The 25 most popular articles of 2009

Is it the end of the year already? Seems like it was Spring, then I blinked, and now the year is nearly over.

It’s always interesting and instructive to look back over a year’s worth of blog data to see what people are reading. This year, the most popular article by far was the one on website eye tracking. I’m not sure if it was the content of the article or that big blue eye photo that caught people’s attention.

The most controversial proved to be the post on the Dunning-Druger Effect, which sparked some debate about whether it’s real or I’m just an arrogant ass.

So here, in order, are the 25 most popular articles of 2009 based on Google statistics. They were not all posted this year, but they all attracted a great deal of interest.

  1. Eye tracking study reveals 12 website tactics
  2. What if a corporation created the STOP sign?
  3. The power of color in direct marketing
  4. 21 great headlines from trashy tabloids
  5. Cheap direct mail ideas can work wonders
  6. The Dunning-Kruger Effect and the secret for coping with the incompetents around you
  7. How to write the “classic direct mail package”
  8. Why slogans don’t sell
  9. 7 stupid ways to screw up your direct mail
  10. Speedwriting: 12 tips for writing faster
  11. Design and legibility: 10 basic principles of reading
  12. 5 simple SEO tips to boost your search traffic
  13. 3 predictions for the future of direct marketing
  14. Kaboom! The selling magic of Billy Mays
  15. Design and legibility: 7 tips for high ad readership
  16. Soup, sand, and rancid cheese: The craziest direct mail test in history
  17. 30 Timeless Direct Marketing Principles
  18. What does “freelance” really mean?
  19. Good direct mail design: let form follow function
  20. Snap Pack Facts: An interview with Ted Grigg
  21. Wacky Waiving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man
  22. Service pricing: Hourly rate or fixed fee?
  23. The direct mail envelope quandary: plain or bold
  24. How to use “official” envelopes for direct mail
  25. FTC cracks down on endorsements and testimonials
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Santa’s secrets of marketing success

Santa ClausWho would you say is the greatest marketer in history? Some might suggest Henry Ford or Montgomery Ward. Others would point to Ray Kroc or even Bill Gates. But I would suggest another person, someone whose efforts surpass these giants.

His name is Santa Claus. And he operates the oldest and most successful toy and gift manufacturing and distribution business in the world. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. In fact, I’m sure that you were once a loyal customer. Virtually everyone is at one point or another, which just proves how successful he really is.

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1 immutable law of social media marketing

social media marketingI just read an interesting article at eM+C titled 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing. It’s about the expectations and responsibilities you have with social media marketing.

The 9 laws are interesting and instructive, but I have a list that’s much simpler. My list includes just 1 law:

  1. Invest time to get people involved.

What’s nice about my list is that it’s the same as my list for any other type of marketing. Because social media marketing really isn’t too much different when you get right down to it.

Consider why a direct mail piece works. You want people to spend time with your product, think about it, get involved with it. The more involvement you get, the more sales you make.

The difference between traditional media and social media is that social media is, well, more social.

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Quick tips for writing variable direct mail copy

variable direct mail copyVariable copy is a response-boosting direct mail technique that has been around for a long time.

In the old days, you would print your piece (letter, reply, brochure, whatever) with blank spaces. Then you would run the piece through another machine to fill in the spaces with “variable” copy.

The variable copy could be a person’s name, a deadline date, a special price, etc. It looked a little ridiculous, since the variable copy never matched the rest of the printed piece and you had to leave a big space to allow for the copy dropped in.

But it worked.

Today, digital printing technology has made variable copy both easier and more believable. In many cases, you can personalize deep into the copy, inserting nearly any variable available. I use this technique whenever I can because it nearly always gives response a lift.

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Tweets and blogs and stuff

Things have been busy here at Direct Creative recently.

Not only am I getting swamped with work, I’ve been doing a few things to give you more ways to follow the tips I provide, connect with me, and learn about how to write good copy. I’m also looking for a few good copywriters.

