Direct Creative - Copy & Design for Direct Marketing
June 2009

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Quote of the Month

This is my favorite quote of all time:

"Let's say you have $1,000,000 tied up in your little company and suddenly your advertising isn't working and sales are going down. And everything depends on it. Your future depends on it, your family's future depends on it, other people's families depend on it. Now, what do you want from me? Fine writing? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?" - Rosser Reeves"

On the Blog

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

Make extra cash writing resumes

I just read today that the national unemployment rate has hit 9.1%. In some states it's even higher. Here in Ohio where I live, it's 11.1%. In Michigan, it's a staggering 14.1%. That's bad news for people out of work, but good news for you if you want a little extra income writing resumes. Even people who aren't out of work are looking to change jobs to find a little more security.

Check out The Pro Resume Writer Program to see how you can make as much as $150 an hour using your skills to write resumes and feeling good that you're providing a much needed service. Just one job will more than pay for this course.

Response Booster: Target your selling message

Everyone's hot buttons are different. If you're mailing to a variety of markets, adapt your message to each one. For example, if you're selling an accounting software program to home computer users, you might stress the benefits of getting control of finances, easier budgeting, or faster tax form preparation. If you're selling the same program to home businesses, you might highlight the benefits of saving time, being more competitive, or eliminating paperwork.

Get famous fast with your own radio show!

These days, everyone assumes the Internet is the only way to make yourself known. But with billions of sites competing against yours, you probably won't get seen as often as you think. But there's an "old fashioned" way to promote yourself or your business - radio.

I help run a political organization in Ohio and we started a weekly radio show a few months ago on a popular AM talk station. Almost instantly, we were heard by thousands of listeners with minimal work or cost. Basically, once your show is on the air, you just have to talk about interesting things.

How do you get stared? Get this how-to guide and do exacty what it says.

Where do you draw the line on "clever" selling tactics?

Years ago, I was sitting in a bar with Denny Hatch, former editor of Target Marketing Magazine. We were discussing "J" letters. That's one of those letters you get with a yellow sticky note that reads "I thought you'd like this. - J."

The idea is to make it look like someone you know sent the item to you and thus impart some credibility. The letter "J" is used because it's the first letter of so many names: Jim, John, JoAnn, or whoever.

We were discussing whether the tactic was ethical. I had some doubts and he thought it was perfectly okay.

Denny had a good argument for the "J" letter: If it doesn't harm the person, it's ethical. So we could say that the "J" letter is just a psychological trick. If it doesn't lie about the product or cheat you, the tactic is acceptable.

Ethics in marketing and advertising can be tricky. There are things which are clearly wrong, most of which are spelled out the the DMA Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. But many things fall into a gray area, including many copy and design tactics.

If you doubt this issue matters, read what I wrote about the ethics issue some years ago when the big sweepstakes companies were having legal issues over the words they used in their direct mail pieces. It was a very big issue indeed.

How to Run a Brainstorming Session

Got an impossible problem? Need fresh ideas? Looking for that breakthrough concept? Brainstorming may be the solution to all these things and more.
If you've had bad luck with brainstorming, you're just not doing it right. Because in my experience, as long as you have the right group of people, holding a brainstorming session is like throwing a match into a room full of firecrackers. There's a sudden and powerful chain reaction.

Here are a few suggestions for creating some fireworks of your own.

Before Your Session
  • Select a leader. You need someone who will remain realistic and low-key, stifle negative statements, and keep the group on track.
  • Define your problem. Just write a sentence or two that clearly defines the subject your group will address.
  • Create an agenda. List the topics you want to cover and any specific brainstorming techniques you want to try. Prepare a few ideas in advance to serve as a starter and be prepared to suggest questions to help spark ideas.
  • Set time limits. It's usually best to keep it short, about 15 to 45 minutes. If you go longer, take breaks every hour to keep people fresh.
  • Set quotas. The idea is to work fast and produce lots of ideas that will be evaluated at another time. You can set an overall quota or individual quotas for each topic. Coming up with 100 or more ideas isn't hard. Just two ideas a minute will add up to 120 in an hour.
  • Select your participants. A mixed, energetic group of the same general rank is best. Don't invite authority figures who may stifle the group's openness.
  • Circulate background information. Announce your session (never call it a "meeting") and prime the participants with your problem statement, background information, and examples of the kind of ideas you're looking for.
During Your Session
  • Review the problem. Don't put people to sleep; just quickly go over the problem, background data, and what you hope to accomplish. If there are questions, answer them before you begin.
  • Establish the ground rules. Decide what can and can't be done and read your rules to the group. For example: Participants WILL contribute lots of ideas, share every idea that comes to mind, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking. Participants WILL NOT criticize any idea, hold back an idea because it may sound silly, or evaluate ideas during the session.
  • Take detailed notes. You need someone who can write fast. An option is to record the session and transcribe notes later.
After Your Session
  • Allow time for more ideas. If you've had a productive session, ideas will continue to occur to people for hours or days afterward. Ask everyone to write down these ideas and submit them.
  • Type up all ideas. The final product of a session will be a multi-page document that lists every single idea created. Nothing should be edited. Organize or classify these ideas in some fashion for later evaluation.
  • Evaluate and choose. It's often best for those responsible for the problem to evaluate the ideas, though you can run into "idea ownership" problems. On the other hand, another group may not be able to grasp the significance of many of the ideas generated. You'll have to experiment. Either way, I suggest a smaller evaluation group - fewer than six. Don't rule out crazy ideas too quickly. Allow yourselves to develop the ideas as needed.
When the dust settles, you'll probably find yourself with a bunch of really stupid ideas, but so what? You'll also have a handful of surprisingly good ideas. And the whole process can energize your staff and improve morale.

Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work perfectly. It often takes time to assemble the right group, create an open atmosphere, and produce the best results. As with so many other things in life, practice makes perfect.

Is there a novel inside you screaming to get out?

Long ago, I spent many hours scribbling stories, dreaming of being a best-selling author. Trouble was I had no idea what kind of stories were selling or how to go about getting published. A few rejections turned me off to the idea and I concluded that this was no way to make a living.

Fast forward a couple decades and I meet a retired engineer who decided to write fiction ... and got a 3-book deal for about $500,000. How did he do it? I've learned it really isn't as hard as it once seemed to me. Writing for Love & Money: How to Become a Successful Romance Writer shows how an average writer can break into the ever-popular romance market, write compelling stories, and get published. It's basically a step-by-step plan that promises to help you crank out your first manuscript in a matter of months. 

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

Copyright 2009 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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