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75 Point Checklist for Direct Mail

FREE: Download this Checklist for Direct Mail

Download this
FREE Checklist for Direct Mail

Does your direct mail need to be more responsive?  Is your creative team at it’s wits end?  Can you increase your direct mail response numbers this easily – just by reading this list of what you need in your direct mail package?  I’ll bet you can.

Fifty bucks says several of these written marketing technique ideas will increase your draw.  Let’s see that $50 up front – before you look this list over.  This list was written by Jeffrey Dobkin years ago when most of his clients were large mail order firms, so there is a heavy influence in getting maximum direct orders for products.  Dobkin specializes in direct marketing where making the phone ring is the beginning of each order.

Here is our amazing checklist for your direct mail to increase response, guaran-damn-teed to get more people to call you.  

Increase the Effectiveness of your Direct Mail Envelope

· 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 to use on the envelope.

Remember – people sort their mail over the wastebasket – your teaser better be G-R-E-A-T!

· Best Envelope Teaser Lines Ever:

“Gift Certificate Enclosed”
·  Cheap to print
·  Light to ship
·  High perceived value
·  Direct at overstocked or deep margin merchandise
·  Naturally easy to track

Next Best Teaser Line: FREE Gift Offer

·  Check enclosed [offer] ·  Wholesale pricing enclosed

Always write on every envelope “Open Immediately…”

Here’s an alternate to using  teaser teaser lines to get you envelope opened:
·  Name and business address on corner card
·  Corporate headquarters address on corner card

Use a Fake check showing partly in the window.  I didn’t say I liked it, I just said it can work.

· Postage Styles:

Printed stamp, actual stamp, meter, or indicia
Recommended wording: “Standard Mail” (not bulk mail)
Pitney Bowes Stamp with “Bulk Rate” in very small letters, vertical.
Bulk Rate Design – is now “Standard Mail” –
In fact, don’t you dare say bulk rate!
Indicia with very, very small “Bulk Rate”

To get the maximum Postal Discounts
· Start with envelope size first and work backward – Envelope is where you START your package design.
Keep size in mind when creating the interior
· Make sure your envelope won’t cause additional mailing expense
Weight the contents before adding that additional piece of paper – make sure it doesn’t push you up to the next higher postage rate.

Window or closed face?
Window Envelopes are more business oriented. Can be very official looking.
Better than labels, which are always my last choice
· A great teaser line (as above) can overcome a poorly affixed label – which are usually applied a bit crooked.
Best: Direct imaging on the envelope
A great looking envelope builds credibility
Order Early – envelopes often have the longest lead time.
If your mailing is large enough you can usually order an Inside Tint on your envelope – it’s not that expensive but needs still more time to print.  (Your envelope will now need to be printed on a different printer.)

The Order Card, yea… it’s still important!

Criteria For Success:
· Can someone order from this card if they found it laying on their desk?
· Would they want to?
· Graphics should match the offer – but mostly the graphics must match audience!
· Mark it “Rush Order Form!”
Would you rather order from an order form or a Rush Order Form!  Yes, so would your readers.
· 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!

Order form Address Block:  Design it well — to encourage orders.
Leave ample room for respondent’s name, address, and phone – with 14-point leading (Hey, all you old typographer guys – remember leading? Created with real lead?) For you millennials, this is the space between the lines.
Leave appropriate room for information to be printed clearly.
The state only needs room for 2 letters. Anything else is a waste. Phone only needs 10 spaces. Any arguments?

Leave more room for a credit card number and expiration date – it’s important: this encourages people to order, and it’s a visual hook that it’s an order card.
It’s OK to leave a smaller block for the customers 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)?  If you can’t read a number or get one wrong, the customer must be called.

To encourage the clearest printing of numbers by the respondent: Separate each number by half a vertical line set to one pica (12 points) for each number.
To get a vertical line thin and short, use a smaller point size (5 or 6 point) |__|__|__ and also adjust underscore width by character size.

