Getting Started with Creative by the Numbers:
A List of 99 Creative Ideas
31. The letter is the most important element in a direct-mail or mail-order package.
In most cases 65% of your response will come because of the copy in the letter.
So, it is very important to be selective in your salutation. Stay away from the trite and stuffy "standard" openings. Instead, be friendly and personal.
Use a name if available. But if not, relate your salutation to the audience:
- Dear Tennis Nut
- Dear Executive
- Dear World Traveler
- To The Person in Charge of ______.
32. Write to people, not companies.
People make decisions, companies dont. People are the actors in daily life, the drama of the office, factory, and home. In every organization.
Your copy should call these people out by name, if possible. By title without fail:
- Sales Representative
- Home Owner
33. Get the spacing right.
Spacing of copy in your letter, brochure, and all the elements of your direct mail, print and, and catalog is very important. Single space paragraphs, double space between paragraphs.
34. A printed letter looks more personal when you use:
- An exact date.
- A salutation.
- Indented paragraphs.
- Short paragraphs.
- A complimentary close and signature.
- A P.S.
Compromise by removing any of these and your letter will start becoming an institutional blurb instead of a personal communication.
As copy pro and direct marketing guru Bob Hemmings says: "The best direct mail is a letter to mother . . . multiplied." Write personal direct mail.
35. Always use typewriter type for your letters.
Never typeset them. It takes away from the personal feeling of your letter.
Even with "fancy" desktop publishing and word processing available today, typewriter-type letters still look more like a personal letter. Use typewriter type.
36. Here are my eight golden guidelines on how to write a direct response sales letter:
- The best way is the simple way. WRITE IT LIKE YOU SAY IT! Dont concern yourself with punctuation (we overuse it anyway). Dont wordsmith every sentence. Make it human.
You probably use simple words when you talk (how many of us really understand Bill Buckley?). Use these same 1- and 2-syllable simple words when you write. Write it like youd say it.
- The best mail is personal mail multiplied. Write to your Aunt Minnie (or if you dont like Auntie M. then your favorite somebody). And do it over and over and over to others. It works.
- If your audience is octogenarians in Oshkosh then you become an octogenarian in Oshkosh. Pretend you are the recipient and write to yourself.
Plumbers dont respond the same as doctors, teenagers differently from grandparents, president of large companies differently from those of smaller firms, women from men, musicians from architects.
Write to your audience, talk to them with whatever common denominator is available. Put yourself in your readers frame of mind.
- Never, but NEVER talk down to your audience. Look them straight in the eye, aim at them directly. Or even better yet, look up to them.
- Do not tell a lie. Be honest, straightforward, up front, true. Tell a funny story, be entertaining, weave a theme to make your point . . . play games anyway that will help your cause, but do not tell a lie. Ever.
- Have something to say. This may seem funny to have to say, but many letters dont say anything. Have something specific to say, a message, and then say it. Dont beat around the bushcome out with it.
- Make an offer. The offer says if you do this now these good things will happen to you now. Respond in 30 days and you get a free thing-a-ma-jig. Save 10%. Or win a bonus gift. Or your choice of . . .
The offer is the reason a certain percentage of your audience will respondand it many times is the difference between success or failure. Move those "considering" you to your side with a good offer.
- ASK FOR THE ORDER! Be specificask your audience to do something. Come into your store with the coupon, mail back the card for the free booklet, call you for an appointment, make a donation, send for the product, order the servicewhatever it is, ask for the order.
Dont just hint. Spell it out in spades. What do you want me, the audience, to do? Tell me what to do, the benefits of doing it, the benefits of doing it nowmaking your offer clear. No matter how you do it, ASK FOR THE ORDER!
More About Copy
37. Dont be a slave to grammar.
Use "thought units" when you write. Copywriting and English composition are two different things. Feel free to ignore the grammarians rules if they get in the way of clear forceful communication. (Your 9th grade English teacher isnt around to give you an "F" anymore.)
This doesnt mean you should write like an illiterate, but if your copys tone and rhythm call for them, go ahead and use sentence fragments. And run-ons. And split infinitives.
You dont worry about grammatical technicalities when you do face-to-face selling. Why get uptight when you write direct mail or a response ad?
38. Make your copy inviting.
All it takes is a felt pen, a photo or 2, and a little imagination. People as a rule do not read direct mail to be entertained.
Long copy blocks are foreboding. Break up your copy with:
- CAPPED words
- asterisks (*)
Butuse these graphic devices sparingly or youll lose the emphasis youre trying to achieve.
39. Prospects read more of your letter if you make it hard for them to stop at the end of the page.
End the page in mid-sentence or even mid-word. Put "Please turn," "over," or "More benefits on the other side." Use graphic devices such as a hand-drawn arrow pointing right.
Dont give your reader a place to take a breather or they may take a walk instead.
40. Use active sentences and phrases.
Watch yourself so you dont write things like, "Your cars performance is improved 4 ways by Widget Additive," when you should say, "Widget Additive improves your cars performance 4 ways."
Except for a few casessuch as where you dont want to reveal something until the end of the sentencestay in the active voice. Youll save words and make it easier for your reader to stay with you.