So in no particular order, here they are:

Pro Copy Tips blog – If you haven’t visited yet, drop everything and go there now. The new blog is dedicated exclusively to copywriting and freelancing for “smart” copywriters. Here are some recent posts:

31 sales letter openers to kick start your sales pitch
Double your reading speed with this odd little trick
Blab and blather your way to great copywriting ideas
7 ways to drive a copywriter stark raving mad
Secret Google search hacks and tools for copywriters

I’m also in the middle of a series of articles on how to create a website to generate business for freelance copywriting.

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5 copywriting cheats to write better and faster

Copywriters are not starving artists living in ivory towers slaving over delicate poetry. They are sales people with word processors.

If you’re a copywriter, you have to write copy that works and stick to schedules. And no matter how creative and energetic you are, you can’t just pull great copy out of thin air day after day.

What I’m getting at is that it helps to have a few “cheats” up your sleeve to help you get the job done, better and faster.

So here are a few copywriting cheats that I’ve found helpful.

Lift key ideas from existing promotional materials. No, this is not plagiarism. There is no such thing as plagiarizing your own company or client. Most existing businesses have brochures, sales letters, print ads, annual reports, a website, product sheets, trade show materials, and all sorts of information ready-to-go.

Not only should you study all this as background, you should take notes on some of the better copy. Often you can find buried copy that would make a great headline or theme. Look at testimonials especially, since these can be a gold mine of copy ideas.

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Copywriter Information Center now live!

Copywriter Information CenterWhen I started out as a copywriter, few knew about copywriting as a profession outside of ad agencies or direct mail shops.

But in recent years, interest has grown dramatically. Maybe it’s the economy and job losses that has people seeking new opportunities. Or it could be the small industry that has grown around promoting copywriter career information.

Whatever it is, there are more people interested in discovering what this “copywriting thing” is all about than ever before.

I’m always getting questions about this, so I’ve put together a Copywriter Information Center on my main business website. Aspiring copywriters can find information about what copywriters do, who does the hiring, typical pay, available full-time jobs, and more.

I’ll be adding information over time, so bookmark the page for reference. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, let me know. I’ll make notes for future updates or answer your questions on my ProCopyTips blog.

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Marketing to seniors: Interview with Senior Market Advisor

seniorsSome time ago, I did an interview with Senior Market Advisor, a publication that gives advice on selling insurance, annuities, and long-term care insurance to the senior market.

The interview focused on direct marketing techniques and I thought you might enjoy reading it.

What kind of message works best when you’re trying to get prospects to fill out the reply part of a mailer?

The reply is the moment of truth, and you don’t want people to have any doubts about what they’re asking for or getting into.

So briefly restate the offer and benefits. This can take the form of a “statement of acceptance.” If you think of direct mail as a dialog between a business and a consumer, then the reply is where the customer “speaks” back to the person who sent the package.

Your statement of acceptance should include an affirmation, benefit statement, request for the item, summary of the offer, sweeteners, and a guarantee.

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5 simple SEO tips to boost your search traffic

SEO for searchWhat’s the point of having a website if no one ever finds it?

This website, for example, is responsible for the bulk of my own business. I get calls every week from prospects who say, “I found your site. The information is great. I wanted to ask about a project …”

This is not by accident. Like any carefully constructed website, mine is easy to find because of a few basic principles of SEO or “search engine optimization.”

SEO has become a deep and complex area of expertise, but there are a few basics that are responsible for most of the results you get.

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7 stupid ways to screw up your direct mail

Screw up Direct MailA famous chess player once revealed to me how he wins so many games, often against far more experienced players. I had expected some arcane theory or secret formula. However, what he said was this: “I try to avoid making mistakes.”

I’ve never forgotten that bit of wisdom. In fact, I routinely give similar advice to my direct mail clients. Yes, I have all kinds of deep and well-thought-out ideas about creating effective direct mail, but the first thing I tell them is this: “Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance.”

What sort of mistakes? After working with over 250 clients in the U.S. and abroad, I’ve seen lots of smart people making lots of stupid mistakes. But there are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time.

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