If you find yourself writing the same letter more than once, you can spare yourself the repetitive work by creating templates, says Richard Heft, president of Ext. Marketing in Toronto. Writing out essentially the same letter again and again is a waste of time and opens the door for human error such as omissions and typos.

Pre-designed or pre-written templates allow you to consistently deliver cohesive messages, each tailored to the individual recipient. Templates can be particularly useful when you’re signing on a new client or forming a reciprocal arrangement with a centre of influence.

Templates can be great time savers, but you have to be careful that they don’t result in messages that read like fill-in-the-blanks form letters. Before you send out your final note, make sure all components of the letter have been personalized to the recipient.

These tips can help you draft effective letters using templates:

1. Personalize it with an anecdote
While you don’t want to pen a pretentious, overwrought missive, creating your letter should not be a matter of plug and paste, either. If you know the prospect or client well enough, Heft says, try to think of something that you discussed with them previously.

Remember that a template is a guide, and not the final form of your letter. “All the standardized language is there,” Heft says, “but it should definitely be personalized.”

You might choose to lead with a personal message, or close off with a unique anecdote. For example, if a prospect mentioned that his daughter was heading off to university, include your best wishes in your letter.

2. Draft templates for various occasions
There are a host of templates you should have on file. They can range from the follow-up letter you send to new networking contacts to the welcome letter you share in the onboarding process,

Take an inventory of letters you have sent in the past and identify which can be adapted as templates. Once you have a collection of letter templates for all occasions, you will have no excuse for not staying on top of your correspondence.

3. Store drafts in a convenient spot
Save your templates in a folder on your computer desktop so they’ll be easy to locate, Heft suggests. If you routinely send letters through a newsletter service, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, consider preparing templates and storing them there as well.

4. Accommodate preferences
While emails are the preferred means of communication for most clients, Heft says, remember to ask people how they want to be contacted. To avoid running afoul of compliance and anti-spam legislation, make sure you have permission to contact the person by email and include an “opt-out” option.

5. Include a call to action
In all your letters, Heft says, mention the next step the recipient can take. You’ve done your part in contacting them; and now, it’s up to them to take the next step.

If you’re sending a letter to a client detailing the onboarding process, for example, you might list all the paperwork needed and express that you’re available to him or her to address any questions or issues.

Photo copyright: pressmaster/123RF