Rieck's Response Letter from Direct Creative at www.DirectCreative.com
May 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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Occasional errors in this newsletter exist to bring joy to those readers who find them and point them out. Please don't spoil their fun by demanding perfection from me.


"A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable." -Bernice Fitz-Gibbon


The subscribers have been stumbling in.

Okay, maybe saying that subscribers are "stumbling" in may not be the best way to phrase that headline. It sounds like I'm attracting drunken readers.

What I mean is that I'm getting a lot of Web visitors and subscriptions from StumbleUpon. In fact, somebody liked my blog post about the Dunning-Kruger Effect and I got hit with a title wave of visitors in the middle of last month - about five times more than normal.

To those of you bookmarking my articles, thank you. And to all my new subscribers, welcome.

Step away from the desk!

Seems like the only thing anyone talks about in the copywriting world is making money. That's what sells, I guess. But in my opinion, the real payoff is freedom. I manage to keep my sanity only because I don't take business too seriously and try to enjoy each day.

With the weather getting nicer, I suggest you spend some time outside. I like to cycle or work in my garden. But anything to get you away from your work now and then will pay dividends in your mental and physical health.

Donate your old fax and clear up desk space.

I get maybe 2 or 3 faxes a year. Most people I work with prefer e-mail. So I dumped my ancient fax machine and signed up for FaxDigits, a totally free service that lets me get faxes by e-mail as PDF attachments.

How do I send faxes? I used to use the built-in Windows fax utility, but when I upgraded my computer to a Vista system, the fax utility was gone. So I purchased RKS Fax for $19.95. They have a free demo too. No more fax machine. No more second phone line cost.

Stuff I recommend:

Copywriting Jobs - This is my job board that lists positions for copywriters all over the country. Also some design and PR type jobs too.

Carbonite Online Backup - This is a super easy online backup service that's dirt cheap. This may be the best product or service I've used in the last ten years. Please try their free 15-day trial. They don't even ask for a credit card!

GoDaddy.com Web Hosting - I use GoDaddy for pretty much everything because not only are they cheap, they also offer tons of free software and tools, such as WordPress, for anyone with a hosting plan. I manage this newsletter through GoDaddy too. Check out their hosting plans.

Soundview Executive Book Summaries - Soundview is sort of "Cliff Notes" for grown ups. You get summaries of the hottest business books with all the takeaways boiled down to a few minutes of reading. You can try it out free. Read or listen to a free summary of one of today's top selling business books!

SEO Book - This is, bar none, the single best source for search engine optimization information out there. It helped me dramatically boost the rankings of my Web site in just weeks. It could be TOO much stuff for some people, but if you're serious about SEO, this is THE source.


Value content over form.

One of the primary reasons advertising fails is that ad creators too often get caught up in a creative vision or concept without having anything to say.

One agency has repeatedly sent me mockups of mailers and brochures with tiny blank spaces where they want me to fill in a little copy. When I ask about the purpose of the piece or point out that the design should be based on what needs to be communicated, I am gently told to just write up something of the right length and everything will work out fine. This is nonsense.

Don't start with a "look." Start with content. Allow your form to develop naturally from what you want to say.


Dive into Duke University's vintage print ad library.
I've always been fascinated by print ads of days gone by. Besides their cultural value, they provide a unique insight into advertising tactics. Duke University's Ad*Access Project has collected and scanned more than 7,000 ads printed in the United States and Canada between 1911 and 1955. The ads represent five product and subject areas: radio, television, transportation, beauty and hygiene, and World War II. Check it out. Very cool.

Discover 5 tips for more creative copywriting.
Have you ever noticed that some copywriters are forever coming up with new ideas while others write the same thing in the same way over and over? Recently on my blog, I listed 5 ways to help you be more creative. They may not be as easy as they appear. But they're worth trying.

What does your customer want you to know?
I read an article on Copyblogger recently and got curious about the author. So I clicked over to her site, called remarkable communication, and was pleasantly surprised to find one of those wonderful articles that get you thinking in a productive way. It's called 50 Things Your Customers Wish You Knew. I particularly like #50. It's so true.

