Direct Mail: A 75-Point Checklist for your Direct Mail.
By Jeffrey Dobkin
The Direct Mail Envelope
Here is your direct mail 75-point checklist to increase direct mail response.
· Teaser Copy – Direct Mail Objective: get package opened
· Use the Jeff Dobkin 100-to-1 Rule: write 100 lines, go back and pick out your best one
Remember – people sort their mail over the wastebasket – your teaser better be G-R-E-A-T!
· Best General Teaser Line Ever?
“Gift Certificate Enclosed”
Cheap to print
Light to ship
High perceived value
Direct at overstocked or deep
Easy to track
Next Best: FREE Gift Offer
Check enclosed [offer] Wholesale pricing enclosed
Write on every envelope “Open Immediately…”
· Alternate to teaser
Name and business address on corner card
Corporate headquarters on corner card
Fake check in window
Printed stamp, actual stamp, meter, or indicia
Recommend: “Standard Mail”
Pitney Bowes Stamp with “Bulk Rate”
in very small letters, vertical.
Bulk Rate Design – is now “Standard Mail” –
Don’t you dare say bulk rate!
Indicia with very, very small “Bulk Rate”
· Start with envelope size first and work backward – Envelope is where you START your package design.
Keep size in mind when creating interior
· Make sure your envelope won’t cause additional mailing expense
Window or closed face?
Window – more business oriented. Official looking.
Better than labels, which are always my last choice
· Great teaser can overcome a label
Direct imaging on envelope – best
Order Early – envelopes often have the longest lead time. Inside Tint – not expensive but needs still more time
The Order Card
Criteria For Success:
· Can someone order from this card if they found it laying on their desk?
· Would they want to?
· Graphics match offer – but mostly match audience!
· USE ITALICS – IT’S OK, REALLY!
· Mark it “Rush Order Form!”
Would you rather order from an order form or a Rush Order Form!
· The order card should contain a brief recap of the entire offer, including price, free gift, guarantee – so savvy prospects can order directly from this card after they throw everything else out. Make sure someone finding this card can – and will want to – order.
· Don’t beat around the bush – it’s no secret this is the order card! Top of Form:
___Yes! Please Rush Me…
___Yes! Send me my 3 FREE GIFTS!
Room for name, address, and phone – with 14-point leading (Hey, all you old guys – remember leading? With real lead?)
Leave appropriate room for information –
State only needs room for 2 letters. Anything else is a waste. Phone only needs 10 spaces. Any arguments?
Room for card number and expire date.
· Smaller block for signature. Reason: Would you rather be able to read the credit card numbers clearly, or read the signature (which you probably won’t be able to read anyhow – it’s a formality)?
For clearest printing or numbers: Half vertical line set to one pica (12 points) for each. To get a vertical line thin and short, use a smaller point size (5 or 6 point) |__|__|__ not |_|_|_, and also adjust underscore width by character size.
· Leave a prominent place for the list code
· Color different offers/prices cards differently – easier for cashiering
· BEST: Pre-print your order card with a name and address – you can then use it as the address label to show through a window envelope. This makes it easiest to capture priority code list and offer data
· Copy Point: Encourage calls. Show your TOLL FREE PHONE NUMBER in LARGE NUMBERS. Don’t forget, even though this is an order card, still go for the CALL – it’s the FASTEST, and most immediate, gratification for customers, and the fastest, most positive way to get orders for you. Say “For fastest delivery order TOLL FREE – CALL 800-234-4332!” Encourage questions: “Your questions are also most welcome!” because they encourage sales.
I talk to people who only have websites – and don’t encourage people to call. I have a name for them: “Less busy.” Sure, you can get away with this if you’re AT&T.
· Copy Point: Write “PLEASE PRINT” over the fill-in name and address area so customers do
· Copy Point: “Please include correct amount or your order will be delayed!” This line helps insure correct amount is enclosed with order.
· Include your Guarantee
Place your guarantee in a graphic that shouts “Yo Buddy – here’s your GUARANTEE!” Box it off with a few embellishments. If your guarantee is “We shall sell no wine before its time,” you may want to look around for a better one.
Need a great guarantee? There are lots of great guarantees – just get a few catalogs.
· Make sure your order card fits in the order envelope. You’ll only make this mistake once!
· Get free spec samples from the paper houses – make sure everything fits.
· Can you pre-address the order form or order card? This insures you’ll get your Priority Code number (for tracking).
· Include your company name and address on form – in case someone needs to know it!
Bottom Line: The order card should contain everything a customer needs to know about your offer, so they can order directly from the order form after they throw everything else out
· Check to make sure it FITS into the Reply Envelope again.
