99 old-fangled tips to goose your direct mail

old fangled mailWhen I talk to clients about direct mail, I sometimes feel like an old fart. And a bit of a nerd.

I think it’s because if you list the top 10 hottest topics in direct marketing, none of them have anything to do with direct mail. All the cool people are talking about online and social media these days. Or texting about it.

And yeah, online stuff is cool. I’m on Twitter. I Digg and Stumble and bookmark sites that are Delicious. I run a Facebook page for a nonprofit and write web copy.

I’ve been a computer geek since before most of today’s marketing geniuses were born, gol’ darnit. I go way back to the VIC-20 when computing meant writing basic code line-by-line.

And there I go feeling old again.

But even if direct mail might seem old-fashioned to some people, the truth is, it still works. In fact, even though it’s not the hot topic, direct mail continues to generate sales and leads and donations day-after-day for those smart enough to use it.

Years ago, I wrote up a list of 99 simple direct mail tips. As I look it over, I think it’s just as valid today as it was then.

  1. Make an irresistible offer.
  2. Give away something free to boost response.
  3. Prefer a free gift over a discount.
  4. Increase the perceived value of your offer.
  5. Reduce the perceived risk in accepting your offer.
  6. Offer attractive payment options.
  7. Use a time limit to increase urgency.
  8. Test a two-step offer for high-priced goods.
  9. Test a yes/no offer to clarify the buying decision.
  10. Test a yes/maybe offer to lower perceived commitment.
  11. Dramatize your offer with stamps or stickers.
  12. Make your offer tangible with a check or coupon.
  13. Create your envelope to get noticed and get opened.
  14. Use teaser copy to tease, not tell.
  15. Consider using a plain envelope.
  16. Try an official-looking envelope.
  17. Use a low-key envelope for business prospects.
  18. Use your sales letter to sell and your brochure to tell.
  19. Make your letter look like a letter.
  20. Grab attention in your letter with a short first sentence.
  21. Express one central idea in your letter.
  22. Write your letter in a friendly, personal tone.
  23. Call for action early and often in your letter text.
  24. Have a high-authority person sign your letter.
  25. Personalize your letter if possible.
  26. Use a P.S. to cite a benefit, deadline, or extra detail.
  27. Use your brochure to add credibility.
  28. Use brochure tables, charts, diagrams, and visuals to support your claims.
  29. Design your brochure for easy reading.
  30. Use clear benefit heads and subheads in your brochure.
  31. Include all features and specifics in your brochure text.
  32. Include complete ordering information in your brochure.
  33. Test your package with no brochure.
  34. Use a stand-alone order form.
  35. Restate your offer on the order form.
  36. Include an acceptance statement.
  37. Make your order form easy to fill out and return.
  38. Highlight the deadline.
  39. Make your order form look valuable.
  40. Refer to the order form as something more valuable.
  41. Consider extra order forms for passalongs.
  42. Order something from yourself to discover how to make ordering easier.
  43. Offer a fax response option for businesses.
  44. Use your order form to highlight last-minute specials.
  45. Preprint your customer’s name and address to simplify ordering.
  46. Restate your guarantee on the order form.
  47. Offer a toll-free number for faster orders.
  48. Avoid a two-sided order form.
  49. Use the back of your order form for support information only.
  50. Give clear, simple ordering directions.
  51. Include a BRE if you ask for confidential information.
  52. Pay the postage on reply cards.
  53. Feature compelling testimonials.
  54. Edit testimonials carefully and honestly.
  55. Prefer many short quotes over a few long quotes.
  56. Group testimonials to increase impact.
  57. Use names, titles, and locations to increase testimonial credibility.
  58. Turn a good testimonial into a lift letter.
  59. Use a testimonial as a headline or benefit statement.
  60. Show people using your product or service.
  61. Give case histories of your best customers.
  62. Display a seal of approval or rating.
  63. Cite favorable reviews.
  64. Cite media coverage.
  65. Back up your offer with a strong guarantee.
  66. State your guarantee in the strongest possible terms.
  67. Keep your guarantee conditions to a minimum.
  68. Make your guarantee a prominent package element.
  69. Replace your conditional guarantee with an unconditional guarantee.
  70. Strengthen your guarantee with a signature.
  71. Extend your guarantee for as long as possible.
  72. Make your guarantee look official.
  73. Avoid asterisks and legal-looking tiny type.
  74. Reinforce your guarantee with a merchandise return label.
  75. Encourage involvement with a quiz or checklist.
  76. Emphasize exclusivity with a membership card.
  77. Add fun with a rub-off or hidden message.
  78. Answer objections or highlight a benefit with a lift letter.
  79. Increase credibility with a testimonial insert.
  80. Answer questions or objections with a Q&A insert.
  81. Prove your product superiority with a sample.
  82. Share supporting information with an article reprint.
  83. Deliver a quick pitch with an ad reprint.
  84. Announce last-minute news with a buckslip.
  85. Offer a premium on a buckslip.
  86. Draw attention with a yellow sticky note.
  87. Include company name, address, and phone number on every piece.
  88. Establish a solid control before testing elements.
  89. Test one element at a time.
  90. Run statistically valid tests.
  91. Retest anything that shows a significant change.
  92. Track results meticulously.
  93. Train your people on the importance of tracking.
  94. Analyze your results in writing.
  95. Use your test results to determine creative strategy.
  96. Keep using your control until you beat it.
  97. Test this.
  98. Test that.
  99. Test the other thing.
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8 Responses to “99 old-fangled tips to goose your direct mail”