E-mail marketing is all about the tactics.
E-mail marketing isn't as easy as some thought it would be, mostly because of spammers ruining it for everyone. But eMarketer ran an article recently revealing that e-mail success comes through using the right tactics. Some of the conclusions were surprising, such as how a personalized subject line could actually hurt response. Some were less surprising, such as more links generally mean more clicks.

I hope this doesn't sound condescending, but when you work on the creative side of direct marketing, it's tempting to jump headfirst into writing or designing. But if I've learned anything, it's this: Success is more about doing the right thing than doing the thing right. Clients are often surprised when I tell them I sometimes spend half my time on a project just thinking about what I want to do before I actually do anything. I believe it actually helps me work better and faster because I know what I want to do before I do it.


Making Order Forms Work Harder

The venerable Bob Stone once said an order form is "the moment of truth." And I couldn't agree more, because no matter how persuasive you have been elsewhere in a direct mail package, your order form is where your prospect actually says "yes" or "no" to your offer.

Here are a few ideas to make your order form work harder:
  • Make sure it gets noticed. First, make it a separate piece whenever possible. Second, use visual cues that indicate it's the order piece, such as a different color, eye-catching graphic, certificate border, or headline. You can coordinate your order form with other pieces, but if it looks too similar, it could get lost. Everything should lead to the order form.
  • Make it easy to fill out and mail. By the time your prospect gets to the order form, a decision has been made. And if the decision is "yes," you don't want any barriers preventing response. So keep your order form as simple as possible, on one side, with as few fill-ins as you can get away with while still being complete. A well-designed order form is visually intuitive, making it obvious at a glance how it should be filled out. But if you need to give directions, do so.
  • Include a statement of acceptance. You can simply summarize the offer, but a statement of acceptance is better. It may include an affirmation, benefit statement, request for the item, summary of the offer, sweeteners, and guarantee. For example: "Yes! I want to cut my taxes in half. Please send my copy of How to Instantly Cut Your Income Tax for just $29.95. And if I respond by January 12, I'll also get the TaxSlash computer program FREE (a $39.00 value). I understand that if I'm not completely satisfied, I can return the book for a full refund - but I'll keep the computer program as my gift."
  • Highlight your toll-free number. That way, people who prefer calling can do so immediately. This may also increase your credit card orders. Include the times you take calls and what time zone you're referring to. If phone orders are faster - faster ordering or faster shipment - say so.
  • Highlight your guarantee. Even if it's already in your statement of acceptance, you want to put to rest any doubts. So feature it prominently. Use a seal or certificate border to make it stand out.
  • Include complete information. In addition to the offer and toll-free number, give the company name and logo, mailing address, total price, applicable sales tax, shipping and handling charges, premiums, offer expiration date, minimum orders, delivery time, the payment methods you accept, Canadian and international extra charges, exactly how the order should be placed, etc. Your order form should be simple, but must leave no detail to chance.
  • Offer fax response for businesses. Make sure your order form gives your fax number, easily goes through a fax machine, and prints legibly on your end. Some statistics show that half or more of all business orders arrive via fax, so this could be a big response booster.
  • Rename your order form. Sometimes "Order Form" is fine, but consider words that are significant to your prospect, add value to the offer, or reduce the feeling of commitment: Trial Subscription Certificate, Free Trial Copy, Savings Coupon, Sample Offer, Request for Free Information, Free Examination Offer, Enrollment Application, Order Coupons, Privilege Invitations, Bonus Vouchers, etc.
  • Leave room to write. Those fill-in lines are where designers look to steal a few extra points of real estate. However, if your prospect can't fill out the form, you get no order.
  • Add the words "Please Print." This helps you avoid scrambled addresses, misspelled names, and wrong orders. Place these words by the fill-in lines in plain view. Better still: "Please Print in Ink."
  • Make it look valuable. You can do this with certificate borders, gold seals, serial numbers, safety paper, special background or watermarks, rubber stamps, eagles, receipt stubs, etc. People don't like to throw away valuable items. Caveat: Sometimes increasing perceived value also increases the feeling of commitment. To reduce this feeling, use a simpler look.
  • Create a sense of urgency. Use directive language: "Call now," "Order today," or "Complete and mail this trial certificate today." Remind your prospect of your deadline: a specific such as "Offer ends March 15" or generics such as "Offer good while supplies last" or "Hurry! This is a limited time offer."

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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.