They could also be response letters to respond to clients' queries or inform letters to notify the clients of important matters like discounts on products and services.
A memo (or memorandum, meaning “reminder”) is normally used for communicating policies, procedures, or related official business within an organization. It is often written from a one-to-all perspective (like mass communication), broadcasting a message to an audience, rather than a one-on-one, interpersonal communication. It may also be used to update a team on activities for a given project, or to inform a specific group within a company of an event, action, or observance.
A memo’s purpose is often to inform, but it occasionally includes an element of persuasion or a call to action. All organizations have informal and formal communication networks. The unofficial, informal communication network within an organization is often called the grapevine, and it is often characterized by rumor, gossip, and innuendo. On the grapevine, one person may hear that someone else is going to be laid off and start passing the news around. Rumors change and transform as they are passed from person to person, and before you know it, the word is that they are shutting down your entire department.
One effective way to address informal, unofficial speculation is to spell out clearly for all employees what is going on with a particular issue. If budget cuts are a concern, then it may be wise to send a memo explaining the changes that are imminent. If a company wants employees to take action, they may also issue a memorandum. For example, on February 13, 2009, upper management at the Panasonic Corporation issued a declaration that all employees should buy at least $1,600 worth of Panasonic products. The company president noted that if everyone supported the company with purchases, it would benefit all.
While memos do not normally include a call to action that requires personal spending, they often represent the business or organization’s interests. They may also include statements that align business and employee interest, and underscore common ground and benefit.
A memo has a header that clearly indicates who sent it and who the intended recipients are. Pay particular attention to the title of the individual(s) in this section. Date and subject lines are also present, followed by a message that contains a declaration, a discussion, and a summary.
In a standard writing format, we might expect to see an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. All these are present in a memo, and each part has a clear purpose. The declaration in the opening uses a declarative sentence to announce the main topic. The discussion elaborates or lists major points associated with the topic, and the conclusion serves as a summary.
Let’s examine a sample memo.
Always consider the audience and their needs when preparing a memo. An acronym or abbreviation that is known to management may not be known by all the employees of the organization, and if the memo is to be posted and distributed within the organization, the goal is clear and concise communication at all levels with no ambiguity.
Memos are often announcements, and the person sending the memo speaks for a part or all of the organization. While it may contain a request for feedback, the announcement itself is linear, from the organization to the employees. The memo may have legal standing as it often reflects policies or procedures, and may reference an existing or new policy in the employee manual, for example.
The subject is normally declared in the subject line and should be clear and concise. If the memo is announcing the observance of a holiday, for example, the specific holiday should be named in the subject line—for example, use “Thanksgiving weekend schedule” rather than “holiday observance.”
Some written business communication allows for a choice between direct and indirect formats, but memorandums are always direct. The purpose is clearly announced.
Letters are brief messages sent to recipients that are often outside the organization. They are often printed on letterhead paper, and represent the business or organization in one or two pages. Shorter messages may include e-mails or memos, either hard copy or electronic, while reports tend to be three or more pages in length.
While e-mail and text messages may be used more frequently today, the effective business letter remains a common form of written communication. It can serve to introduce you to a potential employer, announce a product or service, or even serve to communicate feelings and emotions. We’ll examine the basic outline of a letter and then focus on specific products or writing assignments.
All writing assignments have expectations in terms of language and format. The audience or reader may have their own idea of what constitutes a specific type of letter, and your organization may have its own format and requirements. This chapter outlines common elements across letters, and attention should be directed to the expectations associated with your particular writing assignment. There are many types of letters, and many adaptations in terms of form and content, but in this chapter, we discuss the fifteen elements of a traditional block-style letter.
Letters may serve to introduce your skills and qualifications to prospective employers, deliver important or specific information, or serve as documentation of an event or decision. Regardless of the type of letter you need to write, it can contain up to fifteen elements in five areas. While you may not use all the elements in every case or context, they are listed in Table 9.1 “Elements of a Business Letter”.
