Rieck's Response Letter
January 2009

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Quote of the Month

"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when his neck is out." - Anonymous

On the Blog

Visit my blog to get copywriting and design tips for direct marketing success. Here are some of the most recent posts:

3 predictions for the future of direct marketing

Do me a favor, will you? Stumble, Digg, or bookmark my blog posts and share them with others. Thanks.

The secret for Web site success is ...

... stop making people think. People are looking for information on your Web site, not puzzles. In Don't Make Me Think, Steve Krug shows you how people really use your Web site, why they actually leave, smart ways to organize your pages, and more. This is not just an informative book, it's fun to read. Click here to find out why it's the #1 best selling Web design guide of all time.

Response Booster: Use proven techniques

While there is no set of universal techniques that works best in all circumstances, there are a few that are nearly universal:
  • A yes/no offer usually beats offers without a no option.
  • A negative option offer usually beats a positive option offer.
  • An offer with a time limit usually beats an offer with no time limit.
  • An offer with a free gift usually beats discount offers.
  • Sweepstakes usually increase order volume (but customers are not loyal).
  • Benefits beat features.
  • Envelope packages usually beat self-mailers
  • A print ad with a bind-in card usually beats an ad without a bind-in card.
  • A 2-minute television spot usually beats a 1-minute television spot.

Getting Response in a Down Economy

Times are tough for many businesses these days. But while the Chicken Littles are clucking that the sky is falling, I beg to differ. 

The market is far more resilient that some pundits would have you believe. All we need to do is look to the past to see that this is true. Economies run in cycles. Boom and bust is a natural and inevitable process. Since this has happened so frequently, history shows us that economic downturns do not signal the end of business as we know it.

Quite the contrary. History shows us two important facts: markets always recover and those who panic end up losers.

Nothing has fundamentally changed about the marketplace. Resources, infrastructure, and a robust consumer population still exist. Yes, there are real problems out there, such as (at the time of this writing) a rising unemployment rate that has reached nearly 7%. But what gets lost in the conversation is that this means 93% of the population IS working. And even those who are between jobs are not living on the streets.

In other words, the sky is not falling. What's really happening is that:
  1. Fear and uncertainty underlie many decisions now.
  2. People are postponing many buying decisions.
  3. More decisions are being made on price.
So it's not that people aren't buying. They ARE buying, it's just that they're slower and more cautious, so it's harder to sell to them. Harder, not impossible. That's an important distinction, because if you assume people don't want to buy now, you will make less effort to sell to them than you should and may end up suppressing your own profits.

(This is a short excerpt from a White Paper I'm working on. Stay tuned. I plan to make it available to all my newsletter readers.)

Can you raise prices AND make more money?

If you read the preceding item about the economy, you know that people are making more decisions based on price. But that doesn't mean you should necessarily lower your prices. In fact, there are ways to increase your prices and actually make more money. In Pricing Psychology Report and 46 Ways to Raise Prices, Marlene Jensen reveals the "magic" numbers, psychological tricks in discounting, top 6 signs that you're underpriced, and more. Click here to read more about these two informative reports.

8 Resolutions You MUST Keep This Year

I know it's tough to keep resolutions. But there are some marketing resolutions you should consider making and keeping. Even if you only keep one or two, you will be ahead of the game.

Start testing carefully and regularly. You should establish clear, specific goals for every promotion. Run statistically valid tests. Track your results meticulously, including response rate, conversion, cost per order, and every other statistic you need. Analyze your numbers and use your results to determine creative strategy. I am continually flabbergasted by the number of businesses who sabotage their success by testing haphazardly or not at all.

Stop shortchanging the creative budget. You've spent a fortune researching and developing your product, you've bought the best lists, and you're prepared to make a powerful offer. So why are you suddenly a tightwad when it comes to hiring your creative team? Proven talent doesn't come cheap. Direct response is a specialty. Pay the price and get the best.

Start talking to customers. You may know age, income, gender, and other basic customer demographics, but can you describe your ideal customer? Concerns? Fears? Attitudes? Objections? Complaints? Lifestyle? Affiliations? You should be able to paint a picture of your customer that is clear and specific. Most businesses are thinking about a survey or planning a study, but few actually carry through. Be one of the few. It can lead to more targeted advertising.  

Stop using copy as a crutch. Powerful words can lead to powerful results, but don't expect verbal magic to salvage shoddy products, overcome bad lists, or camouflage stingy offers. Let me clue you in on a secret from the front lines: Great advertising starts with great copy. And great copy starts with great products.

Start collecting testimonials. Don't just file a few lame blurbs that drift in and rehash them year after year. Create an active, ongoing system for collecting as many testimonials and success stories as you can get. This will increase the number of powerful ones you have for inserts, headlines, teasers, letter stories, and dozens of other promotional applications. Testimonials are potent psychological triggers. Use them.

Stop stealing copy. We should all learn from successful advertising, and the philosophy of "stealing smart" has its merits. But the key word here is "smart." Randomly lifting headlines, letter openings, and other copy is a sign that you simply don't know what you're doing and that you're looking for a magic formula. Be honest with yourself. If you don't know how to write an ad, hire someone who does. (If I see one more "Got Milk?" rip-off, I'll snap. "Got tech stocks?" "Got printer cartridges?" "Got white zinfandel?" Pu-leeze!)

Start developing some freebies. Offering free stuff is the best way to generate inquiries and sales leads, but freebies can also be useful for premiums, gifts, handouts, testimonial incentives, etc. You should always have a freebie ready to go when you need it - booklet, brochure, survey, sample, catalog, sales sheet, whatever. "Free" is one of the two most powerful words in the language, and a freebie lets you use it. (What is the other word? "You," of course.)

Stop hiding the guarantee. Make it visible. Flaunt it. Add it to your sales letter call to action. Highlight it in a box on your brochure. Feature it on the order form. Use it to create a stand-alone insert. Your guarantee is proof that you are reputable. It lowers your customer's perceived risk and can, therefore, boost your response - but only if your customer can see it. After all, what are you afraid of? A sudden flood of returns? If you think that, you have  bigger problems to deal with. So deal with them before you advertise.

Become a Rockstar Freelancer!

If you've ever thought of starting a freelance career, you might want to take a look at How to be a Rockstar Freelancer. It gives you the nuts and bolts for getting clients, juggling multiple projects, managing your budget, and more. It's not a get-rich-quick guide. It's just clear, practical advice written by Collis and Cyan Ta'eed of the FreelanceSwitch blog. You'd be surprised how easy it is to make $50,000 a year part time or $100,000 or more with just a little work. Click here for details.

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
Web: www.DirectCreative.com

Copyright 2009 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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