that your efforts are being canned.  Know why? It’s blah. Your approach is ho-hum.  It’s like everyone else. It doesn’t stand out. It’s NOT memorable.

The trick is to put a little more sizzle in your prospecting letters and brochures. If you can grab your prospect by the collar by becoming more ‘noticeable’, chances are your follow-up call will be more successful. Prospects are more likely to take your call, listen to your message and respond more favorably.

The Tyranny of Conditioning

Somewhere in life, perhaps through our teachers or parents or bosses, we were taught that business documents should be like holy script: immaculate, clean and neat. For example, we have been conditioned that a business letter should have a certain look, appearance and uniformity. Translated our letters ‘should’ look deadly dull and boring. Just like our competitors.

And that’s precisely the problem.

Except for the letterhead or logo, all business letters more or less look the same. And even if you have a headline and an opener that is effective there is a darn good chance that your letter still looks like the other ten or twenty stacked on the prospects desk or in their wastebasket.

The Pretty Ugly Principle

The point is you cannot solely rely on well-written copy to give you that distinctive edge. You must leverage it further. To help you get through the clutter you have to make your envelopes, letters and brochures “pretty ugly.”

By that I mean you must “desecrate” your letters and accompanying material to give them some character and life. Pizzaz! Here are some ideas and tips for your letter.

Get The Letter OPENED: 4 Things to Do With The Outer Envelope

First things first: you need to get the envelope opened. You don’t even have to worry about fussing with the internal contents of your letter if your external envelope is dull and drab. A computer-generated label with machined postage stamp just doesn’t cut it.  It virtually screams “sales letter” and turns your prospect off.  Here’s what you do:

First, uses a plain envelope. Marketing departments will hate you for this. Big deal. Grab a plain envelope. It creates interest if only because there are no clues as to who sent it. If you really want to get zany use a larger or smaller sized envelope.

Handwrite the client’s name and address. Yes, it takes extra time and effort. Do it anyway. Use black or blue ink. Write neatly; print if you have to. No one sends handwritten envelopes anymore …which is precisely what makes it unique. Everyone wonders, ‘gee, who sent me this letter?” There’s another benefit: gatekeepers don’t usually open them up and screen them because they look personal.

Don’t put a return address on the letter. Or if you do, put your last name and then the address but skip your company name.

Finally, get some stamps. Real stamps. Remember what those are? Get the neat ones like featuring Elvis or Einstein or Marilyn. This creates further interest or intrigue; draws the eye; entices people to open it because it looks personal

Getting the Letter READ: 6 Things to Do

  1. Use a highlighter for key points. A nice splash of yellow, pink or green will make the word or sentence stand out and will immediately draw the prospect’s eye to the copy. But be judicious: too much is confusing. Be selective. Pick out the key important point and highlight those; no more than three.
  2. Attach a post-it note with a personal message. Use the prospect’s first name and jot down a thought or two. It’s kind of hard to miss and it is sure to be read. Stick it on the page at an angle. It pulls the eye like a magnet because it is not symmetrical.
  3. Attach your business card with a paper clip (in lieu of a Post-It Note). Reverse it and write your note on the back.  Prospects have the tendency to not only read the note but remove the card and flip it to the front. This creates yet another impression but more importantly, you are getting your prospect to interact with the letter.
  4. Draw arrows to key points. Use a Sharpie and point to a keyword or paragraph. Arrows set the direction for our eyes not unlike the highlighted parts of your letter.
  5. Make more marks. Circle an important word or put a double line beneath it…particularly with benefits. Us exclamation marks (!) in the column.
  6. Write a note in the margin. A small note such as “Julie this applies specifically to you” will invariably be read. The reader cannot help it.
  7. BONUS POINT – Handwrite a PS. Maybe you can say, “I will call you on Thursday morning at 9:45 to discuss.”  (And if a gatekeeper says, “Is Ms. Shannon expecting your call?” you can say YES!)

Please note: you don’t have to do ALL these things. Overdoing the “pretty ugly” principle can create too much clutter and chaos with the reader.  Do two or three of them and you’ll get your letter read.


There is something about “uglying up” a neat letter that really gets your prospects attention. (and it’s kind of fun and wicked in an odd sort of ‘anti-marketing establishment’ sort of way.)  The ideas provided here are simple but extremely effective.  They can turn a mediocre letter or brochure into a more powerful selling aid.

By: Jim Domanski, Consultant to Lead Generators International

Tyler Dawson

President, Lead Generators International Sales and Marketing Group Inc.

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