Table 9.1 Elements of a Business Letter
|1. Return Address||This is your address where someone could send a reply. If your letter includes a letterhead with this information, either in the header (across the top of the page) or the footer (along the bottom of the page), you do not need to include it before the date.|
|2. Date||The date should be placed at the top, right or left justified, five lines from the top of the page or letterhead logo.|
|3. Reference (Re:)||Like a subject line in an e-mail, this is where you indicate what the letter is in reference to, the subject or purpose of the document.|
|4. Delivery (Optional)||Sometimes you want to indicate on the letter itself how it was delivered. This can make it clear to a third party that the letter was delivered via a specific method, such as certified mail (a legal requirement for some types of documents).|
|5. Recipient Note (Optional)||This is where you can indicate if the letter is personal or confidential.|
|6. Salutation||A common salutation may be “Dear Mr. (full name).” But if you are unsure about titles (i.e., Mrs., Ms., Dr.), you may simply write the recipient’s name (e.g., “Dear Cameron Rai”) followed by a colon. A comma after the salutation is correct for personal letters, but a colon should be used in business. The salutation “To whom it may concern” is appropriate for letters of recommendation or other letters that are intended to be read by any and all individuals. If this is not the case with your letter, but you are unsure of how to address your recipient, make every effort to find out to whom the letter should be specifically addressed. For many, there is no sweeter sound than that of their name, and to spell it incorrectly runs the risk of alienating the reader before your letter has even been read. Avoid the use of impersonal salutations like “Dear Prospective Customer,” as the lack of personalization can alienate a future client.|
|7. Introduction||This is your opening paragraph, and may include an attention statement, a reference to the purpose of the document, or an introduction of the person or topic depending on the type of letter. An emphatic opening involves using the most significant or important element of the letter in the introduction. Readers tend to pay attention to openings, and it makes sense to outline the expectations for the reader up front. Just as you would preview your topic in a speech, the clear opening in your introductions establishes context and facilitates comprehension.|
|8. Body||If you have a list of points, a series of facts, or a number of questions, they belong in the body of your letter. You may choose organizational devices to draw attention, such as a bullet list, or simply number them. Readers may skip over information in the body of your letter, so make sure you emphasize the key points clearly. This is your core content, where you can outline and support several key points. Brevity is important, but so is clear support for main point(s). Specific, meaningful information needs to be clear, concise, and accurate.|
|9. Conclusion||An emphatic closing mirrors your introduction with the added element of tying the main points together, clearly demonstrating their relationship. The conclusion can serve to remind the reader, but should not introduce new information. A clear summary sentence will strengthen your writing and enhance your effectiveness. If your letter requests or implies action, the conclusion needs to make clear what you expect to happen. It is usually courteous to conclude by thanking the recipient for his or her attention, and to invite them to contact you if you can be of help or if they have questions. This paragraph reiterates the main points and their relationship to each other, reinforcing the main point or purpose.|
|10. Close||“Sincerely” or “Cordially” are standard business closing statements. (“Love,” “Yours Truly,” and “BFF” are closing statements suitable for personal correspondence, but not for business.) Closing statements are normally placed one or two lines under the conclusion and include a hanging comma, as in Sincerely,|
|11. Signature||Five lines after the close, you should type your name (required) and, on the line below it, your title (optional).|
|12. Preparation Line||If the letter was prepared, or word-processed, by someone other than the signatory (you), then inclusion of initials is common, as in MJD or abc.|
|13. Enclosures/Attachments||Just like an e-mail with an attachment, the letter sometimes has additional documents that are delivered with it. This line indicates what the reader can look for in terms of documents included with the letter, such as brochures, reports, or related business documents.|
|14. Courtesy Copies or “CC”||The abbreviation “CC” once stood for carbon copies but now refers to courtesy copies. Just like a “CC” option in an e-mail, it indicates the relevant parties that will also receive a copy of the document.|
|15. Logo/Contact Information||A formal business letter normally includes a logo or contact information for the organization in the header (top of page) or footer (bottom of page).|
Remember that a letter has five main areas:
A sample letter is shown in Figure 9.5 “Sample Business Letter”.
Figure 9.5 Sample Business Letter
Always remember that letters represent you and your company in your absence. In order to communicate effectively and project a positive image,
 Lewis, L. (2009, February 13). Panasonic orders staff to buy £1,000 in products. Retrieved fromhttp://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/markets/japan/article5723942.ece
 Bovee, C., & Thill, J. (2010). Business communication essentials: a skills-based approach to vital business English (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
If you need to inform your employees of official internal business, here's an easy- to-follow business memo template, as well as examples for.
"We regret to inform you ..." are five words you never want to see in an email. But over the weekend thousands of people did as Epsilon began warning its customers that it had suffered a break-in and email addresses were stolen. Epsilon now says that about 50 of its client businesses were hit -- no small number as Epsilon blasts some 40 billion messages in their names each year.
The problem is that now security experts warn that a ton of spear-phishing attacks will be forthcoming. And then there might be more letters of regret.
RATING APOLOGIES:Deep regrets, from TJX to ChoicePoint, about data leaks
So in case you didn't see one of these flaccid attempts to assuage customer nervousness, here are a few:
Target's email service provider, Epsilon, recently informed us that their data system was exposed to unauthorized entry. As a result, your email address may have been accessed by an unauthorized party. Epsilon took immediate action to close the vulnerability and notified law enforcement.
While no personally identifiable information, such as names and credit card information, was involved, we felt it was important to let you know that your email may have been compromised. Target would never ask for personal or financial information through email.
Consider these tips to help protect your personal information online:
• Don't provide sensitive information through email. Regular email is not a secure method to transmit personal information.
• Don't provide sensitive information outside of a secure website. Legitimate companies will not attempt to collect personal information outside a secure website. If you are concerned, contact the organization represented in the email.
• Don't open emails from senders you don't know.
We sincerely regret that this incident occurred. Target takes information protection very seriously and will continue to work to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to protect personal information. Please contact [email protected] should you have any additional questions.
Vice President, Marketing and Guest Engagement
We have been informed by one of our email service providers, Epsilon, that your email address was exposed by an unauthorized entry into that provider's computer system. We use our email service providers to help us manage the large number of email communications with our guests. Our email service providers send emails on our behalf to guests who have chosen to receive email communications from us.
