Rieck's Response Letter
February 2009

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Note: Occasional errors in this newsletter exist to bring joy to readers who find them and point them out. Please don't spoil their fun by demanding perfection from me.

NEW BOOK: The Architecture of Persuasion

If you're a copywriter, you almost certainly know who Michael Masterson is. Not only is he a well-known copywriter, he's also head of American Writers & Artists Inc., a copywriter training and publishing empire.

Michael just informed me that he's published a new book called The Architecture of Persuasion where he reveals his 5-step formula for writing control-crushing sales letters. In addition, if you purchase the book immediately for only $24.95, you'll also get six FREE bonuses that total $204.95. (I don't know how long he'll make this offer, so I recommend you make a decision quick.)

The bonuses include The 7 Daily Habits of Successful Copywriters, Seven Deadly Myths of Web Writing, The Big Idea: How to Find and Develop a Captivating Idea that Sets Your Promotion Apart from the Crowd, and more. I think there's also a free audio interview with Bob Bly, so that's really seven bonuses.

Click here to read the details and get your copy now.

Quote of the Month

"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'" - Dave Barry

On the Blog

Earn $500 a page to write video scripts?

I know it sounds too good to be true. But you CAN earn good money writing video scripts. I know because I started my career writing for an NBC affiliate and I've used that know-how to write all sorts of videos over the years even though I'm known as the "direct mail guy."

Today, a lot of the video work is online. eMarketer estimates that by 2011 advertisers will spend $2.3 BILLION on online video marketing efforts. That means this niche will quadruple in size in just two years! Businesses will be hurting for good video writers.

Marketing With Video Online for Profit is a program that shows you everything you need to know, including how to ...
  • Plan a video from start to finish
  • Write a video script
  • Storyboard a video script
  • Shoot a video and make it look professional
  • Edit a video and make sure it's persuasive and compelling
  • Distribute a video online for maximum marketing exposure
  • Contract your services
CLICK HERE to check it out. My understanding is that the publisher is running a special right now offering $50 off the regular price. One paying video project will pay back your purchase price many times over.

Response Booster: Offer something free whenever possible

A gentleman e-mailed me recently and asked if overexposure to "free" offers has dulled its effect. My answer? No. People have always loved getting something free and always will. You can almost always boost your response by offering something for free: free premium, free dollars-off coupon, free sample, free accessories, free upgrade, free consultation, free issue, free book. "Free" works. Use it.

FREE business magazines. No catch.

I've mentioned this before, but since hundreds of new subscribers have signed up recently, I thought I should mention it again.

I've set up a store where you can subscribe to business magazines free. Here are some of the magazines available, but there are lots more. There's no cost. No limits. Subscribe to as many as you want as often as you want.

Am I a generous guy or what?

Brand Packaging
BtoB Magazine
Business Week
Catalog Success
Fast Company
Internet Retailer
Mailing Systems Technology
NonProfit Times
Smart Meetings
Streaming Media Magazine
Target Marketing
Website Magazine

Click here for more ...

Are you "satisficing" your customers?

Over the weekend, I read Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think, a book on Web usability. In Chapter 2, he discusses the concept of "satisficing," a term coined by economist Herbert Simon. It's a combination of the words "satisfying" and "sufficing."

We tend to think that people are reasonable and rational. So we assume that when people are faced with making a decision, they will gather all the facts, consider all possible solutions, then logically choose the best. But studies show this is rarely how people make decisions in real-world situations.

Krug uses the example of firefighting field commanders. A study showed that instead of using a step-by-step decision-making process, they simply "took the first reasonable plan that came to mind and did a quick mental test for problems. If they didn't find any, they had their plan of action."

This is exactly what I've been saying for years about how people make buying decisions. The decision is made almost instantaniously and based on an immediate emotional reaction, a want or need. The only mental work people do is rationalizing why the purchase should or should not be made.

The implications for creating advertising should be obvious. You must grab attention and interest almost instantly, not through clever copy and artful design but through clear, relevant words and visuals that align with existing wants and needs. Then you must then provide enough information to allow the person to conclude that their want or need is justified, that there is little or no risk, and that a purchase is wise. 

In other words, you don't "convince" people to buy something. You present something they already want and remove all the perceived barriers to buying it. For most products and services, people won't survey all possible options. They will go with the first option that seems reasonable.

