I’m not a big sports fan.
However, my wife decided to invite her family over for dinner, totaling 12 adults, 2 babies, a 5-year-old, and a clowder of cats.
So, around day 3, after one of the babies peed on our new sofa, the refrigerator broke down, and every square inch of our house was covered with food, diapers, and suitcases, I suddenly became interested in getting out of the house to see a hockey game.
Along with another family member who needed to escape for a few hours, I drove down to see the local minor league hockey team play a regional rival.
The first two periods saw our team down by three points. Then, in the third period, in
a burst of explosive energy, our boys started fighting their way back.
The crowd began screaming. Clapping their hands. Stomping their feet. Taunting the opposing team’s goalie. Thousands of people were suddenly functioning as one. And oddly enough, though I’m generally not given to such displays, I found myself screaming and clapping and stomping right along with everyone else.
Today’s the big staff meeting and you’re running late. As you grab your briefcase and lunge toward the door, a little voice stops you cold.
“Are you getting my toy tonight?”
You feign ignorance. “Toy? What toy?”
Your child smiles, face full of expectation. “The Power Space Commando Ninja Mutant Laser Brain Blaster!”
Why do kids have such good memories? “I thought that was for your birthday. Besides I’ll be working late tonight, honey.”
Your child’s face screws up in dismay. “But you promised!”
You look at your watch. “Why do you need the toy tonight?”
“Because … (sniffle) … you said tonight. And I believed you!”
Your heart sinks. “Okay. I’ll stop by the toy store tonight. All right?”
The little face lights up again. “Thank you thank you thank you.”
Two minutes later as you drive away, you see your child waving frantically at you from the front window, eyes wide with glee.
You wonder … what just happened?
One of the beauties of direct mail is that it comes with a long history of real-world testing and proven techniques.
This includes the “lift letter,” also called the lift note or publisher’s note.
The latter name hints at the origins of this technique. Back in the heyday of magazine subscription promotions, publishers often included a little extra letter in their direct mail solicitations.
They called it the publisher’s note because the message often came from the publisher.
Today, it’s usually referred to as the lift letter or lift note, since it has been adapted to work in a wide variety of direct mail packages for the purpose of lifting response.
In my Direct Marketing Glossary, I define a lift note like this: “Second, shorter letter in a direct mail package with a highly focused message. Generally signed by a different person.”
By all appearances, Charley Hill was an average, ordinary guy.
He lived in a mid-sized town with his wife, two children, and a dog. He went to church on Sunday, coached Little League, and drove a pickup truck. He was friendly but quiet, the sort of guy you could walk by on the street without noticing.
But appearances can be deceiving. Because Charley Hill was one of the most successful salesmen in the Midwest. What did Charley have that other salesmen didn’t? Not a thing.
He sold the same products. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of competitors. The reason?
Charley Hill didn’t believe in “fair” offers. In fact, he went out of his way to treat his customers unfairly.
It’s been called the ugliest website ever created. And it’s changed little since the mid 90′s when it was created.
Yet, it is arguably the most successful website on the planet.
Can you guess what site I’m talking about? If you said, “Drudge Report,” pat yourself on the back.
I’ve mentioned this throwback site before when talking about ugly design. But a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism prompts me to mention it again.
According to the report, Drudge is not only a highly visited site with millions of unique visitors a month, it drives twice as much traffic to top news sites as Facebook and seven times as much as Twitter. Not bad for basically a one-man operation.
Though best known as a direct mail guy, I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of website work for my clients. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes websites work.
Given the astonishing success of Drudge, I think it’s smart to consider why this website is such as standout. Yes, it’s a news site, not a business site, however the lessons we can learn are universal.
It’s not easy to find a good copywriter, especially someone who has real expertise and experience with direct mail or direct marketing.
I can’t even begin to count the number of calls and emails I’ve received from people who have said they’ve been looking for a while and can’t find many people who seem professional and credible.
That may seem surprising. A decade or two ago, there were few copywriters out there. Today there are thousands. You’d think you could throw a rock out your window and hit 5 pro copywriters without aiming.
But the truth is, the number of truly good copywriters hasn’t increased significantly.
Why? Because it’s like any other field. It’s just not as easy as it looks. Finding a reliable copywriter is like finding a great brain surgeon.
So at the risk of appearing self-serving, I’d like to share a short guide to finding and working with a professional direct marketing copywriter. I wrote this years ago, but it’s just as relevant today. I’m told by many people that it’s been quite helpful.
And for the record, I’m not always the best copywriter for everyone. In fact, I turn down far more clients than I take on. I may not have the right expertise. I may be too expensive. And these days, I am often too busy.
But if you’re looking, follow these two rules to find the writer who’s right for you.
If you’re like a lot of people I’ve talked to recently, your marketing is in a slump. And you’re fresh out of ideas.
This is especially true for direct mail. The down economy has frightened people out of testing anything new over the last couple of years.
In fact, some of the people calling me have said they all but stopped mailing. Now that things appear to be getting better, they’re scrambling for testing ideas.
I’ll give you the same advice I’ve been giving them:
1. Resurrect your control. Take your best mail piece and get it back in the mail. See if it still works. As I’ve argued in my Getting Response in a Down Economy white paper, none of the fundamentals have changed. So there’s at least a 50/50 chance that what worked before will work again.
2. Look at your results. If your control does well, test it once more just to make sure. Then ramp up your quantity. If your control dies, perform a direct mail autopsy.
These are your first logical steps. And you should do them before you do anything else.
Okay, but what if you’ve already done this and you’re looking for a way to break the mold and get a little crazy? What if you’re ready to start thinking outside the box?
“There are no pictures.”
“The copy is too short.”
“It violates our brand guidelines.”
“It’s so damned ugly!”
These are just a few of the objections you’ll hear if you ever suggest testing an “official” direct mail piece like the one shown here.
However, to those who know better, official-looking mailers can be pure gold.
I received this piece recently and had one of those “Oh, you got me” moments.
Since I specialize in direct mail, I’ve seen every trick in the book. And 99.44% of the time I can spot a marketing piece a mile away no matter how well-crafted.
But it was the end of the day. I was tired. And the direct mail part of my brain had shut down. So when I saw it in the mail pile, I responded like an ordinary human and opened it.
There’s a moment you dread. You know it’s coming. You know you can’t do anything about it.
You want to think you’ll be calm and rational when it happens, but the cold shock of reality will almost certainly catch you off-guard.
I’m talking about the day you get your first “senior” mailing.
It could be an invitation to join AARP. It could be a catalog of pain relief products. Or maybe it’s a mailer with a picture of a gray haired couple on the front.
Whatever it is, it’s something for seniors and you’re not happy about it one little bit.
At first, you assume it’s a mix-up. That envelope can’t be for you. Not yet. No way. But it’s addressed to you. And a quick glance at the birth date on your driver’s license confirms that you’re not exactly a teenager anymore.
That’s when you feel a twinge of anger. “How dare they mail this to me! Do I look old or something? I’m not old. And even if I am, they don’t have to throw it in my face like that.”
It sounds like a promotion for a summer blockbuster movie, but it’s actually a formula for political fundraising.
Some might think this is cynical. However, if you’ve ever done any serious work in politics, as I have, you’ll know a few truths:
Most people have little interest in politics. Of those who are interested, only a few will ever do anything other than talk. Getting people to take action, such as making a donation, requires that you hit their hot buttons and hit them hard.
Which hot buttons seem to always work best? Anger. Fear. Revenge.