Effective direct mail copywriting tells a story or paints a picture in the reader’s mind. This engages the customer to consider further exploration of the offering. There are no hard-and-fast rules for copywriting, but here are some guidelines to keep in mind: 1. Make it skimmable. When most people pick up direct-mail, they quickly glance through it to determine if they want to know more. Graphics and copy have to work together to not only deliver the message, but perk their interest. To sum up, keep it short:
2. Grab their visual interest. Pictures should help the prospect imagine themselves with the product. Don’t just use stock photos when actual products in-use pictures may be better effective. Describe with a photo how they will feel with that new car, boat or lake home. Stress the benefits of a product and service, not the features. All cars basically do the same function: Traveling from point A to point B. How can you make an emotional connection with the reader, using photos? 3. Have a reason. Reaching today’s savvy customer means more than just having an offer; you have to sell it to them in a compelling way. Look at the trend in website headlines. Compelling headlines pique reader interest by asking questions or solving problems. Which is more likely to grab a customer’s interest: 1) “Save 10 percent on our fall hearing aid sale” -or- 2) “I cried when I heard my grandchild’s first recital” Which are you more likely to read? The information and offer could be the same, but the reason is different; it stresses the “why,” not just the “what.” Consider what it is about your product making it of special interest. That's the point you want to stress throughout the direct-mail piece. 4. Tell the story in a new way. The next step is to take that story, and build a compelling story around it. Don’t just talk about a feature, like a hearing aid’s new audio enhancement technology, but how the new model’s longer battery life means the user can enjoy life more. The more the reader can relate to the person in the story, the more likely they will be able to see themselves using the product. People especially love a rags-to-riches story. "I was poor (sick, lonely, etc.). Then I learned this secret, and now I'm healthy, happy and rich. And now I'll share everything I learned with you." Some of the most effective sales pieces have taken that exact approach. This is your opportunity to sell yourself (or whomever created the product). Why are you an expert? Why are you the one to provide the solution to the reader's problem? Often a personal story about the individual who created the product makes for a very compelling sales piece. Of course, the story isn't really about this user; it's about the product and what it will do for the customer. Make sure the story incorporates the product and makes the offer agent and compelling. 5. Keep them interested. Remember what we said earlier about subheads? Subheads can be used like bread crumbs on a trail to keep the reader engaged. If they get bogged down in a paragraph that doesn’t interest them, a subhead gives them a reason to jump ahead and continue reading. The story itself needs to be compelling enough to carry the reader through, by relating to their interests and goals. Gary Pageau is principal of InfoCircle LLC, a marketing communications company based in Michigan, serving local and national clients.