Noted marketing consultant Dean Rieck offers seven pointers on sharpening your direct mail’s selling power:
Focus on buyers, not responses.
“If you try to sell to 100% of your list,” Rieck observes, “you will actually reduce response, because your message will be diluted in its attempt to be all-inclusive.” The most productive mailings talk boldly and directly to an imaginary ideal buyer, he advises. “If that’s just 1% of your list, then forget about the other 99%.”
Make it easy to buy.
“People want to buy things,” Rieck observes. “However, if there’s a good reason not to part with their money, they won’t.” You can’t force a sale. You can get the right offer into the right hands at the right time — and make the purchase transaction sound simple. Rieck notes that the 800 number boosted sales because it was a way to make a purchase seem easy.
Stress benefits, but describe features that sell.
Enthusiasts — avid woodworking hobbyists, serious mutual-fund investors, classic car enthusiasts, for instance — want to know in detail about the products you want them to buy.
Adopt appropriate mass-advertising techniques to your direct mail.
Rieck says, “It’s true that image doesn’t sell. Only words can do that. But people give a higher belief rating to what they see than to what they read.” “A schlocky look makes people think you’re a schlocky operation,” he observes.
Avoid slavish imitation of “successful” mailings.
Adapting mail tactics that seem to be hot stuff for other mailers is not always a good idea. A marketer with a seemingly successful mailing may be acting on an ill-constructed, sloppy test.
Trust, but verify.
Direct-mail “rules” are made by people. And people make mistakes. Rieck notes that many tests — unless designed, tallied, and interpreted properly — are wildly inaccurate. So many test results are about equally misleading purely anecdotal evidence. “So, you can’t regard any rule as more than a rule of thumb.”
Create a big selling idea.
Mass television and space advertising hinges on a “concept” that permits the advertiser over time to burn in a product or corporate image that may induce a prospective customer to buy — later. A direct mailer who wants to spark immediate action needs a single irresistible idea — not an overarching image concept —that turns his offer into a purchase.
“In the end,” Rieck concludes, “there’s no substitute for thinking for yourself.”
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