How will this affect you? First, we want to assure you that your name and email address were the only information that was compromised. As a result of this incident, it is possible that you may receive spam email messages, emails that contain links containing computer viruses or other types of computer malware, or emails that seek to deceive you into providing personal or credit card information. As a result, you should be extremely cautious before opening links or attachments from unknown third parties or providing a credit card number or other sensitive information in response to any email. Also know that Red Roof will not send you e-mails asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. So if you are ever asked for this information, you can be confident it is not from Red Roof.
We appreciate your business and loyalty to Red Roof and take your privacy very seriously. We will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.
If you have any questions regarding this incident, please contact us at 877.733.7663 between the hours of 9am and 5pm Eastern.
Brenda Eddy Manager, Loyalty Marketing
Red Roof Inns, Inc.
Re: Important information regarding a breach to the privacy of your email address.
Barclays Bank of Delaware is the bank behind your credit card referenced above. We have been informed by Epsilon, a marketing vendor we use to send emails to customers, that someone outside their company gained unauthorized access to files in their systems that included your email address. This has affected many of our credit cards under our various co-brands, including the brand on your card.
Epsilon has assured us that the only information that was obtained was your name and email address. Please be assured your account and any other confidential or personally identifiable information were not at risk.
It is possible you may receive spam email messages as a result which could potentially ask you for additional information about your account. Please note, Barclays will never ask you in an email to verify sensitive information such as your full account number, Username, Password or Social Security Number. Therefore, any email which does so should be treated suspiciously, even if it looks like it comes from Barclays. As a reminder, we urge you to be cautious when opening links or attachments from unknown third parties.
Barclays is one of many companies affected and so you may receive similar notifications from other companies.
Please visit the "Privacy and Security" section at our website www.BarclaycardUS.com for more information on protecting your personal information.
We sincerely regret this has taken place and for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Barclays is committed to protecting customers against the misuse of their personal information and we take security issues very seriously. We vigorously monitor the security of our systems and require all third party vendors to adhere to strict security and privacy policies and procedures.
Please know that a full investigation of this matter is under way by Epsilon and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.
If you have any questions or need further assistance, please call our customer care center at the phone number on the back of your credit card.
Chief Privacy Officer
Barclays Bank of Delaware
Information Security Officer
Barclays Bank of Delaware
Kroger wants you to know that the data base with our customers' names and email addresses has been breached by someone outside of the company. This data base contains the names and email addresses of customers who voluntarily provided their names and email addresses to Kroger. We want to assure you that the only information that was obtained was your name and email address. As a result, it is possible you may receive some spam email messages. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Kroger wants to remind you not to open emails from senders you do not know. Also, Kroger would never ask you to email personal information such as credit card numbers or social security numbers. If you receive such a request, it did not come from Kroger and should be deleted.
If you have concerns, you are welcome to call Krogers customer service center at 1-800-Krogers (1-800-576-4377).
The Kroger Family of Stores
The Kroger Co.
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
April 4, 2011
Dear Marriott Customer,
We were recently notified by Epsilon, a marketing vendor used by Marriott International, Inc. to manage customer emails, that an unauthorized third party gained access to a number of Epsilon's accounts including Marriott's email list.
In all likelihood, this will not impact you. However, we recommend that you continue to be on the alert for spam emails requesting personal or sensitive information. Please understand and be assured that Marriott does not send emails requesting customers to verify personal information.
We take your privacy very seriously. Marriott has a long-standing commitment to protecting the privacy of the personal information that our guests entrust to us. We regret this has taken place and apologize for any inconvenience.
Please visit our FAQ to learn more.
Marriott International, Inc.
Dear Valued Best Buy Customer,
On March 31, we were informed by Epsilon, a company we use to send emails to our customers, that files containing the email addresses of some Best Buy customers were accessed without authorization.
We have been assured by Epsilon that the only information that may have been obtained was your email address and that the accessed files did not include any other information. A rigorous assessment by Epsilon determined that no other information is at risk. We are actively investigating to confirm this.
For your security, however, we wanted to call this matter to your attention. We ask that you remain alert to any unusual or suspicious emails. As our experts at Geek Squad would tell you, be very cautious when opening links or attachments from unknown senders.
In keeping with best industry security practices, Best Buy will never ask you to provide or confirm any information, including credit card numbers, unless you are on our secure e-commerce site, www.bestbuy.com. If you receive an email asking for personal information, delete it. It did not come from Best Buy.
Our service provider has reported this incident to the appropriate authorities.
We regret this has taken place and for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We take your privacy very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information. For more information on keeping your data safe, please visit: http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/six-steps-to-keeping-your-data-safe.aspx.
Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer
Chase is letting our customers know that we have been informed by Epsilon, a vendor we use to send e-mails, that an unauthorized person outside Epsilon accessed files that included e-mail addresses of some Chase customers. We have a team at Epsilon investigating and we are confident that the information that was retrieved included some Chase customer e-mail addresses, but did not include any customer account or financial information. Based on everything we know, your accounts and confidential information remain secure. As always, we are advising our customers of everything we know as we know it, and will keep you informed on what impact, if any, this will have on you.
We apologize if this causes you any inconvenience. We want to remind you that Chase will never ask for your personal information or login credentials in an e-mail. As always, be cautious if you receive e-mails asking for your personal information and be on the lookout for unwanted spam. It is not Chase's practice to request personal information by e-mail.