  1. Jodi Kaplan on January 26th, 2010 10:49 am

    Yep, those “old” tips still work. So does long copy (gasp!) and so does what Claude Hopkins wrote in Scientific Advertising.

    If it makes you feel better, my first computer was an NCR mainframe (can’t remember now if it was a Century or a Criterion) nicknamed Igor.
    .-= Jodi Kaplan’s last blog … When is it Smarter To Have Two Web Sites? =-.

  2. Dean Rieck on January 26th, 2010 10:59 am

    Uh oh! Sounds like you’re a uber geek. Did you use punch cards? Print the Mona Lisa in ones and zeros?

  3. Jodi Kaplan on January 26th, 2010 3:13 pm

    Oh yeah, definitely punch cards. Lots and lots of them, and printouts of the Mona Lisa, Snoopy, and the USS Enterprise!
    .-= Jodi Kaplan’s last blog … When is it Smarter To Have Two Web Sites? =-.

  4. mark Andersen on January 29th, 2010 3:53 pm

    Dean, That’s a fantastic list. I agree with long copy Jodi, my mentor from Ogilvy and Mather gave me David Ogilvy’s book and one of the rules I liked best was “The more you tell the more you sell!”

    Testing is so important but it is so hard to convince amateur clients to accept the cost is small compared to the cost of an ineffective rollout with a low yielding package.

    I too printed out snoopy on the chain printer…. all those little full stops making a high pitched whine that made me cringe.

    And I hated getting stuck in the labyrinth in “The Cave” game. “There is a key here.” “Pick up key.” “You are facing a wall, turn right you are facing a wall, turn right, you are facing a wall.” GRRRRRR

    I think I will save that list along with my checklist! Good work Dean!

  5. website copywriter on February 1st, 2010 5:45 pm

    You know what … sometimes while everyone is looking for the next big thing, putting a bit of effort into a proven performer (and doing it well) is the smartest option.

  6. professional copywriter on February 8th, 2010 5:38 pm

    I’m a big fan of the ole’ lists! With an industry shrouded in secrets it’s always nice to see a simple list with tactics that work.

    Have you got anymore lists Dean?

  7. Sir Speedy Walnut Hill » Growth Ideas For Entrepreneurs: February 2010 on February 12th, 2010 11:18 am

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