The Reply Envelope
Do you need this? Only if you want a reply!
· Order the envelope early – it usually has the longest delivery time.
· Checklist of what must be printed on envelope
“Order Form Enclosed”
“Payment or Credit Card information enclosed”
“Name and shipping address – no PO boxes, please.”
Everything else is secondary
· ”From” box in corner (customer fills in)
This is your second chance to make sure you have their name and address spelled correctly if you can’t make out their writing on the order form
· Check blocks for
__Rush Order Enclose
__Entry (into contest) Enclosed
Separate these in early pre-processing before cashiering
· Use Special Colors – big blocks of it – or overall tint = Better Delivery!!!! I guarantee this will help if you’re PO BOX 13749602
Different tints can show different prices, different offers, different lists
· Include your phone number for questions (and orders)
When you get a question call, ask if you can take the order now. You’ll get $$faster, they’ll get their order faster – it will be a better experience, you’ll get more re-orders.
Does everything fit?
· Insert components in what order? Don’t let the mailhouse set the order, or which way each piece is facing.
· Is this a limited mailing of a personalized campaign? For best response here – place a live stamp on the reply envelope.
· Don’t forget on back of envelope to print “For Questions Or For Fastest Delivery Call Us TOLL FREE: 800-234-4332!”
Purpose: It’s designed to BRING CREDIBILITY TO THE LETTER
Supports the letter
Shows you are a real firm – includes pictures
Customers can order with confidence that their order will arrive and they’ll be happy and satisfied.
· Clearly show what you are selling: Jeff Dobkin’s 2-Second Rule: can readers see what you are selling in 2 seconds or less?
· Splash with color! Here’s that place to turn on the four-color!
Design it to keep people in package longer – the longer they stay in the package, the more likely they will order.
· Bulleted lists work well in here and have high readership
· Photo captions have highest readership of any part besides the headline. Make sure your photo captions sell the product, show the features or the benefits. Don’t just say, “Here’s a photo of…”
· Extensive use of compelling subheads
Use imaginative subheads over all copy blocks
Jeff Dobkin’s 100-to-1 Rule – write 100 sub-headlines, go back and pick out your best ones
Show product, because you can’t in the letter
Here’s the place to get technical, semi-technical, with features and benefits mixed in: Most people don’t care if it’s a .050” tube with a .12” wall thickness built to an .002 tolerance – but it makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about and your product is well developed.
· Design the brochure to fit the envelope
The letter sells, the brochure tells
· Check The final weight – you wouldn’t want your brochure to kick it up to the next ounce.
· Start out with the objective to keep the reader in the package and interested in what you have to say.
· The first line or two doesn’t sell. Create these lines with the 100-to-1 Rule
· Then, lead with your biggest benefits and best offer first!
How can you best express your offer?
Add to offer:
Buy one, get one FREE
Hurry up incentive – limited time offer
FREE GIFT with offer
· Great price – put it up front, early in package
Mediocre price – move to middle after benefits
Poor price – bury 3/4 of the way through package after benefits and explanation of free gifts
· Think: Who is the exact person you are making this offer to?
Who is your PRIMARY target? Don’t forget – This is the ONE person you are writing to.
Who in your firm decides what price is best?
Split Pricing test – the market selects the best price
Include FREE GIFT, better yet, 3 FREE GIFTS! Best Gifts: Printed materials
Cheap to produce
Ship easily, and
· Booklet Titles drive the offer – and response. You can have people order just to get the premiums – which is OK with me, really.
· Long packages are only for professional writers.
The Jeff Dobkin 2-paragraph rule of readership survival: whenever you have 2 paragraphs back to back that are dull or boring your readership will fall off, so will your income.
Long package if consultive sell, or expensive product
· In support of long copy: You are writing a package for the 2 people in 100 who are thinking about buying – these are the 2 you are writing for, not the other 98.
· Purchasers will read your long copy because 1) they are interested and hungry for information, and 2) they are looking for reassurance that they have made the right decision.
· In larger sales or B2B mailings recipients may throw out your long 4-page letter, but will be happy to read 4-1 page letters! This will also build continuity.
· Question: Should you include a letter?
Answer: Only if you would like to increase your response by 30 to 40%. Use a letterhead with a selling or endearing (branding) slogan.
· Most effective space in your letter? Upper right-hand side of first page. Use a Johnson Box. Summarize your best offer and FREE gift there. It may look like an ad – OK to set in different type style.
