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How to Increase Direct Mail Response

Author: Jeffrey Dobkin   |   July 19th, 2010

Here, we discuss increasing mid-level readership and increasing direct mail response.  Learn to fine tune the body of your letter, paragraph by paragraph.

The opening paragraph

The opening paragraph of your direct mail letter is the place to show your biggest benefit.  Lead with your best stuff first – or did you want to wait and take a chance you’ll lose readers?  This should be your hottest copy and your most exciting benefit.

“Enjoy this, the biggest benefit of our brand new product – and here’s our best offer!” The actual way to phrase this copy might sound like, “Enjoy the easy and extra-fast swing of our new ultra-direct mail marketing campaignlightweight tennis racquet!  And now you can try it FREE for 30 days!”

Show benefits

In any direct mail marketing campaign you show the features in the brochure, and the benefits of those features in the letter.  The brochure tells, the letter sells… and asks for the call frequently.  Direct mail marketing has it’s own set of rules.  Rules that have been thoroughly tested by billions of direct mail marketing letters.

You remember the difference between features and benefits, don’t you?  Products have features – a teacup has a handle, that’s a feature.  The benefits are what people derive from those features – when you hold the teacup with the handle you don’t burn your hands.  The benefits – what people get from the product’s features – go into the letter.

Second paragraph.  This is a transitional paragraph of your direct mail letter expanding on your biggest benefit.  As with all the paragraphs, set the type flush left with a 4- or 5-character indent, rag right and hold all paragraphs to under 7 lines at most, 5 lines or less is optimal.

Third paragraph – a great place to show all your benefits.  The best use of your third paragraph is to place a bulleted list of benefits right in the center of your direct mail marketing letters.  Showing all benefits here may sometimes become too fluffy, so including a few product features is OK in this list.

· Bulleted lists have high readership.

· Show one benefit to a line.

· Everyone likes a bulleted list.

· Know who will read this paragraph?  Everyone.

· Even people who just skim your letter read this.

· Don’t forget to direct readers to call now & order!

So you need better-than-average copy here, since it is the highest readership in the body copy of your letter.  You need short and sweet killer copy.  Each single line drives the reader further into the rest of the letter, and closer to buying your product and closer to the phone.

Fourth paragraph.  Want to make your direct mail letter visually different?  Indent this paragraph and place it in italics.  Move the margins in one inch on BOTH sides, so the paragraph width is about 3 inches at most.  And reduce the font size by two points.  This gives your letter copy some air – a little breathing room – and makes it look easy to read, even if it isn’t.  Tout the benefits and ask for the phone call in this foreshortened paragraph.

Shortening this paragraph – a part of the best letter design practices – can work if you have a list in your third paragraph, but looks best if the paragraph above it isn’t in bullet list format.

Fifth paragraph.  Here’s where you really sell the phone call. “Just pick up the phone and call us right now.  Questions, comments – your call is always welcome — here’s our phone number: 800-987-6543.”

Don’t be afraid to ask people to call you several times in any direct mail advertising, and the sales letter is no exception.  Ask for a call in the fourth and fifth paragraph.  This fifth paragraph is where you MUST sell the phone call hard.  Remember, no phone calls – no orders = failure.

Also – show your actual phone number in the text of the letter in this body copy of your direct mail marketing campaign letter.  Yea yea, I know – it’s in the letterhead.  Show it again here in the text. And again in the PS. It encourages phone calls – need I say more?  Any arguments?

Signature: Sign legibly.  Even if your real signature looks like the X made by Attila the Hun, sign so people can read it.  It’s a visual hook – keep it legible.

The PS in your direct mail marketing campaign letter is your last chance to briefly restate your one or two biggest benefits, your incredible offer, and ask for the phone call.  Last chance – make a great, irresistible call to action.

White space.

Don’t forget the other half of your direct mail letter – white space.  Keep a lot of breathing room around your copy, let it air out.  This may mean reducing your font size from my first preference of 12 points to a slightly smaller 10 point size, but if it makes the letter look light, breezy and easy to read, it’s worth it.

BTW, I always prefer Courier typeface to make the letter look like a traditional letter.  While the letter may be an ad, to make your direct mail letter the most effective it can possibly be, it should look like a letter.

Tests show that when 100,000 letters are mailed with the exact same copy, with 50,000 printed in courier typeface and the other 50,000 in a different typeface, the courier typeface letters draw the best response.

Remember, direct mail letters are secretly ads – not really letters.  They have their own set of distinct rules for effectiveness and the effectiveness of their design has been measured over time.  We’ll still call our ad a letter, though.  OK?


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One Response to “How to Increase Direct Mail Response”

  1. Jennifer ( Says:

    I think direct mailing is extremely beneficial. Letters are a great way to grab the attention of your customers especially if the addresses on the envelopes are hand written. However, what I have seen work extremely well is a laminated card mailer. This piece is bringing in record breaking redemption rates of 7-14%. This piece stands out above any direct mail piece I have seen. The look and feel is significantly different than a paper post card. The quality of the images and the durability surpasses anything I have seen recently. It stands out and gets the attention of new or reoccurring clients. This piece can easily be personalized and equipped with a mag strip or barcode for easy trackability.

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