Do you still believe the tired platitude that everyone hates direct mail? Hate, tolerate, or love it, direct mail gets results. And it’s become a key, if not essential, part of the mix for any smart marketing strategy.
But let’s concede that there may be a grain of truth to the old chestnut that people mostly hate direct mail. What are we direct mail creators doing to make it more interesting, entertaining, and engaging, even as we improve how it sells? Honing your marketing copy is a great place to start.
Direct Mail is a High-Performance Marketing Tool
Although overall direct mail volumes are down, something’s working with direct mail because response rates are headed up. Direct mail remains the most effective marketing tool when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers. Here’s proof: house lists can generate a 9% response rate on average, while prospect lists can pull an average response rate of 5% according to the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report. That’s a 173% increase for house lists and a 194% increase for prospect lists since 2006. By comparison, the best email, paid search, and social media can do for response rates is a 1% return, while display ads average a 0.2% response rate.
So, direct mail has still got it, whatever “it” is. Here are seven ways IWCO Direct helps our clients play to direct mail’s strengths.
1. Make it attention-getting
There are a million ways (only a slight exaggeration) to stand out in the mailbox using your envelope. Size. Color. Window(s). Peel-and-reveal tabs. Identifiers (who it’s from). Mystery (no sign of who it’s from). Offer tease. Provocative headline. You get the idea. The one thing you DON’T want to do is give away ALL of what’s inside the envelope on the outside.
2. Keep it personal—but not weird
Use first names in the Johnson box, salutation, sidebar, and body copy. Refer to the street address or city where the reader lives. Familiar, but not stalker-like is the right approach. Take advantage of variable fields to personalize your marketing copy with things such as loan offer amounts or discounts.
3. Trumpet the offer and the hook
Cardinal sin #1: Readers don’t know what you’re selling within seconds of glancing at your letter. Cardinal sin #2: Readers don’t know what’s in it for them within the same few seconds. Make sure your marketing copy is crystal clear or your offer is destined for the recycling bin.
4. Overcome objections, reverse risk
The beauty of a direct mail letter is you usually have the space to address and brush aside objections. One way to do that is to reverse the reader’s risk by guaranteeing money back or otherwise removing the slightest possibility of suffering or setback.
5. Sync your mailpiece with other channels
Smart direct mail acts like it’s part of a larger omnichannel campaign (assuming there is one), syncing with brand advertising and other marketing channels to supplement and support a unified effort to sell whatever product or service is being offered.
6. Tell them what you want them to do
Cardinal sin #3: Not clearly instructing the reader what you want them to do. A clear call-to-action, repeated several times in multiple places throughout the marketing copy, is where, after all, you close the sale.
And most importantly…
7. Make it interesting
Howard Luck Gossage wrote one of the seminal books on advertising, The Book of Gossage. In it, he noted, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” And, I’ll contend, sometimes it’s direct mail.
Which brings me to a pet peeve and, perhaps, an insight into where we started: why people object to (if not hate) direct mail. More often than not, the fault lies with those of us who write and design direct mail, and who regard it as the poor stepchild of marketing. As a result, we devote too little thought or effort into writing marketing copy that makes it compelling. Here’s a classic example.
How often have you opened a direct mail package and unfolded the letter only to read:
“Dear So and so,
As a valued customer, we’re happy to inform you …”
And on it goes, having lost you within the first four words. First, you’re not wrong if you think you’ve seen that opening countless times; you have. It’s boring and unoriginal. Second, you see this dangling modifier—i.e., the opening clause not modifying the subject that follows—constantly in direct mail. Is the writer of the letter the valued customer? No! You are. Or you’re supposed to be.
The biggest crime is that the writer has squandered the most valuable opportunity to connect with his or her audience, the opening sentence. Imagine if that first line said something like:
“Dear So and So,
Shhh. Your lawn is keeping secrets from you, and we’re the only ones who know what they are.”
Or something a little more “grabby.”
I highly recommend studying the work of the direct mail masters, writers like Bill Jayme, John Caples, and others who practiced and perfected the art of crisp conversational writing. Their marketing copy is witty, endlessly interesting, and, above all, thoroughly focused on closing the deal.
How IWCO Direct Brings It All Together
We’re practitioners of the art (direct mail design, writing, creativity) and science (data, testing, list management) of direct mail, mindful of our clients’ marketing strategy and budget, and always asking if there’s a better way to reach their marketing goals.
If you want to make direct mail a bigger part of your marketing mix, or if your direct mail package isn’t delivering up to expectations, call IWCO Direct. We’ll put you on the fast track to smart, data-driven, performance-tested direct mail.
Be sure to check back on Friday when my colleague Mike Dietz shares his thoughts on creating engaging mailpiece design to support your engaging copy.
Subscribe to SpeakingDIRECT to have new articles delivered to your inbox as they post. We promise to keep it fresh and interesting.