5 Reasons to Use Real Mail

Are you one of the many artists who has given up on real mail in favor of using email to stay in touch?

It’s time to rethink that strategy.

Jacquelyn Sparks
© Jacquelyn Sparks, Reconstructing Charles Proctor. Project for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's Momentum Spotlight.

5 Reasons to Keep Sending Real Mail

1. Real mail is tactile.
2. Real mail shows you went the extra mile.
3. Real mail sets you apart.
4. Real mail is delightful.
5. Real mail is lasting.
Are you using real mail for your art business or have you given up on it? We want to know how and why.

The above text is an abbreviated version of today's Art Marketing Action newsletter. You'll get the complete current edition when you subscribe by September 20, 2011. Subscribe now and don't miss another issue.

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42 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Use Real Mail”

  1. Hi Alyson,
    Visitors to your blog and readers of your newsletter may be interested in an article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Firms Hold Fast to Snail Mail Marketing” back in January 2010 on this very subject. A copy of the article can be seen at:
    As an retired journalist and editor, I work as a publicist for a few artists and businesses associated with the arts, mainly in New York City and in Westchester County New York; and a major part of the publicity I generate is the result of using snail mail. You’re absolutely right about your advice. All of the most successful artists and galleries in this area still rely upon regular postal mail in announcing their exhibitions and other events in this highly competitive area, and part of every publicity campaign I initiate for artists always includes direct postal mail — not only to individuals, but also to the media. It definitely sets an artist apart from the crowd.

    1. Hello Joe, thanks for sharing your experiences and the link to the article. I’ve used direct mail to individuals and businesses, but I have not included the media in the past. This is very helpful.

  2. Where have all the letters gone? What’s happening with our written language? Are spelling bees still being held?
    Email and texting are turning us into abbreviated, abysmal communicators.
    Every time I sell a piece of my work, I write up a personal sheet, with a thumbnail of the piece, the process and what inspired the subject matter. I send this to the buyer along with the artwork. A few days later, I send a handmade thank you card. The response I receive testifies to the impact and pleasure these tactile, personalize items bring.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree! I’m dismayed by the all electronic communication world that we all must adhere to. There is nothing like a wonderful hand written card or letter.

  3. Thank you Alyson! This is a timely reminder of how important the personal touch is when communicating with those who collect my art. The postcards are ordered and the stamps ready to go!
    One question. Should I use pre-printed labels on the postcards or do you suggest hand writing the addresses?

  4. What do people think about sending postcards? For my last mailing, it seemed many never arrived, or took so long to arrive that the opening was past.

    1. Linda,
      Use postcards for your three week or one month out reminders, which will allow plenty of time for receipt. Then use online methods for the week and day before reminders.
      I have found this process works well and many will bring the postcard with them to the event. Several have told me they keep the postcards on their fridge as a reminer for the event.

  5. Alyson, we totally agree with you. My wife and agent, Marie, always sends postcards to announce my events, thank-you notes to my collectors for purchasing my work or just to thank them for expressing an interest in my work. In addition, we prepare notecards to give to our collectors, which they can send out themselves. Marie uses the notecards to send to special collectors to stay in touch with them. Our collectors use their supply of notecards to send thank-you’s or as invitations for their own events. She is also concerned about how we will send our personal messages if the post office goes away.

  6. I went a step further for my last show, which featured embroidered works, and actually sewed the envelope around the postcard. Everyone remembered the invitation and the show. The hand sewn invitations only went out to friends and collectors but was well worth the extra effort.

  7. I love hand-written notes. I always try to send one to someone who has either purchased a painting or expressed interest in my work and I always hand write that address. I think a handwritten note or postcard expresses just how much their interest in my work means to me. My work is very personal and to have someone like it means a lot to me. When I’m doing a large mailing of postcards announcing a show or a new gallery location I’ll use a label.
    I recently pulled out of a local gallery when I asked for the address of a couple who had purchased a LARGE watercolor and no-one bothered to get their address, either for the gallery or for me. They paid quite a bit for the painting, it is a favorite of mine and to not send them a thank you note is not good for me or the gallery. I know they can find me, but I can’t find them.