As a reminder, we recommend that you:
• Don't give your Chase OnlineSM User ID or password in e-mail.
• Don't respond to e-mails that require you to enter personal information directly into the e-mail.
• Don't respond to e-mails threatening to close your account if you do not take the immediate action of providing personal information.
• Don't reply to e-mails asking you to send personal information.
• Don't use your e-mail address as a login ID or password.
The security of your information is a critical priority to us and we strive to handle it carefully at all times. Please visit our Security Center at chase.com and click on "Fraud Information" under the "How to Report Fraud." It provides additional information on exercising caution when reading e-mails that appear to be sent by us.
Patricia O. Baker
Senior Vice President
Chase Executive Office
We have been informed by our e-mail service provider, Epsilon, that your e-mail address was exposed by unauthorized entry into their system. Epsilon sends e-mails on our behalf to McKinsey Quarterly users who have opted to receive e-mail communications from us.
We have been assured by Epsilon that the only information that was obtained was your first name, last name and e-mail address and that the files that were accessed did not include any other information. We are actively working to confirm this. We do not store any credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other personally identifiable information of our users, so we can assure you that no such information was accessed.
Please note, it is possible you may receive spam e-mail messages as a result. We want to urge you to be cautious when opening links or attachments from unknown third parties. Also know that McKinsey Quarterly will not send you e-mails asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. So if you are ever asked for this information, you can be confident it is not from McKinsey.
We regret this has taken place and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We take your privacy very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact McKinsey Quarterly at [email protected] For any media inquiries, please contact Humphrey Rolleston at +1-212-415-5321.
Senior Managing Editor
McKinsey & Company
Dear Valued Brookstone Customer,
On March 31, we were informed by our e-mail service provider that your e-mail address may have been exposed by unauthorized entry into their system. Our e-mail service provider deploys e-mails on our behalf to customers in our e-mail database.
Now read: Getting grounded in IoT
Each business closure situation has different details. The type of business will dictate what actions you, your customers or suppliers will have to take before the business closes for good. To develop a customized letter meeting your needs, start with a sample letter and adapt the wording to reflect the details of your particular situation.
If you are managing the process of closing a business, it may be appropriate for you to send letters to your customers and suppliers. Sample letters for these audiences are provided here. You can access each template by clicking on the corresponding image. Each template is a customizable PDF document that can be saved and printed as needed. See this guide to printables for assistance working with the documents.Related Articles
This template is designed to be sent to customers to let them know that a company is closing. It is particularly important to send this type of letter if customers need to pick up items from your location or take some other kind of action before the business ceases operation.
Use this letter to notify suppliers that your organization will be ceasing operations, being sure to provide sufficient notice to allow for final account invoicing, payment and resolution of any outstanding matters.
Once you make the decision to close your business, it's not advisable to just hang a 'closed' sign on your door. It's best to to announce the closing to your customers and suppliers with a formal letter. They have been key players in your business activities by purchasing your products and services and, in the case of suppliers, by providing you with products and services which were instrumental in your business. As one of your final acts of customer service, you will need to give them advance warning that your business will no longer be available.
The business closure letter is an excellent way to create a professional end to your current business relationship and explain any actions which need to be taken by your customers and suppliers. Sending this kind of letter shows a good faith effort to communicate with and accommodate those with whom your organization has conducted business. It can also help ensure that all matters are handled prior to closing, which can help prevent potential legal issues from arising down the road.
There is no hard and fast rule about when you need to mail a business closure letter. The actual mail date will depend upon several factors.
You want your special customers to hear about your business closure from you, not through rumors or discovering a shuttered door with no advance notice. Having notice reinforces to your customers that you think they are special and gives them an opportunity to conduct any necessary final business transactions with you.
In general, consider mailing a closing notification letter or including a copy of the letter in their monthly bill at least 30 days before the closure date. A service business such as a dry cleaner or repair shop will need to give customers enough time to come in and pick up their belongings. A retail business will probably want to leave lots of time for a sale to reduce their inventory, with the business closure letter being released before the sale begins.
It is generally best to inform suppliers of your intent to close at least 60 days before your final date of operation. This will allow enough time for accounts to be settled and closed.
If you are selling a business and plan to open a related new business immediately thereafter, you may want to minimize the amount of time between the two. For example, you may decide to hold off sending the business closure letter until right before the closure date if you are selling your housekeeping franchise and opening your own housekeeping service.
The key goals of a business closure letter are to clearly express the details of the business closure and to sincerely thank the reader for their business or service. These letters don't need to be long to be effective. The letter should:
The letter does not have to give a reason why the business is being closed. If the reason is good news, such as the retirement of the owner, you may decide to include the reason in the letter. Otherwise, it is usually best to concentrate the letter on subjects that are important to the reader, like what they need to do and by when.
It is always preferred to leave a business relationship on a positive note. Even if you never plan to see or work with an individual again, it is best to be helpful, positive and sincere in business closure letters. Your professionalism will make it easier to close the business and it may give you a head-start if your future business plans lead you to work with these same individuals in the future.
