Is it smart to use direct mail for online sales?

direct mail for online salesI won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is “Yes!” It is indeed smart to use direct mail for online sales.

There was a time not that many years ago when the “World Wide Web” was a mysterious and magical place. Gurus proclaimed that everything would soon change.

Other media, including direct mail and nearly anything in print, would die a rapid death. We were destined to live in a “paperless” world. “Brick and mortar” stores would transform into “virtual” businesses.

Well, like most idealistic visions, this scenario hasn’t played out as expected. The Web has not killed real-world stores. We shuffle more paper than ever before. And direct mail, while certainly affected by the rise of online media, isn’t even close to death. In many ways, it’s stronger and more effective than ever.

People are so annoyed and suspicious of unsolicited email, they now consider direct mail to be a relatively trustworthy medium. And while SEO, social marketing, pay-per-click, and other online strategies are powerful tools, they tend to reach only those actively searching for a product like yours.

This is why smart online entrepreneurs understand that the medium is not the business. The bigger you want your business to be, the more media you must use to expand your reach. And there is no other medium that gives you more reach than good old fashioned direct mail.

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How to grow a nonprofit website with a simple “traffic portfolio”

By day, I’m a copywriter and direct marketing consultant. By night, I help run a nonprofit political action committee (PAC).

Since I prefer to keep politics off this blog, I’ll forgo mentioning the name of the PAC.

In my last post, I talked about driving web traffic with direct mail. However, direct mail has its limitations, especially for small nonprofit organizations with tight budgets. Our PAC budget is less than $50,000 a year. So from the beginning, I’ve put an emphasis on highly cost-effective tactics.

As a result, the organization has no brick and mortar presence and operates almost exclusively online with a website and a variety of online “outposts,” including a forum as well as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

While we run a variety of real-world events, such as political rallies, dinners, and meetings, online tools and social media drive the marketing, enabling the website and organization to grow rapidly with minimal cost.

I decided to look at the numbers recently and found confirmation that these tactics have worked spectacularly well.

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Blog security: an interview with John Hoff

John Hoff blog security expertThere’s a lot of talk about how to use blogs to increase your traffic, attract prospects, and generate buzz. But there’s too little talk about blog security.

Like it or not, blogs are easy prey for hackers and other online ne’er-do-wells. And when they strike, and they will eventually, you need to be prepared.

Recently, this blog and Pro Copy Tips, were the victim of a series of sophisticated hack attacks. I contacted James from Men With Pens, who recommended John Hoff, co-founder of WP Blog Host, WordPress blog security guru, and author of the best-selling WordPress Defender.

I was so impressed with John, I asked him to do an interview with me on blog security.


Dean: When my blogs were attacked, I panicked a little. Is that a common reaction?

John: I’m sure it is. I know it was for me and my wife when her jewelry website got hacked a few years back. One day we went to her website and instead of seeing what we normally see, we saw a Google Warning stating that her site had been flagged by Google and may be downloading viruses to people’s computers. Yeah, our heart skipped a beat when we saw that.

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Does Twitter drive traffic and sales?

Twitter logoTwitter has become a big topic in the marketing world. But is it driving traffic or generating sales?

I must admit that my experience with Twitter is limited. I’ve been testing it with a nonprofit political organization I help run in Ohio. The number of “followers” we have is fairly small at this point, but growing steadily.

Most of our “tweets” are actually generated by an automated tool to post our RSS feed, resulting in about 10 tweets a week. I and one other officer have been occasionally adding original tweets about important topics, events, or guests on our radio show. So there are maybe 15 to 20 tweets total every week.

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The great “click here” debate resolved

Should your links include the words “click here” or is this a tacky and redundant waste of Web page space, since everyone knows what to do with a link?

The click here debate has waged for years. But I think it’s less a debate than a misunderstanding, and it’s easy to clear up.

Let’s assume that I’m writing an article online and I want to link to my newsletter subscription page. There are three ways I can craft this link.

1. I can create a link that links to my free newsletter subscription like this. Here I’ve created a simple “descriptive” link. The content of the link is clear. It uses the common metaphor of the underline to indicate a link, so if you want to know more about my newsletter, you can click on it.

2. I can create a link where I encourage you to subscribe to my free newsletter like this. In this case, I’ve created a “directive” link. Not only does it describe the link, it uses command language to tell you what to do: “subscribe.”