  8. I had a postcard made of a painting I did of our dock at our mountain cabin. Whenever I needed to write a thank-you note, regret a party, etc. I used that card. I also have a more “formal” piece of stationery of some daffodils that I used at every opportunity.
    A young tech-saavy friend of mine started a gratitude letter writing campaign in our little burg called “Sincerely Spartanburg”. She just talked about it at TedX Spartanburg. I participated in the letter writing and enjoyed it so much.
    And because of the hand-written letters from every single person in my NYC office that I received in SC while home when my dad died meant so much to me, I try to send sympathy notes. Now, if I can just turn that letter0writing energy into marketing. One of my affirmations is one of the ones you suggested: “I love to share my art with new people”.

  9. Dear Alyson,
    Great timing!
    I have not given up on real mail. I use it in my business and I use it as an art medium.
    But I almost gave up trying to convince my students in a University Art Business class that I teach. We use your book as text for the class and have had an ongoing discussion about building our mailing lists…mainly because they are resisting! They think it is old fashioned and too expensive. Once again, I have validation from your wealth of experience!

  10. Alyson,
    I just completed a mailing yesterday, including one envelope addressed to you, because you responded positively to my request for permission to add you to my list. I hope that you are delighted when you recieve it!
    I use snail mail because I think that most people are like me: I love getting good suprises in my mailbox, especially lumpy, bumpy envelopes or packages.
    Nan in Texas

  11. We use oversized postcards to promote sculptor Kevin Caron’s shows and find that they really work, especially when there is a photo of Kevin on the card.
    We also use Facebook, public relations in print and online publications, posts on other social media and email “signature” messages at the bottom of emails as well as Kevin’s email newsletter, but the postcards draw the best.

    1. Love it. Curious about the photo thing. I don’t use photos of myself to promote my artwork and would love to hear your thoughts as to why the postcards with Kevin’s photo are working so well.

  12. I started out doing a handwritten note. Next came the postcards I printed/cut/addressed
    personally. As my ML became larger, I added labels. When the economy started to slide, my last two mailings didn’t make money for the amount of time I spent on them and the money spent. But the emails did. When I ask for addresses now, they tell me they prefer an email. On an email I can show several new pieces of art at a time, which they seem to like. My collectors let me know when their email address changes. Very few did when I was using snail mail. They also share my email with friends and people they work with. I’ve enjoyed that aspect. The emails have also allowed them to be one of the first to see a new art piece. Out of state collectors like that. I’ve sold a painting or sculpture within an hour of sending out the email. (that’s my record) They also save my emails on their computer. Several have told me they have a PJ file. LOL
    I have used postcards with my art as business cards. That works. But a lot would rather a business card that fits in their wallet.
    I love a handwritten note. It’s personal. But I’d rather be painting. We all have to do what works for us.

  13. While it is a commendable strategy to hold on to USPS as long as possible, it is virtually certain that the service will not continue. Mail volume went down 17% in 2010, There reaches a point where it just cannot be sustained. USPS managers were told by an independent review panel that they could give every household in the US a computer and printer for less than it was costing to run the USPS. Just as Western Union discontinued telegrams, we need to have contingency plans in place for what we will do when the inevitable happens.

    1. You may be right. However, the USPS may re-group with a different model.
      A friend of mine said, “we may be the only country without a postal service”. Just like people who would rather read real books made out of some kind of fiber/paper, instead of electronic devices; US citizens will still want some tactile physical presence when sending and receiving information.

  14. The introduction to my last catalog was written by an important scholar in my area of art, and, as much as I’d love to believe it’s because my work is just that good, I think it also has to do with the mail.
    Back story: A few years ago, I was trying to cultivate relationships with art historians in the hopes of one day asking one to write about my work. I sent out many letters, but only ever received one response. I struck up a snail mail conversation with that particular scholar, and when it came time to find a writer for my catalog he was the only one I could turn to. Instead of asking him to write the introduction, I asked him if he could recommend a good fit for my work. When he volunteered to do it himself, I was overjoyed. But during the course of our back-and-forth it came out that by being offline he is also a bit out of the conversation–he wasn’t receiving as many queries as he might be if he were online. In other words, my initial letter didn’t have much competition because most people aren’t communicating that way anymore.

