Marketing consultant John Abate writes to share nine pointers, gleaned from his years of success in direct mail:
Your sales letter’s first paragraph, next to your package’s outer-envelope, opening-page, and reply device headlines, is key to your mailing’s pulling power. Like your headlines, it largely determines if your reader continues with your pitch, then makes a purchase. Give it the attention it deserves.
Provide your sales prospect with many reasons to read further — and buy. Offer benefits, benefits, and more benefits. Make sure that each of the paragraphs in your letter and folder promises to improve your reader’s life, family, career, social status, self-esteem, or all the above.
Would you buy the product that you’re advertising for yourself? If not, retool your offer. If so, analyze why you would purchase it — an exercise that will give you clues to solid copy points you otherwise might not make.
Make sure the benefits you offer are believable. Never make a promise that sounds too good to be true. Nothing scuttles a package’s sales-effectiveness faster than an over-the-top offer.
Be specific, because generalities raise red flags of skepticism. If you can, include customer quotations that validate your claim.
Load your copy with all the third-party testimonials you can collect. Your sales prospects are more inclined to believe statements from happy customers than they are to buy into your assertions, which they assume may be hot air.
Simplicity sells. Hinge your copy on terse statements. Keep your paragraphs to four lines or fewer. Use easy, everyday words instead of hifalutin terms.
“You are not out to win the Pulitzer Prize,” Abate advises. Make reading your copy easy, which makes it easy to believe.
Explicit instructions are key. On top of detailing the benefits you offer, tell your reader step-by- step exactly what he must do to gain them. Include specifics on all the ways your prospect can connect with you to place his order — your mail, phone, fax, and Internet addresses. Pay reply postage yourself. List a toll-free phone number. Make ordering easy.
Freebies boost response. Offer a free reward with every order. Don’t be chintzy: people respond when they perceive that your gift has a high value. You don’t need to give away the store. But you cannot expect good results cheap. Avoid fuzzily undefined “mystery” bonus offers.
Offer a no-nonsense money-back guarantee. Resist the temptation to hedge your bets by making a weak guarantee in fine print. Your prospective buyer wants to feel sure that a purchase will be as advertised and make him happy. If not, he wants to feel certain that he will get money back, down to the last cent he spends.
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