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


"What you say in advertising is more important than how you say it." -David Ogilvy


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Are you doing direct marketing? Are you sure?

It's been said that a rose is a rose. Maybe. But advertising is not advertising.

There are many forms of advertising. The one that comes most naturally to people is the passive announcement, such as running an ad in a newspaper announcing that a product or business exists. This type of advertising requires repetition and is based on the idea that if you build recognition for something, people will be more likely to choose it later on when they're ready to buy.

If you intend to do direct marketing, however, the passive announcement doesn't cut it. Direct marketing is based on the idea that you want to sell something now, not later. The type of advertising used in direct marketing is called "direct response advertising," because you seek a "direct" response to the ad.

For a direct response ad to work, you need three basic elements. 1) An offer. 2) Enough information for immediate acceptance of the offer. 3) A mechanism for responding to the offer.

Without each of these, you don't have a direct response advertisement. And you are not doing direct marketing.


Start your sales letters with a KISS.

I see a lot of sales letters these days starting with a long opening sentence or a lengthy first paragraph.

There are no hard rules on this, but in general a big block of copy is not a good way to entice people to start reading a letter.

My solution? I start with a KISS: Keep It Short Stupid. When I start a letter, I generally use a short, punchy, one-sentence paragraph. For example, I just finished a letter for a business training organization. The first sentence reads, "The traditional salesman is dead." That's it. That's the whole first paragraph.

Here are some other examples of first lines I've used in direct mail letters:

  • (Child sponsorship) Please look closely at the picture of this little girl.
  • (Newsletter promotion) I'll tell you flat out, this is not for everyone.
  • (Magazine subscription) This letter is all about a magazine that wasn't meant for you.
  • (Product trial) I want to send you this new wireless headset to try FREE for 60 days!
  • (Book offer) I could just kick myself!
This is not the only way to start a letter, but it's pretty foolproof. Think of the first sentence as a headline that simply doesn't have all the normal requirements of a headline. All it really has to do is get attention and arouse curiosity to keep people reading.

Try it on your next letter and see how it works out.


Boosting Your Business-to-Business Sales

Selling to the business buyer is not as different as some would have you believe. Business buyers are just people, with the same problems, fears, feelings, and dreams as everyone else. However, they are particularly busy. They are often not spending their own money. And buying decisions are often made on many levels. Here are a few tips to help you improve response to your business-to-business direct mail:
  • Generate leads first to qualify prospects. Many business products require a significant investment of time and resources, or they're complex or expensive. That makes buying and selling more difficult. However, breaking your sales process into two steps can help you identify the best prospects faster and cut per customer costs.
  • Send "keeper" information. Depending on the buying cycle of your typical customer, it could be months or years before a promotion pays off. It's always wise to provide complete information that can be easily filed away for future reference.
  • Make your mail look important and personal. You must get past secretaries and the mailroom. Often, plain outer envelopes are best. For fulfillment, put "Here is the information you requested" or something similar on the outside. Invitation formats also work. Product samples, a message to the secretary with benefits for her or him, and dimensional packages have proved successful for many businesses.
  • Mail to different job titles. In large companies, decisions are made on many levels, so you must prove to all those levels that doing business with you is beneficial and safe. Try mailing to different job titles simultaneously, perhaps with versioned copy addressing each level's concerns. Or you might encourage pass-alongs of the same piece.
  • Provide complete information. Business decisions require more consideration. That's why it's vital to provide complete product specifications and detailed features. However, make sure you have a solid sales pitch with clear benefits. You can't bore business buyers into buying.
  • Nix the jargon. There is a certain language in every field you should tune into, including buzz words, business concepts, and hot industry topics. However, there's a difference between speaking someone's language and hiding behind it. If you have something to say, say it in simple, straightforward prose.
  • Make responding easy. Just as in consumer marketing, inertia is one of your worst enemies. Combat this by giving a toll-free number to call, providing business reply cards, explaining your billing and shipping policies, featuring your guarantee, and anything else that makes it easy for someone to say "yes" to your offer.
  • Use good direct marketing technique. In general, what works for consumers works for businesses. This doesn't mean you have to do flashy sweepstakes-like promotions, but you don't have to dress every message in a suit and tie, either. Your copy must be easy to read. You must present clear benefits. Your design should encourage reading and establish the appropriate image.
  • Avoid chest-beating corporate brochures. You might be in love with your corporate mission and those inspiring pictures of your headquarters at sunset. However, is that what is most important to your customer? A brochure should have a clear, specific purpose. Stick to that purpose and save the heady language and images for your annual report. (It may not even belong there!)
  • Keep literature up-to-date. When you change something about your business or add products or services, make the appropriate changes in your literature. Don't be one of those companies still using brochures from the mid-seventies -- with people wearing sideburns, bell bottoms, and wide lapels.
  • Use more letters. To generate leads, a letter with a reply card or fax-back sheet and maybe a toll-free number may be all you need. With a simple package like this you can generate leads for free information, sales calls, or demonstrations. Letters can be used for all sorts of messages. They're personal, cheap, fast, flexible, and easy to produce.
  • Try self-mailers. They encourage pass-alongs to decision makers. They're easier and more self-contained than multi-piece mailers, although not as personal. And they can dramatically cut costs compared to larger direct mail packages or more elaborate brochures. Sometimes, their economy can outperform everything else, including personal letters.
  • Use card decks and bingo cards cautiously. In general, card decks and bingo cards deliver loose leads -- often very loose. That's because they allow "tire kickers" to get free information with almost no effort. They're good for building a mailing list or calling list or for distributing information, but test carefully for actual lead quality.

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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.