Free samples of cover letters, sales introduction letters for enquiry Submitting inventions, patents and new product or service ideas, or new business.
How to write introductory sales letters for sales enquiries, appointments, and submissions of inventions, patents and ideas
Here are samples and templates of sales introduction letters. These examples of sales letters help make a professional impression, and begin the sales cycle. Introductory letters certainly help to make appointments and the cold calling process. In many cases they are essential prior to attempting telephone contact with senior people. Introductory letters are particularly helpful for starting the sales cycle with large organisations.
Please note that the spellings used in this guide and the letters samples are based on UK English common form, for example, 'recognise', 'organise', 'specialise', whereas US English favours the 'ize' spelling. For these and any other spellings subject to regional variation, change the spelling to suit your situation. Address 'postcode', where referred to here is the UK term; it best equates to the US zipcode, or respective 'zip'-type postal codes used in other countries.
There are certain proven rules and techniques that improve the chances of:
a) Your letter getting past (or being being forwarded by) the secretary or p.a. to your intended contact, and
b) Your intended contact being interested in seeing you.
Think how you treat unsolicited letters that you receive. Most of these letters go in the bin, and many letters won't even be opened. A few seconds is all anyone takes to decide whether to read a letter or discard it. A secretary or p.a. will open your letter, and they too will decide in just a few seconds whether to read on, then whether to pass it to your intended contact, another person, or to file it or bin it.
Increasingly these days it's good to aim first for a telephone appointment - a qualifying discussion when you can ask helpful questions and seek to understand the client's situation - before expecting to agree a face-to-face meeting. You can do a lot on the phone. Having a telephone appointment in your mind as an initial aim often makes it easier to get the ball rolling. It also shows that you have a professional appreciation of the value of people's time.
Remember that your letter will be competing with perhaps ten, twenty, or even fifty sales letters received every day, sent by sales-people people hoping to gain your target's attention. To get through, your sales letter needs to be good, different, professional and relevant.
Use the five-second rule when designing direct sales letters opening statements and headlines. You must grab attention in five seconds; that's about ten words comfortably; fifteen to twenty words at most. This implies a headline, which is why headlines are often used. If you prefer not to use a headline, fine, but still you need to grab attention in your opening paragraph in five seconds.
The time available for grabbing attention and conveying meaning is shrinking all the time. People used to talk in terms of 4-8 seconds to grab attention. Now it's best to work on less than five seconds. This is because progressively we can all absorb information and ideas far more quickly than we used to. Our environments condition and 'train' our brains to do this. Think about TV adverts, video games, chatrooms, email and text messages, fast-moving media and entertainment generally - it's all getting quicker - we get bored sooner, and we need data quicker. Your contacts are just the same. Quick-thinking senior decision-makers especially: they need your letters to help them absorb and understand data as quickly as possible. If it takes too long they won't bother. Efficient and effective letters not only get read and get your points across, they also say something about you - that you are efficient and effective too.
So you need to be very efficient and thoughtful in your use of language and words. Every word must be working for you; if it's not, remove it or find another.
Think about the language that your intended contact uses - for example, what newspaper are they are likely to read - this is your vocabulary guide.
Think about the business vocabulary too; senior decision-makers and company directors are concerned mainly with making money and saving money. Read the financial pages of the broadsheets - look at the words that people use - and start using these words too.
A significant stage in succeeding with introductory sales letters is the one that is protected by the decision-maker's secretary or p.a. The secretary or p.a.'s responsibility is to protect the boss's time. For a letter to stand a chance of being passed on to your target by the secretary it needs to be:
The letter structure should also follow the AIDA format (it's as old as the hills but it's still crucial):
Obviously make sure you use the person's correct title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc) and properly spelled surname in the address (initials are considered by some to be more professional and polite than using first names). Include letters after their name if known, eg., OBE, or professional qualifications abbreviations; also ensure correct job title, company name, address, postcode and date. If you are laying out a letter or a mail-merge for window envelope remember that this requires precise address positioning.
Keep the sentences short.
Introductory letters must be able to be read and understood in under 30 seconds - less than 20 seconds even better - so your letter will never require more than one side of paper. The less words the better. Generally three short paragraphs of 'body-copy' suffice. It's doubtful you'd achieve what you need to in just two; four or five are okay if they're very brief; any more is much too much. Use bullet points if you have a number of short points to make.
Whilst you can vary and experiment, a good basic structure (obviously following correct name, address and date details) is:
The safest way to discover the correct contact details is to telephone the secretary or p.a. Say that you'll be writing, and ask to confirm precise address, name and title details etc. The old convention was to use Sir or Madam if you'd not spoken to the person before, but nowadays it's reasonably safe to use Mr/Mrs/Ms (surname).
If you use a headline or 'banner statement' it must be concise, relevant, impactful, professional, unique, new. Maximum 15-20 words. Generally avoid 'clever' glib ad-type slogans. Avoid upper case (capitals) lettering - word-shapes are lost when upper case is used. (People read by recognising word-shapes not individual letters, so don't use upper case anywhere, as it takes longer to read and reduces impact.) Avoid italics, coloured backgrounds and coloured text too - they all reduce readability and impact. Headline should be between two-thirds and three-quarters up the page - where the eye-line is naturally first attracted. Often it's easier to decide on your headline after you've written the rest of the letter. The headline is extremely important - take time to refine it into a really powerful and meaningful statement (or question).
