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Direct Mail - The Numbers Game - Part Two

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In an earlier article, I talked about direct mail and some of what you need to know to be successful at it.
In this article we'll take a look at three of the key parts of a direct mail package.
THE SALES LETTER This is where most of the selling happens.
And this is where most people fail with their mailings.
They hire a designer to develop a great brochure, and give little thought to the sales letter that it accompanies.
The letter is vital.
It's where your prospect is most likely to buy into your offer.
Before you begin writing your sales letter, you need to consider how people will read it.
First, they look at their own name at the top.
Then they read the headline above the salutation, the signature area and the PS.
All this before they glance at the first paragraph or two of the letter.
If this is all OK, they will proceed to glance over the highlighted copy.
Only when all of this is felt to be right, will they actually read the rest of the copy.
Things to keep in mind: Be careful of using photos and graphics in a letter.
They stop the natural flow, and they can be used to your detriment.
Avoid using them unless you're skilled.
Highlight copy with ellipses, bold text, indenting, bullets, underlining, all caps, highlighter, colour.
(A sales letter is rarely the place to concern yourself with "nice typography".
Keep your sentences short.
The headline should clearly tell the reader "what's in it for me".
IMPORTANT: Use a PS.
It can recap the offer, highlight a big benefit, add urgency, encourage action, or emphasis a freebie or discount.
(It is read before the letter is read.
Don't waste it.
) Use only "courier" or "prestige" as your font.
These look like typewriter fonts and still pull better than "newer" computer-generated fonts.
For B2B mailings, I suggest using "Times" or "Times New Roman" as it's the standard for business correspondence.
Your trying to emulate standard correspondence, not impress the reader.
In very special circumstances, you might use different typefaces, but do this only if there is a very good reason to.
THE RESPONSE DEVICE The response device is far more important than you might believe, and it's vital in direct response mailings.
It is the point where people take action.
This is where you have the greatest chance to improve your success rate, and the greatest chance of damaging it.
Many B2B mailings are done as part of a "warm call" strategy.
You send out your mailing and follow it up with a personal call in order to secure a meeting, or further discussion.
These sorts of mailing don't require the response device.
The response device should summarize your offer.
If you want people to respond to you, you need to have the response device "close" the sale.
You also need to eliminate any chance that they will make a mistake.
(If they must look elsewhere in your package to in order to respond, it's not yet right).
Even in lead generation mailings, if your prospect does not take action, you've failed.
It means you need to manipulate your audience in ways you wouldn't use if you were selling face to face Create a means of tracking your responses, especially if you mail from more than one list.
Give it a tracking number (PG 60), have purchasers ask for a certain operator, etc.
The response device should be every bit as loud and exciting as the brochure.
Keep up the excitement.
Don't assume people will know what needs to be filled out.
Make it so a 10-year old can do it.
Some other things to include on a response device: Use an acceptance line "YES! I want...
" Also have a "Not now, keep me on your list...
" line.
And a "No, I'm not interested...
" line.
(If they actually respond to this and send it in, they are indicating that they perceive your company to be OK, just not the offer.
They're still a great prospect.
) By the way, if you're renting a mailing list, you "own" those addresses that reply to you.
You can add them to your own "house" database.
Many campaigns use a "tear-off" response device.
Statistically, separate devices pull better than tear-offs.
THE BROCHURE This is where you visually move your reader closer to a buying decision.
(Our society is becoming more visually attuned as the years go by.
This continually increases the importance of visuals in marketing.
) A few things to keep in mind about developing your direct mail brochure: A brochure cover's main purpose is to keep the brochure out of the trashcan and get it opened.
Its secondary purpose is to enhance "image" of your service/product.
Inside the brochure, the headlines should tell the whole sales story.
Don't waste the opportunity by using headline like "benefits" "history" "our philosophy", etc.
Your copy has to lead people through the benefits, the features, make an emotional connection and show them exactly how to take the next step, whatever that might be.
Yes, direct mail is a numbers game.
But if you use those first 13 seconds well, there is no other mass medium, which can be so powerful a persuader.
And when we market and sell, we're all in the persuasion business.
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