7 Powerful Tactics to Increase Your Sales Letter Response

I was browsing some old article files recently and ran across this piece on sales letters from more than 15 years ago.

My first reaction was, “Crap. I’m getting old.”

My second reaction was, “Hey, this ain’t bad.”

While technology changes significantly and rapidly year to year, the principles of selling change very little. Stuff is stuff. People are people. And selling is just about bringing the two together with a little psychology.

So, here you go. An article from the 90s. Aside from too many ellipses, I think this is as fresh and relevant today as it was then.

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When you mail out promotional items, it’s best to enclose a sales letter to relay your product pitch. A well-written sales letter adds punch to the marketing of any business, large or small.

Of course, no formula can assure success for every letter. But there are time-tested tactics that can dramatically improve your chances. Here are seven of them. Read more

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12 fast direct mail tests for cheapskates

cheap direct mail testsSo you want to boost your direct mail response? Okay, just start shoveling money into a few dozen tests and …

What’s that? You don’t have a big budget for all the testing you’d love to do? You don’t have time to run a bunch of tests? No problem.

One of the great things about direct mail is that, with just a little ingenuity, you can test quickly and on the cheap to improve your results.

Here are 12 quick and easy testing ideas for cheapskates:

Change your outer envelope. A new color or a different size may be all it takes to get people to take a second look at a package they’ve seen too many times. You can also try switching from a teaser envelope to a plain one or vice versa. And faux express envelopes are often worth a test.

Test a new letter. It can be an all-new letter from scratch. Or a longer version of your current letter with more detail. Or a shorter version with less detail. Or a modified version with a new spin on the headlines and opening paragraphs.

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The Importance of Being Trivial

mail pouch barnDo you like the title of this article? I stole it from chapter 3 of The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch.

Back in the 40s and 50s, Flesch was hailed as the guru of clear, direct writing. His advice remains powerful and relevant today.

When Flesch recommended being “trivial,” he meant you should use details to energize your writing. That requires researching your subject and sharing specifics with your reader to create vivid mental images.

I can illustrate this simple idea with the following two descriptions.

Version 1:
I drove from Virginia to Ohio. In no hurry, I took the back roads to enjoy the scenery. Along the way, I saw a bunch of those old Mail Pouch barns. You see barns anytime you pass through rural areas, but the Mail Pouch barns are famous.

They started as ordinary barns, but painters transformed them into advertisements. They offered to paint the whole barn if the farmer agreed to an advertisement on the side. Few farmers could resist. At one point there were Mail Pouch barns along many roads in several states.

Version 2:
I drove my old Ford F-10 from Roanoke, Virginia to Chillocothe, Ohio. In no hurry, I avoided the busy interstate and took the back roads to enjoy the colorful Fall leaves. Along the way, I saw at least 20 of those old Mail Pouch barns. You see barns anytime you pass through rural areas, but many of the Mail Pouch barns are listed as National Historic Landmarks.

They started as ordinary barns, but from 1890 to 1992 painters working for the West Virginia Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco company transformed them into roadside advertisements. “Mr. Farmer,” they would say, “If you let me paint a Mail Pouch advertisement on the side of your barn, I’ll paint the rest of your barn for free.”

Few farmers could resist. At one point there were 20,000 Mail Pouch barns along the roads across 22 states urging drivers to “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco.”

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Getting to “yes”: 4 keys for instant credibility

marketing rule of authoritypart 2 of a 2-part article

In the first part of this article, I told you an incredible story about the Rule of Authority, how titles, clothing, and trappings can help you get to “Yes.”

Now I’d like to suggest that you go one more step.

Instead of just giving the “appearance” of authority, why not establish actual authority?

I’m talking about credibility. Real credibility. And what does it take to establish credibility? According to a mountain of psychological research, there are four basic elements:

The first two are most important, but they all play a part.

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Getting to “yes”: the magic rule of authority

marketing rule of authoritypart 1 of a 2-part article

This is a true story …

Decked out in a uniform, badge, and baton, a television reporter stationed himself in front of a Las Vegas bank. On the ATM, he placed a sign with large lettering that read OUT OF ORDER — GIVE DEPOSITS TO GUARD ON DUTY. In the center of the sign was the shape of a large, gold badge.