Refer to significant and beneficial activities of your company in areas/sectors/industries relevant to the target's business. Technical and complex words help, provided they are relevant and that your target recipient will understand them. Using technical words that are relevant and recognisable to your contact will help to convey that you understand the issues and details from their perspective. Use 'director-speak' - words and phrases that directors use and relate to. Given that most introductory letters avoid mentioning prices many decision-makers find it refreshingly 'up front' and honest - no nonsense - to see clear early indication of financials - if only as a guide. Logically it helps to relate prices or costs to expected returns. Remember that most decision-makers in organisations are fundamentally driven by return on investment. There can be risks in using direct references to the target's competitors, so be careful - it's more acceptable in aggressively competitive markets - less so in more conservative sectors. Use references that you believe are likely to be the most unique and beneficial and relevant, (which is why doing some initial research is useful). Focus on a single theme and result - do not try to list lots of benefits. As a general rule, be specific but not detailed, and be broad but not vague. Ensure your proposition has the WIIFM factor - 'What's in it for me?' - your contact must feel that it's worth his or her time in pursuing some interest or accepting your call.
If you need to explain how the benefits are derived then do so. Keep it general, concise, significant, serious and brief. This is a good place to imply or suggest the uniqueness of your capability. It is useful to suggest or state that your company is 'the only' company able to do whatever you are claiming. Uniqueness is very helpful.
Suggest that similar opportunities or possibilities might or may exist for the target organisation. Don't sell, claim or guarantee to be able to do anything. Understatement is a very useful style. How can you possibly know for sure until you've understood the client's situation?
What you will do next - normally that you'll telephone soon/shortly/in due course. Avoid stating a date and time that you'll phone back - it's presumptuous - how do you know your target person will be available then? (In practice if your target is interested in pursuing the issue opportunity then he or she will normally ask the secretary to deal with the arrangements for the next action, and you may not actually need to speak to your target person on the telephone - secretaries and p.a.'s are powerful people.)
Stick to tradition to be safe: use Yours sincerely if you've started with a Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms (name), and Yours faithfully (if you've started with Dear Sir or Madam).
If it fits with the tone and style of the communication, a good 'P.S.', used effectively and appropriately, can be a useful way to attract more attention and to add an additional point, especially one of special interest to the prospect, for instance that you will be in their area during a week or month, or a special offer, or the availability of extra pre-sales information at a website, etc. Avoid using this for senior contacts because it can be seen as gimmicky, and generally if in doubt don't use it. A good letter won't need it.
This sample letter is very brief and concise. It begins with a credibility statement, which infers the method and basic proposition. It then presents a financial case - invest 'x' to get 'y'. Senior decision-makers are primarily concerned with return on investment and will need to see some data that helps them assess this. The letter then explains briefly in bullet points what the method comprises. And then there's the action point.
Many experts in advertising and communications believe that adding a 'P.S.' greatly increases success rates. Use the technique with care: ensure that you use a 'P.S.' statement that is appropriate to the context or it could appear irritating or insulting.
The sample sales introductory letter below features a real product called the Sales Activator®. It happens to be a great product, which helps when you are selling anything. If you are finding it difficult to put together a great sales introductory letter you might find that your product proposition needs revisiting first.
(Company name, address, date and your reference)
Dear Mr Smith
New Flash Bang Wallop (whatever) System/Solution/Concept
Flash Bang Wallop is according to (state quotable reputable endorsee) the best new (whatever) for the (state relevant application/territory/time).
(Or substitute some other bold statement of quality/effectiveness which can be supported with a reputable endorsee/user).
Leading companies such as (state quotable endorsees/users) now use Flash Bang Wallop, because they've achieved improvements of (state factual range) and/or savings of (state factual range).
For a cost equating to (show cost as per day, per user, and/or per team, etc) your staff/customers will (state key unique benefit).
The remarkable Flash Bang Wallop uses (briefly, method/difference/special quality) to:
To test Flash Bang Wallop's effectiveness in your organisation, you can arrange a free no-obligation trial now.
I'll call you soon, or please feel free to contact me to arrange it.
(Signature, name, title.)
P.S. You can see more details about Flash Bang Wallop in the (case study example reference details - ideally a website link).
These are the important characteristics of good introductory sales letters:
Avoid being clever or funny. Avoid posing puzzles - people cannot be bothered to waste their time and they'll feel insulted.
Headlines need to grab attention in a relevant and meaningful way.
The letter as a whole must aim make the reader think "Yes, that's of interest to me, and I like the style of the letter. I can imagine at least talking to this person without feeling I'm just another prospect..."
Avoid the use of 'I', 'we', 'us', 'ours', except for the obvious (eg 'I will telephone you…'). Talk about your intended customer and their market, not your own business.
Don't include leaflets or brochures to directors.
Try to engage the help and advice of the secretary or p.a. - get her on your side. Your chances of the contact seeing the letter increase significantly if you can engage with the intended contact's secretary or p.a. and explain in advance that you are writing.
