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Rieck's Response Letter is a publication of Direct Creative
Contact: Dean Rieck
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QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Exuberance is better than taste." -Gustave Flaubert
Take my quick 2-minute survey.
I launched this newsletter just last summer. But I've had an explosion of subscribers. This is surprising to me since I thought it would be more of an insider's letter to clients and direct marketing pros. But there seems to be a thirst for ideas on copywriting, design, and direct response advertising. Please CLICK HERE to take my short survey. This will help me improve this newsletter.
Steve Slaunwhite talks direct mail on my blog.
If you want some tips on direct mail, read my interview with Steve Slaunwhite on the Direct Creative Blog. Also, I had a fun chat with cranky commentator Roberta Rosenberg. I'm asking the same questions, but it's always interesting to see how different people respond. Roberta is a hoot.
Try 2-step marketing.
Selling a $29.95 widget is pretty easy. But what if your widget is $2,999.95? That's a little harder.
When a product is expensive ... or complex, new, or hard to explain ... or it requires a considerable commitment of time or resources ... try breaking your sales process into two (or more) steps. In step one, you offer free information, samples, a demonstration, etc., to get potential customers to identify themselves. Then in step two, you hand your leads to a sales force or send more elaborate material to close the sale.
It's more work. But it can help you get to good prospects faster, cut your overall marketing costs, and generate greater net profit.
Good news! The USPS will raise rates every year!
If you're not in the direct mail business, you're scratching your head at my enthusiasm over the Postal Service raising rates annually. But it's great news for regular mailers because it will make rate increases predictable and smaller. According to the Feb. 18, 2008 issue of DM News, The USPS will increase prices on First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Periodicals, package services, and special services. Plan accordingly.
Don't mistake the Web for direct mail.
Copywriter Michael Fortin has predicted the death of sales letters on the Internet. Sort of. He basically says what a lot of other people are saying: that the Web isn't a one-way medium, like direct mail or TV. It's interactive. So while long sales letters online still work, there's a growing expectation for audio, video, and other elements that stimulate the senses, give people other ways to get information, and simulate a personal sales presentation. It's NOT about short copy. It's about taking advantage of the unique nature of the online environment to present the content people want.
Gather lots of information before you start writing.
Not just lots. But more than you need. You can't predict what facts might spark a great headline or set your creative wheels in motion. So don't pick and choose. Fetch everything you can: brochures, ads, test results, white papers, complaint letters, annual report, Web resources, product sheets, everything.
Throw in something extra when you deliver a product or service.
I created a direct mail package for a client recently and included an extra insert I didn't quote for. Why? Because the package needed it. The client was delighted. Exceeding expectations is a great way to please people and cement relationships. So the next time you sell something or deliver a service, see if you can throw in something extra. A little surprise goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.
Are you acting ethically?
Few people set out to screw over their customers. But that's what happens when you don't have a standard set of rules to follow. But of course we do have standards, and they're outlined in the DMA's Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. Click that link and you can download the guide as a PDF along with a variety of other publications on corporate responsibility. Don't take this stuff lightly. It's the little white lies and shoulder shrugging that leads to bad laws coming out of Washington D.C.
Tips for Getting Your Direct Mail Envelopes Opened
You should not expect an envelope to position your product. You should not use it to show off your design skills. Its job is not to entertain or amuse. You are not required to cover it with clever copy to impress a client. Aside from holding together the contents until delivered, an envelope only has one job: to get opened.
Here are few ways to do that.
- Follow headline rules to write teaser copy. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside. Teaser copy acts like a headline and leads people to read the letter.
- Use teaser copy to select your audience. It should be clear at a glance that your message is addressed specifically to your reader. Use key words that relate to your prospect's interests or identity, such as "Exclusive offer for golfers inside" or "For serious investors only."
- Refer to the contents of the envelope. Tell your reader there's something free, valuable, new, or exclusive inside. If you've actually enclosed something, such as a sample, booklet, checklist, discount coupon, how-to guide, or newsletter, say so.
- Use directive language. If you want something, you have to ask for it. So prompt your reader to open the envelope with copy such as "inside," "see inside," or "open immediately." Combine this with a benefit to jump start your sales message. "FREE Recipes! Look inside ..." or "How to pay $0 in taxes! See inside for details ...."
- Fully develop your "envelope real estate" to sell the sizzle. If you have a flashy, desirable product, you can crank up the excitement by using every square inch of your envelope, front and back. Show the product. Bullet point benefits. Starburst your special price. Hint at a special gift for immediate orders. This works best for consumer offers that are proven sellers needing little explanation, such as books, software upgrades, fact-packed newsletters, etc.
- Use illustrations or photos. If you're spilling your guts on the envelope, you might as well go all the way and show your product, premium, gift, or whatever. Simple pictures communicate instantly. A photo of a book with the word "FREE" next to it is better than lines and lines of clever copy.
- Consider involvement devices. Stickers, tokens, stamps, coins, scratch-offs, lift-up tabs, attached notes, seals, and other widgets can be used to good effect if you have the budget, if they can boost response enough to justify the added cost, and if they fit with the feel of your message.
- Put your deadline on the outside. Inertia is your enemy. Action is your friend. Deadlines induce action. Therefore, if you're sure about your mailing date, a deadline can prevent your prospect from setting aside your envelope for later. If you're using a window envelope and personalized letter, you can print the date on the letter to cut envelope costs for future mailings. (I prefer real deadlines over arbitrary ones. It's more honest and will preserve your believability if you're mailing often to the same lists.)
- If you're mailing to a business, use a low-key approach. Most business-to-business mail is intercepted by a secretary, assistant, or mail room. If it looks too much like advertising, it may get trashed. You stand a better chance of reaching your prospect if your envelope looks personal, important, and businesslike. Less is also more for offers that may meet some resistance at first glance and need more selling, which is best done in a letter.
- If you use a blank envelope, make it completely blank. Not a single word of teaser copy. No graphics. Perhaps not even your logo. Just a street address in upper left corner and your delivery address. You might include the letter signer's name in the corner card, particularly if that person is well-known. This makes your mailing look personal and is almost certain to get opened.
- Be careful with "official" envelopes. Faux express envelopes, government notices, invoices, and other formats can be used to great effect. However, be clear about your intentions. If it's just part of the theme of your message, and people are clear about who you are and what you want, that's fine. If you're trying to trick people or pose as something you're not, that's unethical. If you have to deceive people to get response, there's something wrong with your product or service.
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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.
Copyright 2008 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.