Copywriting blogs you should be reading today

A few months ago on my Pro Copy Tips blog, I published a short list of copywriting blogs that offer sound and often entertaining advice.

That post got a fair number of comments and tweets, so I thought it would be worthwhile to re-post it here.

A few people emailed me and wondered why I didn’t include this or that blog. One or two people were insulted. But I assure you, this isn’t meant to be a list of the only copywriting blogs, just a list of some of my favorites which I think are worth reading.

So if you don’t see your blog of choice, don’t get your panties in a twist. This isn’t a contest. If there’s a particular blog you like, leave a comment and a link. Okay?

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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.

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Free shipping: Does it actually boost sales?

Offers are an essential part of direct marketing and are at the heart of direct response advertising.

And few offers these days are as popular as free shipping.

Free shipping is often recommended by direct marketing gurus as a way to boost orders, but does this offer really work? It depends on who you ask. It seems to work for some and not for others.

A client recently ask me about free shipping, saying that it was getting harder to make it profitable. I didn’t have the answer and had a hard time finding any good data on this, but Marketing wizard Ted Grigg came through and directed me to an article about informal research on free offers from F. Curtis Barry & Company.

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How to set up a Facebook fan page that works

facebook fan pageI’ve been talking to several people recently about setting up a Facebook fan page, how to get more fans, and how to use Facebook effectively.

Full disclosure: Yes, I have a Facebook page, but it’s private. I use Twitter and LinkedIn for business, but I haven’t set up a page for my copywriting business.

However, I DO run a Facebook page for the same nonprofit that I mentioned in a recent post on email marketing. It’s performing well, averaging 50 new fans a day.

The first thing people ask me is what type of account is best? A group or a fan page? For me, that’s simple. A fan page. Why? A post on Mashable about the difference between Facebook pages and groups lays out the differences nicely. Here’s a summary:

Groups are great for organizing on a personal level and for smaller scale interaction around a cause. Pages are better for brands, businesses, bands, movies, or celebrities who want to interact with their fans or customers without having them connected to a personal account, and have a need to exceed Facebook’s 5,000 friend cap.

A fan page lets you grow as big as you want, send updates to an unlimited number of people, and keep the focus on the organization without revealing the administrator (unless you want to).

Okay, so once you’ve set up your account as a fan page, then what? Here are some tips:

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Email Marketing Best Practices 101

Email has been around a while, so you’d think marketing people would understand best practices by now. But recent experience proves otherwise.

A company started sending me emails I did not subscribe to. When I tried to unsubscribe, the form said I would be removed from “list 1.” The next day, I continued to receive emails from the company and when I again tried to unsubscribe, the form said I would be removed from “list 2.” This went on for some time. When it ended, I began getting emails from a dozen other sources.

I purchased a product from a consultant and opted in to the newsletter. This consultant began sending me a relentless stream of emails, often multiple times a day, which is not what I signed up for. Fortunately, I had used a utility Yahoo address rather than one of my primary addresses, so I just abandoned the address.

Around Christmas, I purchased a book of hockey game tickets for a family member from a well-known ticket vendor. You know who I mean. They began sending me emails and when I tried to opt out, discovered that they called these “administrative” emails and that I could not not opt out. That’s right. They refused to allow me to opt out. I had to block the address to make the emails stop.

These are just three examples of bad email marketing. They display deep ignorance about how email works, what consumers want, and the best practices that can make it successful.

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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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