Always remember that you are trying to sell the appointment not the product.
Try selling telephone appointments before you try to get a face-to-face meeting. You can achieve a lot on the phone - especially rapport-building, and understanding their issues and needs - people respond well because it shows you respect their time, and your own.
Above all, JFDI (see acronyms). Write some letters, follow them up, and you will get appointments.
Here is a very simple general sales introduction letter - you can use this or adapt it for most situations as it is very general. This type of introductory letter is ideal for new sales situations when you need to generate some sales leads and enquiries before you know your products and markets in great detail, and need to get something moving. This type of letter must be followed up by a phone call - it will not generate a response on its own. Preferably research your prospects first to understand something about them, and especially to find the name and address details for the relevant decision-maker.
This type of letter is low-pressure - it seeks to establish a connection and offer discussion if timely and appropriate for the client.
name and address
Dear (Mr/Mrs, etc, name)
attention grabbing heading (up to 10 words)
(the heading must grab attention - something your prospect will relate to that your proposition will produce - for example, Cost-Effective Sales Enquiry Generation, or Reduce Your Staffing Overheads, or Fast-Track Management Training)
When you next consider your arrangements for (product/service) I would welcome the opportunity to understand your requirements and situation.
(Optional) Our customers include (two or three examples, relevant and known to the prospect), who have found (state key benefit, % savings, strategic advantage) from working with us.
I will telephone you soon to agree a future contact time that suits you/your own review timescale.
(Name and signature)
(Optional 'P.S.' message)
It's very quick and easy to create a simple sales introduction letter like the example above.
Many sales people fail to send anything at all because they take too long creating the letter and organizing the mail-merge, etc. If you find yourself falling into this trap remember JFDI - get on and do it.
Then get on the phone and follow it up.
Sending a simple professional sales introduction letter overcomes the initial obstacle that most organizations use as a defence against sales introductions. A good simple introductory letter can also establish a level of credibility and professionalism in the mind of the contact and his or her p.a., who is likely to be the person who reads and deals with the letter first.
Submitting inventions, patents and new product or service ideas, or new business propositions, to potential licensee companies or partners is a complex area as regards patents and intellectual property (if applicable), but in all other respects is quite simple. It's just a form of selling. You are selling your idea and yourself.
If your proposal or idea concerns a new invention, then your approach will be influenced by your country or regional laws as to how best to protect and register your intellectual property. In the case of inventions, do not leap in and apply for a patent without first reading and taking advice on the best approach for your own situation. Patents are expensive, and moreover they will reveal your ideas when published, which might not be desirable if your idea is still under development, or you are unsure of your aims and strategy.
It is important that you research the existing market for similar ideas. Many inventors assume they have come up with an original idea, spend lots of time and money on it, only to find that the idea isn't new or advantageous to the market.
Be careful whom you expose your ideas to. Telling people about your ideas without the protection of non-disclosure and secrecy agreements effectively puts your ideas into the public domain and will commonly make it impossible to successfully apply later for a patent. Telling people will also risk your idea coming into the hands of people who will use it as their own.
Be careful if you engage one of the many inventors 'agencies'. Some of these are parasitic organisations who will charge you a fee for basically doing what you could have done yourself if you just read and learn for yourself. Some are worse and exploit inventors for extortionate fees, irrespective of whether the inventions have a real chance in the market-place. So before engaging an agency of this type, clearly and firmly clarify what they will do for you, and check a few references from among their existing inventor customers.
Avoid incurring legal costs until you are sure that such services and costs are necessary, and assess this requirement for yourself. If you ask a patent lawyer you can predict what the answer will be... And they'll say you need a lawyer not because they are deliberately exploiting you, it will be because their approach is to err on the side of caution, in the face of everything and anything that could go wrong.
At some stage you may well need a lawyer to help with patents and intellectual property - certainly you will if your venture comes to life and offers a reasonable scale - but wait until you need one before incurring these costs.
At some stage as well you will need to consider product liability. It is likely that any licensee or partner will want to hold you responsible for ultimate liability for product safety, and although this is commonly negotiable, you need to be aware of the issue at the outset. At some point you must ensure suitable insurance is put in place for your own protection in this area.
As regards selling your idea, it is essential that you look at and judge your invention or proposal from a marketing and commercial standpoint. Your own subjective personal opinion, or your mum's or friends' views, are irrelevant. The questions are:
When and if you are able to answer these questions positively, then you can feel justified in approaching potential licensees or distribution partners. The fewer of these questions that you can answer positively, then the less likely you will be to succeed.
Your plans are likely to encounter some chicken-and-egg dilemmas, for example - how do you gauge market reaction if you cannot expose the concept?; and how do you calculate return on investment if you don't know the details of the potential licensee's costs of manufacturing and overheads?
In short you need to be pragmatic and adaptable, develop rough estimates to more precise data as and when you are able. Your entire proposition is a rough concept to begin with, in all respects. You must mould it into shape over time. Tighten up the facts and figures as you go along. That's why even very big corporations use the expressions 'cigarette packet' or 'table napkin' when describing early stage new concepts and ideas. Not much is known, but critically the rough estimates stack up into a good-looking business case. You must be sure your idea does too.
