Rieck's Response Letter from Direct Creative at www.DirectCreative.com
July 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.


"If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative." -David Ogilvy


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Don't confuse direct marketing with general advertising.

Most businesses sell through retail channels and their advertising is meant to create awareness, build a brand name, and form favorable associations so that when it's time for a customer to buy, he or she will choose a particular product.

The direct marketer, on the other hand, is not selling through retail channels, but directly. Awareness, branding, and favorable associations are of much less importance. Direct marketers must provoke an immediate buying decision.

One is not necessarily better than the other; they are just different ways to sell. It is vital to understand this difference, however, since misapplying general advertising techniques to direct response leads to wasted effort.


Create your direct mail envelope carefully.
I get the feeling some people consider the envelope a throw away item in a direct mail package. Big mistake. The envelope is the part of a direct mail package that determines whether recipients read the contents, including that letter you slaved over. Spend time with the envelope. Make sure it does its job to get noticed and get opened. I talked about envelope strategy recently on my blog.

Keep e-mail subject lines to 35 characters or less.
In direct mail and print, long headlines often outperform short ones. But in e-mail, shorter is often better when it comes to subject lines, the "headlines" of e-mail. While many e-mail readers can display 45 or 50 characters, some studies show that subject lines of 35 characters or less stand a better chance of getting opened.

Testimonials can boost Web site performance.
Just as testimonials are effective in direct mail or print, they are also effective online. Whether you're creating a site to sell a product or a service, you should include testimonials as proof that other people like what you're selling. On a small site, show them in a sidebar. On a larger site, display them on a dedicated page. I'm in the middle of a series of articles on testimonials over at Copyblogger. To date, I've posted an article explaining the power of testimonials and one on how to collect them.

Want calls? Use a coupon anyway.
These days, a lot of marketers want to receive orders by phone or online and not deal with mail-in orders. But I often use a coupon in ads anyway. Why? Because a coupon visually screams "respond." It shows at a glance that this is an ad that wants interaction. A coupon also gives you a means of capturing a few extra orders from those who want the product or information, but don't want to deal with phone operators or go online.

Get free copywriting computer tools.
They say you get what you pay for. Well, not always. If you're a copywriter, you can get tons of top-notch computer tools for free. I listed 9 of the best recently on my blog.


Writing Powerful "Tell All" Brochures

A brochure should not be an illustrated version of your letter. Your letter is a sales pitch, meant to be read generally in sequence from beginning to end. It should make a personal, emotional connection. And it should make a promise and ask for the order.

Your brochure, on the other hand, is factual support for the letter, meant to be scanned or read in any order. It is less personal. It should illustrate features, list benefits, provide proofs, make comparisons, and list technical details to lend credibility to what your letter claims.

As the saying goes, "The letter sells. The brochure tells."

  • Make a visual impact. If your letter has done its job, your prospect should be saying, "Sounds good. Show me." Illustrate the use of your product, its benefits and results. Show how your promise will be fulfilled. Use photos, illustrations, diagrams, charts, tables, and other visual aids.
  • Make the brochure readable. Use design to draw the reader into the copy, not to call attention to itself. Use a serif typeface. Indent paragraphs. Avoid large blocks of italic or reversed type. Divide your copy into short sections. Highlight important items with borders, boxes, and color. Use bullet lists for miscellaneous or technical information.
  • Use headlines to tell a complete story. Instead of empty headlines and subheads, such as "Why customers love Yahoo Widgets," use specific and complete sentences, such as "You'll love Yahoo Widgets because they last longer and cost less." Some people will only scan the headers, so make sure they get the gist of your message at a glance.
  • Start strong on the cover. A brochure isn't a stage show where you have to wait for the curtain to open before the drama begins. Put a big benefit in your main headline right on the front cover. Use secondary headlines for secondary benefits. Then use copy and graphics to lead your reader through the rest of the brochure.
  • Develop your big benefit immediately. Use your first few sentences to summarize what the rest of the brochure will detail. This will help readers understand what is to follow. And it will help scanners by putting most of the important ideas up front.
  • Highlight the benefits and list the features. Benefits are what sell. And every important benefit should be highlighted, perhaps with subheads and detailed copy. But don't forget the features. Some people make final decisions based on what features are or are not included, so don't leave out anything.
  • Restate the offer clearly. Have you presented a persuasive pitch for the offer in your letter? Good. But since the brochure's purpose is to support the letter, you must restate the offer. Illustrate it. Detail it. Dramatize it. Include premiums, deadlines, toll-free number, and ordering instructions.
  • Feature a strong guarantee. A guarantee reduces the fear of getting stuck with a lemon and increases confidence in your company. It's one of the few techniques that almost universally boosts response. Use it.
  • Group your testimonials. Testimonials support your claims. But they also engage the bandwagon effect - lots of people use your product or service, so it must be desirable. Sprinkling testimonials around your brochure diminishes this effect.
  • Use the most effective selling format. If you want to make a big impression, use a broadside. If you have a long story to tell, use a booklet. If your offer is simple, use a flier. Select the format based on what is needed for a particular promotion, not on arbitrary design specs.
  • Include all vital data. In addition to benefits, features, offer, and everything else already mentioned, don't forget your company name, address, phone, fax, e-mail, Web site, regional offices, contacts, location maps, etc.
  • Test your package with no brochure. An envelope implicitly says, "There's a letter inside." So you must have a letter. However, you don't necessarily need a brochure. In fact, some promotions often do just as well (or better) without one, including lead generation and simple offers for well-known brands or easy-to-understand items, such as newsletters, magazines, or informational products.

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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.