I know I am not alone in learning the term “verisimilitude” from Herschell Gordon Lewis, and the concept is one of the greatest direct mail copywriting tips of all time. Lewis defines it as “the appearance of truth” and advises budding copywriters (as I was when I first heard the term) that telling the whole truth might not be as effective as the appearance of truth when trying to generate a response.
It’s ironic that the “Godfather of Gore,” as Lewis is also known, is often heralded as one of the greatest direct mail copywriters ever. In a 2011 DM News article, Lewis was asked what he tells younger people just entering the direct marketing business. He responded, “I warn them that cleverness for the sake of cleverness may well be a liability rather than an asset. I remind them that despite Facebook and mobile’s suggestion to the contrary, respectable grammar will never go out of style. To any of them who object to being a salesperson, I suggest looking for a different profession.”
Our Best Direct Mail Copywriting Tips: USP, CTA, FOMO & More
Regular readers of SpeakingDIRECT know that we (and Weird Al) agree respectable grammar will never go out of style. There is an art to writing direct mail copy that never goes out of style either. It starts with understanding the concept of the USP or unique selling proposition. Another great direct marketing writer, Denny Hatch, showcases the USP in chapter 10 of his invaluable book, “Write Everything Right!”
With historical references, Hatch informs his readers that the USP has three parts:
- Each ad must make a proposition – “Buy this product, and you will get these benefits.”
- The proposition must be unique – something our competitors do not, cannot or will not offer.
- The proposition must sell – it must be something prospects really want; it pulls them over to your product.
Every good direct mail copywriter knows that in order to generate the desired response, the reader has to believe that the product or service being described will deliver desired benefits. It sounds simple but one of the greatest challenges faced by copywriters is mastering the call to action (CTA). The textbook definition for a CTA is “an imperative sentence that instructs the reader to perform a task.”
There are many tips online for writing killer CTAs. One of my favorites is invoking FOMO – fear of missing out. Typically FOMO creates a sense of urgency by suggesting the offer is only available for a limited time or has limited availability. Remember the CTA must also leave no question about how the reader should respond – call, click, scan, etc. – and when.
One of the most frequent direct mail copywriting questions we’re asked is whether a savings offer should be written as a hard number or as a percent. Without fail, response is higher when a dollar figure is used and the reason is simple. Unless the offer is 50 percent off, most people have a hard time calculating the number in their head (hence the popularity of tip suggestions on receipts in restaurants so you don’t have to do the math).
Finally, how do you determine if your copy is effective? Does it tell readers what you’re selling, how they will benefit, when they should act and how to respond? In other words, did you cover the basics I learned about in Newswriting 201 – who, what, when, where and why? Copywriting 301 added “how” to the list.
How will you persuade a prospect to buy or a customer to renew? If you need help with copy that sells, give us a call. Or click here.
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