Draft the widest salutation
Too narrow a salutation will turn off readers
Add “and Friend” after salutation
Neighborhood alignment: “Dear Neighbor”
Make it look like a letter
Courier style type – 12/12
Short on space?
Courier 10/12 or 10/11
Bookman 8/9 or New Century
Really short on space? Times Roman
Indent all paragraphs 4 or 5 spaces
Dobkin Rounding – first line shorter on right than subsequent lines in paragraph
DON’T LET THE COMPUTER CALL THE LINE ENDINGS – Your computer is STUPID – it doesn’t know what looks good, what makes the most sense.
Adjust copywriting for widows/orphans
No paragraph longer than 7 lines, max
Vary paragraph length
· Foreshortened paragraph in center
May be smaller type, italics, or different typestyle – Good way to save on space if letter is too long
Attracts eye to this area
Breaks up copy into better-looking blocks
You need this in EVERY letter
· Bulleted list of benefits in center
Bulleted lists have highest readership
· Use letter design graphic elements
Bold – once a paragraph or just a few times
Does the bold inadvertently break across two lines? If just a few words are in bold don’t run on two different lines
Italics – emphasize action words, phrases
Underline occasionally, don’t break onto two lines
CAPITALS – only once or twice in letter.
FREE – usually set in caps. Use FREE in prominent word-placement positions line corners and end of lines.
Dash – keeps people reading, use frequently
· Keep letter adjusted for scanning readers. If their eye drifts down the page does it fall on a coherent story. Do certain words that you want seen stand out? Do you end the line with FREE so it stands out?
· Set “FREE” 2 points larger so it stands out
· Sign Legibly
Your signature may be referred to as “the great scribble” by your office, but customers want something they can read and a name and signature they can relate to.
Restate offer, give biggest benefits
Offer premiums or gifts again
Show guarantee unless blocked off elsewhere
Ask for action twice, give phone number
· Give Phone number several times in letter
· Ask for order several times, also
· One page letters are OK if you…
If you don’t need to sell too hard
If you don’t need to explain anything
If the audience is familiar with your product/service
If letter is slightly too long for one page: shown in preferred order –
1. Look for widows that can be eliminated
2. Steal space by reducing leading between paragraphs
3. Reduce typeface size or use a condensed typeface style
4. Bring copy margins out to edge of page, allow letter to go from top to bottom, then reduce printer output to 90%. This will reduce printed vertical dimension by one inch, and reduce horizontal dimension by 3/4 inch.
· Two pages
Least favorite: print on back of page one (I only do this when there is a weight restriction or the budget is tight.
If weight allows, go to two separate pages
Preferred: 11 x 17 sheet, print on pages 1 and 3.
My Preferences – there are no 2-page letters. Go to 11 x 17 sheet, create 3-page letter. Back may be left open, or continue with light copy, or separate ad sheet on back (doesn’t look like part of the letter).
· If you have a 50-page catalog, how many order forms do you have in it? Only one? Shame on you!
Preaddressed is best – you’ll get all tracking info and won’t have to struggle reading someone’s handwriting – at least for their name and address.
Have your phone number in bold
· Shipping Costs – are you penalizing people for ordering more? Doesn’t a larger order mean you have more room to bury a shipping cost?
· Are your part numbers for each item designed to help you internally or assist the customer in their ordering?
The MOST important element in any mailing.
RFM? Compiled? Response?
12 places to buy a list
Magazine Publishers – subscribers list
Associations, Directories: Check out National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States – www.columbiabooks.com; 888-265-0600, and Encyclopedia of Associations by The Gale Group (800-877-GALE)
Trade Show Attendees
Check out www.TSCentral.com & www.tradeshowdataweek.com
Catalogs of Mailing Lists
Reference Directories of lists
SRDS List Source (800-851-SRDS), Oxbridge Communications Directory of Mailing Lists (800-955-0231)
List of Questions to ask a list broker.
Jeff Dobkin is a speaker (blah blah blah, yip yip yip) and a marketing consultant (marketing plans, pr, market strategy, plan analysis: audits and review, media review) who happens to be an amazing writer (corporate literature, articles, brochures, ads, collateral, annual reports, technical material), specializing in direct-selling print and web (DR Ads, catalogs, TV scripts, web copy) and direct marketing material (letters, direct mail, mailing packages brochures, catalogs, web copy and did I mention post cards?) He’s also pretty darn good at analyzing catalogs, ads and campaigns and direct mail packages. He has written over 250 articles and 5 books on direct marketing. He can be reached at 610-642-1000. Thanks for visiting this site and reading our explicit how-to articles on marketing, direct marketing, PR and copywriting. How can we help you?
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