· Leave a prominent place for the mailing list code on the order card
· Color different offers/prices on postcards differently – easier for cashiering
· BEST: Pre-print your order card with the recipient’s 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 on your order card. 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.  If someone calls, they are interested in purchasing.
I talk to people who have websites and don’t encourage people to call. I have a name I call 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.
·  Make sure you capture their Phone Number.
·  “Name and shipping address – no PO boxes, please.”
· 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 on the post card
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 and see their guarantees.  Make yours similar.

· Make sure your order card fits in the order envelope. You’ll only make this mistake once, I… er… a friend of mine did!
· 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 List Priority Code number (for tracking).
· Include your company name and address on the form – in case someone needs to… you know, order!
· 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 again to make sure it FITS into the Reply Envelope.  Reply envelope is necessary if you want a check, money order or credit card information with an order.
· 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.

The Reply Envelope

Do you need this? Only if you want an order!
· Order the envelope early – envelopes usually have the longest delivery time.

Checklist of what should be printed on the envelope
“RUSH Order Form Enclosed”  Sometimes: “Process Immediately!”
”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 read their writing on the order form
· Check blocks for
__Rush Order Enclose
__Entry (into contest) Enclosed
__Correspondence 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 insure better delivery if you’re PO BOX 13749602 at the post office!)
Different tints can show different prices, different offers, different mailing  lists

Does everything fit?
· 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!”

The Brochure

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.

The Letter
Every mailing package should contain a letter.  It can increase sales by 100%, 200% even draw 5 times the response.


· 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
“Dear Colleague”
Add “and Friend” after salutation
Neighborhood alignment: “Dear Neighbor”

· Layout

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).

Order Form/Catalog

· 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
List Brokers
List Compliers
Associations, Directories: Check out National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States –; 888-265-0600, and Encyclopedia of Associations by The Gale Group (800-877-GALE)
Trade Show Attendees
Check out &
Catalog Houses
Catalogs of Mailing Lists
Your Competitors
Reference Directories of lists
SRDS List Source (800-851-SRDS), Oxbridge Communications Directory of Mailing Lists (800-955-0231)
House List
Please see our article 12 Question to Ask a Mailing List Vendor.

Finally — Insert mailing package components in what order? Don’t let the mailhouse set the order, or which way each piece is facing.

Jeffrey Dobkin, direct mail response strategy

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeff Dobkin is a long time old school direct mail writer, with over 30 years of experience.  Yea, he looks good for being that old.  Alcohol is a great preservative.
In case you’re interested, he’s a pretty funny, information-rich speaker (blah blah blah, yip yip yip), a writer (sales letters, booklets, reports, articles, websites and stuff like dat dere) and a marketing consultant (marketing plans, pr, market strategy, plan and campaign analysis: audits and review, media review).  He actually happens to be an amazing writer (corporate literature, brochures, ads, collateral, annual reports, technical material), specializing in direct-selling print and web (Direct Response Ads, catalogs, TV scripts, web copy) and direct marketing material (letters, direct mail, to entire mailing packages and catalogs, and did I mention post cards?) He’s also pretty darn good at analyzing catalogs, ads and campaigns and direct mail packages in case you’d like yours to generate a higher response. 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?

Hope this list was helpful. Call with Questions – 610-642-1000! Thanks again for visiting our website. We hope our articles are entertaining, informative and of great value. We welcome your comments. Well… the good ones, anyhow. The bad ones not as much. EMAIL: Email Jeffrey Here! Or send emails to Jeff at Dobkin dot com.

For the other thousand tips on increasing the effectiveness of your direct mail, please visit our store and buy our books – they’re quite amazing in this regard!  Tips, tricks and treasures in direct marketing strategy.  No history, no theory and no BS.  Not one wasted page.  Visit Bookstore!


Thank you…


Click here to Download Jeffrey Dobkin’s 75 point Checklist for Direct Mail