  15. Hi Alyson – I couldn’t agree with you more. As a professional artist for over 15 years I send out postcards of new work quarterly. I also send out original hand-made cards to my collectors and VIP’s every New Year. I keep my list at 150 and poke away making them al year. These mailings have produced unbelievable results with client loyalty, sales, exhibitions and referrals. It’s lots of work, but 100% worth the effort.

  16. Eaton stationery ran a print ad (sorry, can’t remember when or where) that simply read “No one has ever cherished an email”.
    Great post, Alyson, and all the comments confirm it.

  17. I can testify that sending postcard announcements are worth the effort. I had not seen nor heard from a married couple that had purchase my art at a festival 6 years ago, but I kept mailing them postcard invitations to my events with my website links. They just showed up at my most recent event and purchased a substantial painting for her birthday. She’s been following me at my website and putting the postcards on her refrigerator. I’d been including a notation to please stop by my booth to re-introduce themselves and the most recent postcard coinciding with her birth date must have done the trick.

  18. Hey Alyson,
    Hi Alyson,
    Thanks for the post. I am a huge believer in direct marketing and especially direct mail. I do use online marketing also, but direct mail is still one of the most reliable and consistent forms of advertising and promotion. Not much changes with direct mail except the price of postage. Whereas other forms of marketing, especially online are constantly changing and it is almost a full time job just keeping up with the speed in which things change online. Here is an article I wrote about direct mail http://www.artmarketinginstitute.com/why-direct-mail-is-still-viable-marketing-medium

  19. A real card with a stamp and hand-written message thrills me. I still go the extra mile to send them out myself. I think it is especially good nowadays when it is the exception rather than the norm to send a colorful card.

    1. Agreed! It’s such a treat because it rarely happens anymore. I know that my own postcards find a home on refrigerators and bulletin boards because I’ve gone to friends’ and clients’ homes–even three years later–and seen my postcards still posted up. I don’t know who could say that about an email.

  20. My husband has been in this busness for 40 years – I had a gallery for 20 before cancer got to me. I have always used Direct Mail – never once paid for an advertisement in an Art magazine who’s readership was 90% artists! We always get a return on the mailings. I started out in the beginning drawing road maps to our place in Stevens Pass, Washington State and telling folks about what Bob was doing, included his upcoming shows and told them about my Grandkids, etc. Very personalized. People have read them for years now – know who our Grandkids are, know that they are mostly in college now persuing being doctors, astro-physists, a lawyer in one case – the customers write back – they show up at the shows – they buy online from our web site. We have an incredible record of online sales!!! And all because of Direct Mail. I’m hoping that the U. S. Mash and Stomp will make it because if they don’t – I’m out of business!!!! Oh – my husband is a Leanin’ Tree artist and that gives me wonderful material to include our news letters in these last 18 years!
    Robin Walton for Aritst Robert Walton

  21. A business card does not equal a vCard, just as a postcard or brochure doesn’t equal a note sent from Mailchimp. My art is now in book covers, not as my primary business. When I can create a direct storefront, I’ll be sending my customers PAPER based gifts, not email. The hard part is getting the address; retail channels don’t share.

  22. This is a really helpful post and one I have quite a bit of experience with.
    For years I sent out brochures, postcards etc and they worked well, the only problem was I was always left with boxes of printed cards and flyers that were out of date. We had to print a lot of sticky labels and stamps. We even invested in a machine to do the stamping for us.
    It was expensive up front, time consuming, wasteful and inefficient.
    Then one day I received a card in the mail from one of my galleries. The card had a work by one of the galleries artist’s on the cover and a picture of the gallery owner and his family on the inside, It came with a personal message printed inside in the owner’s own handwriting and it was in a regular envelope with a stamp.
    I called him immediately (his contact info was printed on the back) and he told me that he had made the card himself on line using a program called SendOutCards. Since then I have been using SendOutCards and I can honestly say it is fantastic for artists as you can create one card or thousands at a touch of a button, you can create postcards, regular cards, tri-folds or jumbo cards and they are all printed, put into envelopes and sent through the mail for you and you can even upload your own handwriting fonts.
    I could go on but I would recommend checking it out on this link:
    I have to warn you that this is a multi-level marketing company, so if you are not interested in earning some extra income then it may not be for you, however, that said it is a great way to send personalized cards and I certainly appreciate the income that more than pays mailing costs.