When bank customers approached the ATM, the “guard” smiled, looked them straight in the eyes, and asked, “Do you need to make a deposit or a withdrawal?”

No bank would ever allow a guard to conduct private transactions like this, but were people suspicious? Not a bit. Without hesitation, customer after customer handed over not only cash and checks, but also Social Security numbers, credit cards, account numbers, PIN codes … private information that in the wrong hands could leave them penniless.

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Mastering the almighty advertorial space ad

advertorial sample

Click picture to see advertorial sample.

There are basically two types of space advertising: promotional ads and advertorials.

Each has its place in your marketing toolbox. However, while most copywriters and designers have at least a fair understanding of promotional ads, advertorials can pose a challenge.

Designers in particular have issues with advertorials because they’re ugly.

So let’s take a look at a sample advertorial and see what makes it tick.

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3 little hints for effective limited-time offers

limited time offersPeople are procrastinators. That’s why the limited-time offer remains one of the most effective direct marketing techniques in the known universe.

It’s not an insult to call your prospects and customers procrastinators. It’s just true. I readily admit that I procrastinate. And I’ll bet you do too.

After all, making decisions takes effort. And every day forces us to make an endless series of decisions. What will we wear? What will we eat? What will we buy for that birthday? Will we go to the beach or the mountains for vacation? Which school will our kids attend? Will we say yes to the party invitation? Should we apply for that new job? Can we afford the new car?

Your customers live busy lives. They’re stressed and tired. And they don’t want to put any more effort into making a decision about your product or service than they have to. If they can put it off, they will. And that means a lost opportunity for them and a lost sale for you.

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9 editing tactics to supercharge your selling copy

copywriting editing tipsAs any professional copywriter knows, writing copy is often the easy part of a project. It’s the editing that’s hard.

After all, who wants to mess with copy once it’s written? It’s agonizing to rip into your own prose. But that’s exactly what it takes to turn good copy into great copy.

Here are 9 ways to polish and energize your copy when you give it that second go-around.

Write long and cut. It’s easier to overwrite and cut than to underwrite and add. Get everything down — no matter how sloppy or rough — then go back to trim and rearrange.

Be ruthless. Don’t fall in love with your own patter. Stay focused on your big idea and the action you want to create. Get rid of everything that doesn’t support response.

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10+ tips for making the most of your customer testimonials

testimonial tipsAround this time last year, I shared my SPURF method for collecting testimonials.

I’m sure you’ve been spurfing up a storm and have tons of testimonials by now. So let’s look at how to make them work for you.

Select testimonials from customers similar to your prospect. This increases the feeling of identification and relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners.

The more similarity you can show, the more weight your prospect will give to your testimonials. Even seemingly nonsensical similarities, such as where people live, have an effect. “Oh, he’s from Ohio too!”

Select testimonials that give specifics. Consider these two testimonials for a lawn fertilizer:

“I think Lawn Magic is a wonderful product. My lawn looks great.”

“For 6 years I tried every weed control powder and spray at my local garden store, but nothing could get rid of those darned dandelions. Then I saw your ad for Lawn Magic and decided to give it a try. I got it in the mail last Saturday and immediately tried the Quick Cover method you suggested and WOW! Just a week later, there’s not a single speck of yellow anywhere – except in my neighbor’s yard.”

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The Cedar Plank Salmon Secret of Selling

selling cedar plank salmonFine restaurants in the Pacific Northwest had been serving cedar plank salmon for years. But Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks wanted to sell a home version.

Their idea was to manufacture a 6” x 12” piece of cedar wood. You put your salmon on the wood plank, put the plank into your home barbecue, and—voilà—cedar plank salmon.

When Aldrich met with the seafood buyer for the Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, he didn’t bother with sales patter. He just said, “I’m here to help you sell more salmon.” Then he let the buyer taste a filet cooked on one of his cedar planks. The reaction? “Wow!”

Aldrich provided some facts and benefits, but the buyer was sold with the first taste. Within a week, Aldrich and Maddocks had lucrative orders from more than 100 Fred Meyer stores. And they sold truckloads of those little cedar planks.

The lesson here is simple. One of the best ways to sell is to let your product sell itself. With a few proven techniques, you simply give your prospects a “taste” and their enthusiasm does the rest.

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