When you are ready to approach potential licensees make sure you research the organisations and their markets first. It's easy to do this on the web. Phone the companies also for their brochures, and annual reports if available. This will help you to build a picture of how they operate and what they need.
Understand the market, the suppliers, the distribution, the market leaders, and their competitive strengths. Select your potential partners carefully. Perhaps complete a SWOT analysis for each. Importantly, understand the basic financials - their turnover, volumes, market shares, typical profit margins - especially gross margins (before operating overheads) - as this helps you compare and assess the gross margins offered by your invention or idea.
And then aim to get meeting with them.
Definitely resist explaining your ideas by post or email. You should ideally seek an opportunity to present your invention or idea in person, together with all the supporting business case justification that surrounds it - this is what sells the idea. An idea with a strong business case is far more likely to be considered.
When you try to arrange your meeting I would not recommend that you write first. Phone first. Phone each company (somebody at head office in the commercial or marketing department is a reasonable start point - if in doubt start with the p.a. to the divisional CEO or general manager) and find out reliably and exactly each of their preferred processes for the submission of outside inventions or new business ideas. Who are their people who are responsible for assessing new ideas from outside partners? And then follow their process. It will be different for each company, and will therefore require a different letter for each.
I'd add the following points:
Expect to be asked or better still offer to sign/provide a mutual non-disclosure agreement. You need this for your own protection, especially if you have not yet applied for a patent. Also, potential licensees - especially big corporations - are commonly concerned that outside inventors' ideas could coincide with their own NPD (new product development), which would create a potential vulnerability for the corporation if the outside inventor is able to claim after a disclosure that they (the inventor) own the idea. For this reason big corporations have rigorous submission processes which can be off-putting. It's a matter of working with their processes and policies.
To approach smaller companies - say below £200m/$300m size - I suggest you phone the p.a. to the CEO and ask her/his advice how to submit or make your approach.
If they don't have a non-disclosure agreement then you should provide one.
When you know what sort of letter to write, keep the letter short, and generally try to follow the principles outlined in the guidelines above for other introductory sales letters. The same principles apply - you are selling yourself and your idea - but first you need to sell the appointment.
Letters of this sort really need simply to say that your invention is in the area of (product/service sector), and the market advantages and financial returns will accrue to the licensee. Do not explain what the invention is in writing until you have exchanged NDA's (non-disclosure agreements), and ideally you should wait to explain/present your invention, and the make-up of your team, in person at a meeting. I say 'your team' because the potential licensee will be interested in the people who constitute your company or group (and they will certainly need at some stage to satisfy themselves that you have suitable integrity, reliability, back-up, etc). The potential licensee will be as concerned about you as they are concerned about the idea.
Many corporations already have an established inventor community - these will be trusted people and companies - your challenge is to become one of these, or at least to meet the qualifying criteria (which will certainly require you to possess some commercial and market awareness, integrity, as well as technical and creative capability - so work on attaining these attributes).
Below is a basic template and sample letter for submitting a new idea, invention, or business proposition. Adapt it according to the process that potential licensee or partner company tells you to follow, (in other words the information they need, in order to meet with you).
As a final point - resist being bullied by potential licensee companies or potential partners. Do not provide details of your idea until and unless you are happy with the intentions, integrity, and authority of the other party. There will be some corporate marketing executives, product managers, and technical managers who will want to discover your ideas, but will have no intention (or authority) to do anything with them. This is another reason for starting at the top - with the CEO's p.a. - to learn and make use of the organisation's official procedure for the submission of outside ideas and inventions.
Adapt this sample letter - use it as a template guide - to suit your own situation.
Dear Mr Smith
(use a title that will mean something to the reader, for example: 'unique new product for child education market', or exciting new business proposition for sales training sector', or 'innovative new product for the automotive security sector')
Further to out telephone conversation on (date) here is an outline of our proposal.
I am (brief credibility statement - for example: 'I am an expert in the field of [discipline/technology/market, etc], qualified to [qualifications], with [experience]' or 'I own and run the [name] product development company, which specialises in [market/technology] and is (accreditations/quality standards/previous achievements]')
We have developed a highly innovative product/solution for the (describe market) sector. Our research indicates that our formula/invention/technology is unique and will offer significant advantage over all available similar and competing products/services. We can prove/show/demonstrate design, development, production, and distribution viability, a likely unit cost of £/$(cost)/gross margin in excess of X%, and realisable sales volumes of Y,000/million units over N years. We estimate that the investment required for design and development necessary for launch would be in the region of £/$(cost).
Our idea will deliver the following customer benefits: (list 3-5 points - do not give away invention or idea secrets - focus on what it does that other products cannot, not how it does it) for example -
We believe that this new product could fit well within the (prospect organisation name) portfolio, given your market strengths, values and customer base, and so we would like to present our ideas to you and your appropriate team.
If you'd like to proceed to the next stage we would expect to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement, and await your advice on this.
I'll call you soon to see if you wish to progress matters. Or please contact me.
Yours sincerely, etc.
(Signature and name)
P.S. You can see more details about us/our company at our website www.your_own_website_name.com.
Kayako customer satisfaction blog. Learn best practices that help teams be more productive and build customer loyalty.