3. I can create a link where I tell you you to click here to sign up for my free newsletter like this. Now I’ve created a “call to action” link. This describes the content of the link and uses directive language to tell you what to do. However it goes one step further and gives you explicit instructions for how to do it: “click here.”

Which link type is correct? It depends on how important it is that someone click on the link.

If you merely wish to offer additional information, a descriptive link gets the job done. This is the most common type of link on the Web. If people click, great. If not, no big deal.

If you want people to click, though, you need to move up to the directive link. This link tells people what to do and will almost always generate more clicks.

If the link is vital, for a sales letter leading to an order page, for example, then you should step up to the call to action link and use the words “click here.” This leaves no doubt about what to do and how to do it. The fact that people know to click a link is irrelevant. This is the same as telling a direct mail recipient to “mail this reply card now.” The more direct you are, the more response you are likely to get.

So there you have it. There are descriptive links, directive links, and call to action links. Deciding which to use depends on how important it is that you get a click. The debate is ended. Go forth and link away.

Oh, and click here now to subscribe to my free newsletter that gives you lots of tips just like this. :)

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The future of direct mail and advertising intrusiveness

Ted Grigg posted some interesting thoughts recently about the impact of direct mail vs. online advertising.

Due to its escalating cost, more demanding execution and relative rarity, direct mail appeals garner more attention from recipients than the same messages found in their crowded email inboxes. With the explosive growth of email, printed direct mail has now gained more respect among consumers.

In addition, direct mail is more intrusive than the Internet that relies 100% on the consumer to access the advertiser’s web site.

There are two important points I’d like to make about this.

First, I agree that direct mail carries a powerful punch. And I have no doubt that it will become more effective as time goes on, despite any new technologies that may arise, perhaps because of new technologies.

As online opportunities multiply and consumers turn their ire away from “junk mail” and toward “spam,” we’ll see consumer attitudes about mail become more and more favorable. People have short memories and can only hate so many things at one time. As they hate spam more, they’ll love direct mail more.

Second, there’s that word, “intrusive.” I love online advertising and agree with the idea of opt-in as a necessary strategy, but a pernicious misconception is evolving out of the online community that this idea should apply to all forms of advertising, that no one should ever be exposed to sales messages that they don’t ask for.


Advertising MUST be intrusive. Marketing demands it. Our industry, indeed our entire economy, relies on it. Advertising cannot be passive. It must push messages as aggressively as possible. How could you introduce new products and services otherwise? There’s a reason companies hire sales people — because they push. Advertising is simply salesmanship in print (or sounds or images).

Can you imagine being forbidden to mail anything unless someone specifically asked for it? How many businesses would survive if they were prevented from running ads, putting up billboards, broadcasting radio or TV spots, distributing literature, or otherwise pushing messages without express permission from potential customers?

No one wants to waste money on unresponsive prospects. But we must be careful about misapplying the opt-in idea. Better targeting is what we need, not the mindless and idealistic idea to eradicate intrusiveness.

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Is SEO copywriting a good idea for direct marketers?

There’s an ongoing debate between traditional direct response copywriters and the new breed of online copywriters about the importance of SEO (search engine optimization).

In a DM News article, Bob Bly writes about why he doesn’t believe in SEO copywriting. His point is simply that good copywriting should come first and that thinking about keywords is secondary, if you think about them at all. He says “forget the search engines” and “never change a word of strong selling copy.”

Then you have, well, just about everyone on the Internet, who say that SEO is the only way to go. Aaron Wall, for example, is the author of SEO Book and maintains that choosing the right keywords and using them in the right way can rocket you to the top of the search results and boost your traffic and sales.

Who’s right?

This debate is like the direct marketing versus mass marketing debate. It’s two groups of people, each with a different marketing model, trying to lay claim to the ultimate truth.

The traditional direct response guys generally use direct mail or e-mail marketing to drive people to their sites, so they don’t care as much about search engine results. The SEO guys generally use keyword tactics to pull people into their sites, so they care very much about search engine results.

The two are not incompatible. In fact, they can be complementary. It’s just that each has chosen a different way to create traffic.

My view? Why not use both? Does it matter HOW you get results? Smart marketers use any and every tactic that works. Besides, if you really understand SEO copywriting, it’s really about understanding what people are looking for and using the right words to connect to them. Isn’t that what good direct response copywriting is supposed to do?

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