Rieck's Response Letter from Direct Creative at www.DirectCreative.com
August 2007
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Rieck's Response Letter is a publication of Direct Creative

Contact: Dean Rieck
Phone: 614-882-8823
E-mail: Dean@DirectCreative.com

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Quote of the Month

"The headline is the 'ticket on the meat.' Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising." -David Ogilvy

Response Booster

Make one little change for a quick mail pick me up!

When your direct mail package gets a little tired and you see response falling off, or if you want to run a quick test to see if you can ratchet up your sales a little, just put the contents of your current package into a different envelope. If your old envelope is white, try one with color. If your old envelope is small, try a large one. Just make it noticeably different.

That's about as simple as it gets. Though I doubt that one in ten people I talk to has ever tried this, probably because it seems too simple. But it works. One of my clients had a simple #10 lead generation package that couldn't be beat. I tried a new letter, inserts, a different offer. Nothing. Then we ran an envelope test and bingo! Suddenly the unbeatable control was beaten and a new control was born.

Why does this envelope swapping trick work? Because once people have seen your envelope a couple times without opening it, they start to recognize it and tune it out. You can change the guts of your package until doomsday and it won't make any difference. By changing the envelope, you put a fresh face on your package that encourages people to take a second look.

Quick Tips

Dollar Stretcher: Use postcards!
If you have an easy-to-understand product or service and a simple offer, a postcard can be a great way to reach your audience cheaply. They're fast and easy to create. Plus you can save a fortune on printing and postage. Three of the best uses for postcards are getting people into a retail store, generating a quick phone call, and driving website traffic.

Don't get carried away with branding.
I've been ranting about inappropriate branding in direct marketing for a long time. There's nothing wrong with branding. It's just that it's primarily a strategy for packaged goods and retail sales, not for direct marketing. It can be a part of direct marketing, but more often than not, it's just an excuse for over-designed sales messages that depress response. Way back in a May 1999 issue of Target Marketing, Bob Hacker said it best: "Fight brand tyranny. When forced to put brand messages in your (direct mail) packages, stick them in the brochure where it doesn't matter. Leave your letters and response devices pure, unadulterated direct." Amen.

Looking for ideas? Go for a walk and talk!
When I'm having writer's block trying to come up with a headline or an idea for an ad, it's often due to spending too much time with the problem. So I'll go for a walk around the block to clear my head. When I'm feeling energized again, I'll start talking to an imaginary person about my problem, describing the product, the offer, and the benefits as if I'm trying to make a sale. Most of it is gibberish, but more often than not it leads to some great words, phrases, and ideas. You might develop a reputation for being a nut if anyone sees you talking to yourself. But I swear it works.

The Envelope Debate: Plain or Teasers?
My answer? A firm, definitive "it depends." My rule is that if it's a highly desirable product and you have a super offer, scream it on the envelope. But if it needs a little explanation or selling before people realize they want it, use a plain envelope. When in doubt, just use a plain envelope. They're hard to resist opening. And getting your envelope opened is half the battle.

Test your e-mail link placement.
You might think a link is a link. But all links are not created equal. Two identical links in an e-mail can have radically different click rates depending on where it's placed in the e-mail body. Unless a particular client has specific test results to show otherwise, I generally try to get at least three links in an e-mail: one near the beginning of the message, one in the middle, and one near the end. I usually phrase the link copy a little differently, but they will all go to the same place. This assumes, of course, that you're using your e-mail to lead people to a detailed landing page where the real selling will happen.


Unlock the Power of Your Guarantee

When you create a direct mail package, do you just drop in a guarantee at the last minute as a legal requirement? This is a mistake.

A guarantee can be one of your most powerful selling tools. It's proof that you're reputable. It helps lower your customer's perceived risk. And it almost always boosts your response if used properly.

Here are some tips for making a guarantee work for you:

  • Keep it simple. There are many ways to enhance your guarantee, but your basic guarantee copy should be clear and strong, leaving no questions unanswered. Here's the classic guarantee: "If you are not completely satisfied for any reason, just return your widget to XYZ Company within 30 days for a full refund of your purchase price."
  • Make it visible. Add it to your sales letter call to action. Highlight it in a box in your brochure. Feature it on the order form. Use it in a stand-alone insert.
  • Use guarantee copy to sell. For example, you might add a line such as "Fill out the order form and mail it today. Try your gizmo for 60 days. If you're not completely satisfied ..." and so on.
  • Prefer unconditional guarantees. They're stronger than conditional guarantees and easier to administer. However, if you have to use a conditional guarantee, a longer term is better. A 60-day free examination is better than 30 days, for example. Often people don't think that a month is long enough to avoid payment if they change their mind.
  • Use strong language. Unconditionally Guaranteed. No-Risk Guarantee. 100 Percent Satisfaction Guarantee. No-Questions-Asked Guarantee. As long as it's believable, the stronger your guarantee the better.
  • Go beyond money-back. How about "Double Your Money Back" or "115% Credit" for another purchase? Or maybe "We won't cash your check for 30 days" or "We'll return your own check to you" to assure that the customer will never have money at risk?
  • Match your offer. Provide a money-back guarantee for purchases, a buyback for collectibles, cancellation privileges and a refund for subscriptions. Think of the characteristics of your offer and the perceived risk involved, then formulate your guarantee to match.
  • Add a signature. Nothing shows your commitment to a product like signing your name to the guarantee. The person of highest authority, or the person who wrote the letter, should sign it.
  • Extend the guarantee period. Instead of 30 or 60 days, how about a one-year guarantee? Or a lifetime guarantee? After a while, most people forget about the guarantee or feel too guilty to return "used" items.
  • Make it look official. Certificate borders, certificate paper, watermarks, icons like eagles and flags, dollar values in the corners, and other touches can help your guarantee look official. You can even create a seal or stamp with your basic guarantee copy in it.
  • Add third-party approval. A Good Housekeeping seal of approval or an endorsement from an organization can power up your guarantee.
  • Offer a valuable bonus. For example, "If you don't like TaxSaver Software, send it back at our expense, get a full refund, and keep the Day Planner and mouse pad as our gift to you."
  • Try extreme specificity. State your guarantee, then give a phone number to call if the customer has a complaint. You could even give the name of the person to talk to. This costs you nothing and raises the believability of your guarantee to its highest possible level.
Spend time with your guarantee. Think about it as a central element in your direct mail. How can you make it stronger? More dramatic? A benefit for customers? Your options are unlimited.

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Dean Rieck is an internationally respected copywriter, designer, and consultant who has created direct mail and ads for more than 200 clients.

Phone: 614-882-8823
E-mail: Dean@DirectCreative.com
Web: www.DirectCreative.com

Copyright 2007 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.