Garden club sticks to proven direct mail format

proven direct mailMost experienced direct mailers know that a direct mail package generally outperforms other formats.

The National Home Gardening Club certainly knows that and have been using a big, colorful envelope package for years.

Because I’m an avid gardener, I’ve received this package many times. It arrived in a green and yellow 6” x 11.5” envelope with two windows, one for the address and one to show my name printed on the membership card inside.

I love the teaser: “We’re looking for people to test gardening tools (and keep them free!).” The back of the envelope shows several possible tools and says I have to do a scratch off inside to find out which I’ll get.

Inside, I find a huge, 4-page, 10.5” x 15” letter with a pack of seeds and a pack of plant food glued to the top of the letter. This is a crackerjack technique because it does so much.

It adds bulk to the package, makes a sound when the seeds move, draws my eye to the letter, covers the Johnson box to create curiosity, and stimulates involvement as I remove the seed packs. Wow!

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Write direct mail envelopes that get opened

write direct mail envelopesThe direct mail envelope is both the easiest and hardest part of every direct mail package.

It’s easy in that there’s just not that much space to fill with copy or design. But it’s hard in that there’s so much riding on what you say or don’t say.

The envelope determines whether your direct mail package gets opened or trashed.

Before I give you some envelope writing tips, let’s get one thing straight.

You should not expect an envelope to position your product. You should not use it to show off your design skills. Its job is not to entertain or amuse. You are not required to cover it with clever copy to impress a client.

Aside from holding together the contents until delivered, an envelope has only one job: to get opened.

Here are few ways to do that.

Follow headline rules to write teaser copy. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside. Teaser copy acts like a headline and leads people to read the letter.

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Stop clowning around: 3 reasons jokes don’t sell

People don't buy from clownsWill cracking jokes help you sell?

Considering how often advertisers and agencies put on the fool’s cap and prance about in an attempt to evoke giggles, laughs, and outright guffaws, you would think the answer is “Yes.”

However, we in the direct marketing business are almost always warned against clowning around.

John Caples, in How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, states the generally accepted rule of thumb for most direct marketers, saying simply, “Avoid humor. What is funny to one person is not funny to millions of others.”

But I think Claude C. Hopkins said it best. “People don’t buy from clowns.”

However, while this is accepted at face value by the bean counters, creative people often don’t believe it, since they are by nature inventive, curious, and suspicious of any so-called rule.

Confronted with the dictum “Don’t be funny,” the doubting creative genius will nod in agreement to avoid an argument. However, he or she is secretly thinking, “Yeah. It didn’t work for you, because you didn’t do it right. You’re boring. You’re not funny.”

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3 irrefutable proofs: people-centered ads win

people centered adsI’ve been seeing some pretty crappy advertising recently and it’s all crappy for the same reason. All of it tries to make a point with clever concepts rather than benefits and relevance.

It made me think of the following article I wrote a while back. Some of the examples may be a bit dated, but the point is still valid.


There’s a saying: Dumb people talk about people. Smart people talk about ideas.

This might be true in some areas of life. But in marketing, it’s flat out wrong.

In fact, I’m going to show you why people-centered ads are very smart indeed, much smarter than abstract concept-centered ads.

And I’ll prove it by taking you on a tour of my local grocery store, the experimental lab of evolutionary biologists, and my own advertising swipe file.

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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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How to use direct mail to drive website traffic

direct mail drives website trafficIf you want to drive traffic to your website, which media should you use?

Email delivers traffic quickly and at low cost, though open rates can be low. Social marketing shows great potential, but it takes effort to make it work.

Then there’s PPC, banner ads, and other online strategies which deliver varying results. But what about traditional direct mail?

Too many people suffer from an “oil and water” mentality when it comes to mixing online and offline media. But the fact is, they work well together. And when you need to drive online traffic, an integrated approach can often work wonders.

According to the 2009 Channel Preference Study by ExactTarget, direct mail influences 76% of Internet users to buy a product or service online. Better still, direct mail remains the one medium that gives you direct and reliable access to nearly everyone in your target market.

How do you drive web traffic with direct mail? Here are some pointers:

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Defending yourself against the sales lead killers

sales lead killersA couple of years ago, I was at a party where the host challenged guests to remove a cork from the inside of a wine bottle. It was quite a challenge, the host proclaimed.

One by one, people tried and failed to remove the cork. Then the host began explaining the tricky and complex solution, and people were impressed. However, the host was unable to remove the cork after 15 minutes of fiddling.

Growing impatient, I grabbed the bottle and asked the host if he really wanted the cork out of the bottle. He said yes. So I broke the bottle and handed him the cork. He wasn’t happy with that solution and said I “cheated.” Apparently it just wasn’t clever enough, even though it worked instantly.

Too often, this is the way it is with sales lead generation. Generating leads isn’t really that difficult, but people seem to be forever looking for complex solutions to simple problems. I call these the “lead killers,” because that’s exactly what they do — they kill leads.

The best defense against these killers is to just do what works. The simpler, the better. Here are a few examples.

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Using a coin trick to get your mail opened

direct mail coin trickRemember when people used to send direct mail packages with lots of stuff packed inside?

That was back in the good old days, before the economy went bust and everyone panicked and started mailing little postcards, invoice mailers, and fliers that all look alike.

One of my favorite old-fashioned direct mail package techniques was the “coin trick.” You attach a penny or nickel to an insert and use a window envelope to let recipients see the coin inside.

It’s irresistible. Very few people can bring themselves to throw away a real coin.

I guess no one told The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society about the “new” economy because they just sent me a package with a coin trick. Specifically, they use a 3-window envelope, showing the mailing address, return address, and a shiny nickel.

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Write the perfect sales letter in 14 proven steps

write sales lettersFairfax Cone once said, “Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is.”

He was so right.

There is no better way to sell something than in-person. Talking to someone face-to-face lets you have a personal conversation and get a feel for what someone wants and what it will take to make a deal.

However, since it’s not possible to have a personal chat with the billions of potential consumers out there, we use advertising media as a stand-in. And of all the traditional formats, sales letters come closest to the personal conversation you want to have.

A well-written sales letter remains one of the most effective means of speaking to people, sparking an emotional response, and motivating them to buy. It’s simple, personal, easy-to-read, and effective.

It’s hard to explain what makes a good sales letter. It’s sort of like good art: you just know it when you see it.

However, there are some basic steps for writing a sales letter. Here are 14 of them.

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Are there simple ways to reduce your direct mail costs?

Smart direct mailers should always look for ways to cut costs. But in today’s economic climate, cutting costs is a must.

Paper, postage, and printing are all on the rise. Prospects have become more choosy about responding to offers. And marketing departments are being asked to tighten their belts and stretch their dollars.

Here are three simple tips for trimming costs.

Talk to your printer. You may have a well-designed direct mail piece, but is it efficiently produced? Can you make small changes in the layout that will allow you to use more of the paper stock and create less waste? Are you using an odd shape that is making production or postage more expensive? Is the piece printed on unnecessarily expensive stock or stock that requires a special order and extra freight charges?

Consider the following video from my friends at Ballantine Corporation.

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