Rieck's Response Letter from Direct Creative at www.DirectCreative.com
January 2008
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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 main obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge." -Daniel Boorstin


Read interviews with Bob Bly and other copywriters.
I've posted a chat with high-tech copywriter Ivan Levison on my blog. Ivan is a brainiac about direct mail selling and you can learn a lot from him. The interview with Bob Bly is coming soon too. If you haven't visited the Direct Creative Blog (for shame!), do it now. And remember to subscribe to the RSS feed to get updates.

The Article Archive is finally organized.
I've been adding articles to the Article Archive for a while now, but the links have been in a big, random list. Recently I organized everything into categories to make it easier to find things. If you haven't been there in a month or so, check it out. Most of the articles are from my columns in Direct Marketing Magazine or DM News going back 15 years or so.

Bookmark the Direct Marketing Glossary.
I've just completed a fairly extensive glossary on essential direct marketing terms. This is a handy reference if you work with direct mail, e-mail, or printing. You might want to bookmark the glossary in your browser as a quick reference. Also, if you run across terms that you think should be included, let me know.

Response Booster

Design your advertising for readers.

Direct response advertising is all about reading. Reading envelope teasers. Reading letters. Reading brochures. Reading order forms. Reading headlines. Reading coupons. Reading e-mail. Reading all manner of things. Without reading — easy, effortless reading — you have no sales. This is why they say, "Copy is king."

And this is also why design is so important, because it is through design that copy "speaks." Therefore, design should always strive to 1) Draw attention to the copy and help the reader get started reading; 2) Make reading easy by applying the basic rules of layout and typography; and 3) Help communicate the writer's message and not produce a work of art.

Quick Tips

Looking for marketing ideas? Start a swipe file.
One of the best ways to get ideas for new direct mail, ads, or online advertising is to keep a file of samples you like. For me, it's as simple as a box in my office where I toss mailings I receive. I also clip print ads and put them in a file folder. You can save e-mails in a computer file and bookmark Web sites in your browser. When a project comes up, you dive into these samples for copy ideas and formats.

Supercharge magazine print ads with a bind-in card.
Toll-free numbers and coupons with a dashed border are standard ways to get a response from a print ad. But if you want to take response to the next level, add a bind-in reply card. It's easy to tear out and return and it visually "pops," so it nearly always boosts response. Just remember that the ad must function independently of the bind-in. The bind-in is not a replacement for the phone number or coupon in the ad.

Don't be seduced and misled by the "pull marketing" mantra.
I've been having lots of discussions recently about the future of marketing, and these always lead to someone saying that pull marketing will replace push marketing. Example: Build a Web site, fill it with great content, and people will come. Maybe. But while that may be fine for bloggers earning a few extra bucks a month, it's no good for serious businesses. Earning BIG money still requires that you PUSH and be aggressive with your advertising.

Steve Martin reveals the secret to success.
When asked about success by Charlie Rose, Steve "wild and crazy guy" Martin said, "Be so good they can't ignore you." That's great advice. All the tricks and techniques won't help you if you or your product sucks. It's worked for me. I'm lazy as hell about marketing, but in all humility, I'm so good people can't ignore me. I beat controls. I sell a lot of merchandise. And I'm always generous with ideas. That brings in business for me. There is simply no substitute for quality.

When was the last time you met with your clients?
I read an interview with a high-earning freelance copywriter recently who said she occasionally would get on a plane and go meet with clients. It struck me that I've never done that. I travel only when clients pay me to since most of what I do can be done by phone and e-mail. But some of my best and most loyal clients are those I've met with personally. It's easy to overlook the importance of personal relationships in our digital world. So I'm planning to make a few trips this year. Are you?


How to Build Confidence with Testimonials

People expect you to say wonderful things about your product, service, or cause. But when they hear other people saying wonderful things, that's when they really start believing you. Testimonials support your claims and build confidence.

Another benefit of testimonials is that they engage the "bandwagon" effect. All of us look to others to help us decide how to act, to guide our behavior, and to determine whether something is right or wrong. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.

So here are some tips on getting the most from testimonials:

  • Actively collect testimonials. Your business should have a file of testimonials and success stories ready to go for any promotion. Don't wait till you need them. Create an ongoing system for collecting testimonials. And get written permission to use them in perpetuity.
  • Use testimonials from people similar and relevant to prospects. The people you quote in a given promotion should be as much like your ideal prospect as possible. This increases identification and the feeling of relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners. A senior will believe other seniors. Testimonials are also more effective when they are from experts, those with relevant experience, or people on the same level or in the same situation. This is one reason you should collect lots of testimonials from a wide variety of people — you can carefully select targeted quotes when you need them.
  • Use real testimonials. Don't try to rewrite or fabricate testimonials. No matter how poorly worded, the real words of real people are always more believable than anything a writer can come up with. Besides, making them up isn't ethical. If you have trouble getting favorable quotes, there's something wrong with what you're selling. Fix it.
  • Edit testimonials carefully. If you must edit, do so carefully and honestly. Don't change the meaning. Don't enhance. Don't present words and phrases out of context.
  • Prefer many short quotes over a few long quotes. Testimonials show that people — lots of people — buy your product, use your service, or support your cause. The more people who praise you, the more credible you are. However, don't allow your testimonials to degenerate into meaningless, one-word blurbs like those used to promote Hollywood movies: "Incredible," "A Blockbuster," "A Must See."
  • Don't be afraid of long testimonials. Sometimes, you get a gem that says it all. It may be a story, an emotional revelation, an authoritative remark from an expert, or just a simple comment that hits the nail on the head. Use it.
  • Group your testimonials. When possible, separate out testimonials as an insert in a direct mail package. In a print ad or brochure, put all your testimonials in a box or sidebar. (Generally, you don't want to scatter them about. That decreases the "bandwagon" effect.) If you use a headline to introduce the testimonials, don't use an empty statement, such as "What people are saying about XYZ company ..." State a benefit or say something meaningful, such as "Over 88,000 smart people like you trust XYZ for long-lasting thingamabobs."
  • Use full names, titles, locations, and photographs. Testimonials are a form of proof, so whenever you have a chance to increase the credibility of that proof, do it. Full names are more believable than initials. An appropriate title is an indication of a person's experience or expertise. A city and state helps prove the person is real, as does a photograph. A photo also helps people identify with the person quoted.
  • Choose relevant and persuasive testimonials. Don't use testimonials to entertain or fill space. Use them to help prove your promise and lead your prospect to a decision. They should convey enthusiasm and hit benefits and hot buttons.
  • Turn a particularly good testimonial into a lift letter. It could be a letter written especially for your mailing or a reprint of an outstanding comment you want to share.
  • Use a testimonial as a headline or benefit statement. Copy in quotation marks always increases readership and credibility. But when the copy is an actual testimonial, it's doubly effective.
  • Feature testimonials by "converts." Comments from someone who has been converted from another product or service are always more believable and powerful than comments from customers who may not have shopped around.

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

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

Copyright 2008 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.