Simple direct mail offers can work like crazy

Spring Hill envelope sampleWhat do you do when you have a good product and a loyal audience? You give them a simple, straightforward offer. That’s what Spring Hill Nurseries did with this big 6” x 11.5” envelope package.

Ferns are popular because they grow in moist or shady areas of the garden where few other plants will grow. They blend with any kind of plant and provide beautiful color and texture where it’s needed most.

I’m a customer of Spring Hill, and I’ve purchased ferns from them before, so I’m on their list and they know I like ferns. Do they need to clobber me over the head with fern details. No. They just need to catch me at the right time with the right offer.

They start on the outer envelope with a big photo of their ferns. The teaser copy is dead simple: “Ferns. Over 50% OFF!” Not clever, but it doesn’t need to be. The back of the envelope shows the six types of ferns offered with the headline “Beautify any shady spot instantly and save over 50%!”

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Why “selective attention” can kill your ads

Last week, I asked you to take a test to see if you’re a word nerd. This week, I have another test for you. And it’s a doozy.

The concept is “selective attention.” I don’t want to spoil it, so watch the video below. Don’t cheat. You’ll miss the point entirely if you don’t follow directions and see the results for yourself.


If you followed the directions and tried to count the number of times the people in white shirts passed the basketball, there’s a 50/50 chance you’re amazed right now.

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Are you a word nerd? Take the test.

word nerdWhile skimming a recent issue of Advertising Age, I ran across an article called If you’re creating ads, odds are you’re talking to yourself.

And it presents yet more evidence that ad writers and other advertising professionals are disconnected from the people they’re creating ads for.

I’ve been discussing this since 1997 when I wrote about how ad writers don’t relate to ads in the same way as ordinary people.

The Ad Age article talks about research on behavior-based segmentation performed by Xyte Technologies. They tested people in marketing and advertising (including people in creative, media, and research) and found that they’re “word nerds.” They like playing with words and rely on intuition (rather than data) to craft message.

Trouble is, only 18.5% of the general population fall into that category. Ads that appeal to word nerds don’t do so well with the other 81.5% of the population, most of whom are highly practical people and respond to tangible benefits.

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Customer retention: plugging the leaky pool

customer retentionIn my last post, I talked about the nightmare of customer defections and showed you a dramatic calculation that demonstrated the profit you sacrifice when they leave you.

If you lose one customer every day who spends just $5 a week, you’re out $94,900 a year ($5 x 52 weeks x 365 days = $94,900)! If you’re a service business, you’re losing 15-20 percent of your customers every year. So the actual loss is huge and growing persistently over time.

At the heart of customer defection is lack of satisfaction. This isn’t the same as dissatisfaction, which means an active dislike for something. Lack of satisfaction is simply the absence of any good reason for a customer to stick around.

Do you remember that U.S. News and World Report statistic I gave you? A whopping 91 percent of customers who leave do so simply because they are not satisfied.

How do you satisfy customers and retain their business? Any number of ways.

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Customer defection: the leaky pool nightmare

customer defectionMany years ago, I lived next door to a guy named Wayne. Wayne had a pool. It was his pride and joy.

Trouble was, Wayne’s pool leaked. Slowly and persistently. We knew where the water was going, because the area under my deck was muddy all the time. But we didn’t know where the leak was.

All Wayne could do was run a hose to the pool to constantly replenish the water that disappeared. His water bills were outrageous.

It’s almost funny, until you realize that if you run a business, you’re in the same situation as poor Wayne. Your customers are leaking away. Slowly and persistently.

You probably don’t know where the leak is. And the cost of replenishing your pool of customers is almost certainly more than you want to spend.

We’re talking about “customer defection.”

If you’re a typical service business, you’re losing 15 to 20 percent of your customers every year. And according to a study in Harvard Business Review, ” … customer defections have a surprisingly powerful impact on the bottom line. They can have more to do with a service company’s profits than scale, market share, unit costs, and many other factors usually associated with competitive advantage.”

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How to sell products with direct mail inserts

direct mail insert sampleThere’s a certain pecking order in the world of direct mail projects.

At the top are bulky magalogs and thick direct mail envelope packages with all the bells and whistles.

At the bottom are the lowly workhorses, such as postcards and inserts.

The direct mail insert shown here in the photo comes from a box of plants I ordered from Spring Hill Nursery.

Technically, it’s called a fulfillment insert, meaning it’s an advertisement inserted into the package you receive when you order something by mail.

It’s not the sort of thing anyone wins awards for. In fact, some copywriters and designers look down their nose at humble inserts like this. For them, it’s sort of like the hillbilly member of the family you never talk about and hope won’t show up at weddings or funerals to embarrass you.

That attitude is unfortunate, because direct mail inserts can generate tons of extra income for both advertisers and the companies that offer to include the inserts in their mail or packaging.

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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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Getting response in a down economy

getting response in a down economyAll of us who work in the direct marketing industry have been affected by the economy.

In fact, the economy has affected pretty much everyone in advertising, publishing, or media.

So, last year, when the pain really started to set in, I decided to write a white paper to provide my take on the situation and provide some sound advice on dealing with it.

The results was Getting Response in a Down Economy: 4 Key Principles to Boost Your Direct Mail Profits in Today’s Difficult Market.

In just under five pages, I reveal the challenge of today’s market, what’s really happening out there, 6 key truths about your customers, the hidden opportunities of a down market, how to get your mind right, and the four key principles to improve response to your marketing efforts.

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5 bilingual copy mistakes and how to avoid them

It’s hard enough to write good copy in one language. Writing copy that works in two languages is at least twice as hard.

Here are some mistakes you should avoid if you’re creating bilingual copy for the first time.

Mistake #1: Doing a simple translation.

Let’s say you have a direct mail package that works for an English-speaking audience. Now you want to break into the Hispanic market with a bilingual package. So you figure all you have to do is hire a translator. Right? Not quite.

The “words” may translate, more or less, but the meaning may not. Try this experiment: take a simple phrase and use an online translator to go from English to German then back to English.

English: He’s mellowing out and getting his grove on.

Translates to German: Er ist aus Gärung und immer sein Hain auf.

Translates back to English: He is on from fermentation and always be Hain.

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Information Overload: 5 causes and 12 cures

information overloadI like to snack on cereal. And I buy a different brand every week.

However this personal indulgence comes at a price. When I enter the cereal isle, I’m faced with a wall of boxes vying for my attention, starbursts popping off every box, coupon dispensers flashing red, sales signs waving above my head, red and yellow price tags lining every shelf, a sea of promotional decals spattering the floor.

It’s information overload at its most intense.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain information overload. You experience it every day when you open three pounds of mail, flip through 1,000 TV channels, or dive into that teetering pile rising from your “in box.”

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