The Secret of Powerful Advertising

Edmund Burke, a British statesman, once said, "Facts are to the mind what food is to the body." And if ever there were a secret for how to create effective direct mail and ads, that is it. Because great advertising always has something substantive and relevant to say. And to say something substantive and relevant, you must have command of the facts.

So before you get caught up in the creative whirlwind of writing and designing, collect all the information you can. Read, ask questions, dig, let your curiosity roam free. It's like panning for gold. Eventually, you turn up the shiny nuggets that can turn your advertising into profit.

Here are some of the questions you should find the answers to on every promotion:
  • What is the product, service, or cause?
  • What are the features? Which are most important?
  • What are the benefits of these features? What problems are solved? What needs are met?
  • What is the positioning in the marketplace?
  • What is the unique selling proposition? How is this better, bigger, cheaper, longer lasting, more popular, etc.?
  • What is the story behind this product, service, or cause? How did it all begin?
  • Who is the competition? What are the differences? How is this better?
  • What is known about the company? Interesting history? Well-know owner? Years in business? Awards? Other divisions? Size?  
  • What is the price point?
  • Is there a sample to try? A sample of the competition?
  • Who is the prospect? Demographics? Psychographics? Needs? Beliefs? Work titles?
  • What are the common objections from buyers, customers, donors?
  • What testimonials or endorsements are available? Newspaper clips? Reviews? Celebrities?
  • What is the basic assignment here? Direct mail package? Print ad? Radio spot? TV spot? Web site? Complete campaign?
  • What is the objective? Inquiries? Direct sales? Donations? Beat the control? Higher initial response? More orders per thousand? Loose leads? Tight leads? Generate traffic? Compile a house list?
  • What is the offer? Free trial? Introductory deal? Premium with order or review? Time limit? Free information? What is the strongest offer possible?
  • What is the promise? More money? Better health? Greater comfort? Solution to a problem?
  • What creative techniques have worked? Failed?
  • What is the budget? (You're joking!)
  • What is the deadline for creative? (You want it when?!)
  • What lists/media have been used? Based on tests, what has worked? Failed?
  • Are there ad samples? Response data for each? Samples from competitors?
  • What will be tested? Offer? Format? Copy? Positioning? Other?
  • Any legalese or required copy?
  • How is payment accepted? Credit card? Cash? Bill me? Purchase Order?
  • How are orders/responses accepted? Mail? Phone? Fax? Computer? Collect calls? Toll-free number? Which is most efficient?
  • How are products delivered? USPS? UPS? FedEx? Priority Mail? Other?
  • What is the guarantee? How can it be made stronger?
  • What background information is available? Articles? Collateral? Creative briefs? Memos? Demographic studies? Focus group reports?
  • Who else has information? Product manager or developer? Customers? Donors? Sales reps? Fulfillment? Phone operators?
Don't rush through this information gathering phase. I often spend half my time on it. And believe me, it's time well spent. As I collect information, ideas start popping into my head. Offers spring to life. Headlines write themselves. What needs to be done to maximize response suddenly becomes obvious and effortless.

Take your writing skills to the next level!

Don't believe the hype that anyone can be a good copywriter. The truth is, if you want to be a good copywriter, you have to first be a good writer. And good writing always begins with the ability to craft clear, powerful sentences.

The Teaching Company offers a superb course called Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft. This isn't an e-book or a quick video, it's a full-blown university course consisting of 24 half-hour lectures by a respected professor working at The University of Iowa.

You'll learn a variety of ways to construct sentences, from the smallest clause to the longest sentence. You'll also discover why some lengthy sentences flow effortlessly while others stumble along, why you are captivated by some writers and not others, and how you can you craft sentences that reflect your own unique style.

If you've never heard of The Teaching Company, I can assure you everything they sell is top-notch. I've been a customer for many years. They're fanatical about quality. So fanatical, they offer a lifetime guarantee. I was so impressed with them that 10 years ago I wrote a piece about their guarantee in Direct Marketing Magazine. A quote from that article has appeared in every catalog they've mailed since then.

They have a massive sale going on now and you can get Building Great Sentences for as little as $34.95. The regular price is as much as $254.95, depending on the format you want (DVD, CD, Tape, Download).

CLICK HERE to see the contents, chapter list, reviews, the professor's bio, and more.

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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