  23. Hi Alyson:
    Thanks for the post. It’s a timely reminder that I need to add snail mail into my marketing mix. I’m fairly new to the art business and have been diligently collecting contact information every time I show my work. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that almost everyone I ask is willing to give me their information. While more of them say they prefer email, and also give me their mailing address, there have been quite a few who say they do not like email.
    I’m concerned that several times recently I have not received a response from someone I’ve sent an emal to, and found out later that they never received it – probably due to spam filters. And although I’m getting about a 34% open rate on my email newsletters, which I understand according to the “experts” is considered an okay response, it really bothers me that so many who have opted in are not opening it for whatever reason.
    Therefore, even though it’s more expensive, snail mail has many advantages including all the ones you have so well pointed out. And I too love getting cards and letters in the mail.

  24. Hello Alyson,
    This is a great reminder. I am always happy to receive snail mail especially if the address is hand written. As your contact list grows it is difficult to continue hand addressing especially for event invitations. For personal letters, thank you notes, or any contact with existing collectors of Valerie’s work it is still hand addressed. I like Joe Dolice’s point about including the media in your mailing campaigns.
    Thanks for the post!

  25. I completely agree Alyson, I think that in general we are getting too comfortable using online means for marketing and it’s just not as effective anymore. Traditional marketing — like snail mail post cards — are now the way to get noticed and stand out. Sure, it costs more than an email card, but if your objective is to acquire or maintain buyers, it’s money well spent.
    Coincidentally I wrote a blog article yesterday on Traditional Marketing and I’m hosting a webinar on Marketing for Sales today at 3pmEST, which includes a lot of these strategies: http://alexfigueredo.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-traditional-marketing-may-be-push.html
    Cheers to you!

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  27. Hi Alyson,
    In my last show I sent hand written card with the picture of one of my jewelry. I made this card through Walgreens. There was 100% attendance. All the people who received this card came, brought their friend and bought some thing from my shop. I do not know if they will continue to do that to all of my shows, but the point is it worked. I am very new to all these. This time I sent some post cards created and mailed by Vista Prints. I don’t know the results yet. The show is on Oct 1 and 2. And it is not hand addressed by me!

  28. I’m very curious for those that still send a handwritten note or post card for a show… How many do you send out? For those that handwrite the addresses, how many do you do? I use to work with a gallery that only sent hand addressed invitations. She had at least 4 or more people doing that for a few days. It looked really nice. thanks

    1. PJ: I can’t speak for others, but a storyteller on my list just sent me a postcard after reading this post.
      As a result of her postcard, I’m going to purchase a couple of her CDs for Christmas gifts.
      it worked!
      When I send out postcards, I target them. I get out the map and look at a radius.
      But other people send blanket postcards that aren’t for time/place specific events. Those would go out to most of your list.

    2. Great information, Alyson. As my ML grew, it was no longer cost effective for me. On emails I’m getting 60 to 75% click rate. I’m happy with that. They can print it if they want it on the fridge. lol If I were hand addressing 200 postcards, it would be a Carpel tunnel nightmare. Sending to a target area has gotten me in trouble with clients in the past. Even if they can’t come, they want to be invited and know what I’m doing where. lol
      Please don’t misunderstand me. I learn something from every discussion about art. It’s important to know and learn what will work for you or what won’t. thanks!

  29. Pingback: Just Because . . . — Art Biz Blog

  30. Hi Everyone,
    In the interest of being transparent, I’d like to say that I work for RealMail (http://realmail.virtualthinking.net/), a service that allows you to use email to send real, paper letters.
    That being said, I whole-heartedly agree that there is something special about sending and receiving real letters — especially from people you care about. In business real letters have a kind of gravity that email can’t compete with.
    People also forget that writing to Congress and other groups are often a way to fix real problems in the real world.
    There’s a time and place for letters, just as there’s a time and place for email, or phone calls, or meeting face to face. Our idea isn’t to say one is better than the other, but rather to make letters as easy as possible.

  31. People, now-a-days, are so focused on convenience they look past more meaningful deliveries. This definitely puts mild conveniences vs. going the extra mile into perspective.

  32. Pingback: Peek Inside a Catalog of Your Art — Art Biz Blog

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