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.


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.

Read more

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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.”

Read more

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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.

Read more

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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.

Read more

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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.

Read more

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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.

Read more

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