One of my favorite subjects is “no-brainer” marketing. I call it no brainer because even though it is fundamentally easy, so many business owners simple DO NOT DO IT! Now there are internet gurus out there that will tell you that the attention paradigm has shifted, that the consumer wants to be communicated with in multi-leveled spheres. They include word, video, podcast etc. Sure, I agree wholeheartedly and at ABC Business Coaching we do this however whilst the paradigm shifts I still want to be sure that the tried and true marketing doctrines are still working in parallel with the innovations. You should to…so read on dear business owner.
In writing ads and sales letters, the first principle you need to consider is AIDA. It stands for:
This is basically the device which attracts the attention of the reader in an attempt to turn them in to a prospect or indeed even a client.
It could be a jingle or a loud noise or birth colours or many other things, but in our case we’re going to stick with the written ad and therefore ‘Attention’ is usually achieved by a headline or AGD (more about those later).
One important factor to consider when writing direct mail is that it is a one-to-one communication. Just as if you were talking to the person. So write it as if you are:!
The best way to attract the attention of the person you wish to ‘talk’ to is to write a headline that they’d be interested in. It was mentioned in another lead generation subject that if you want John Smith to read your headline, then write one that he’s going to be interested in. If your name appeared in print in a headline, wouldn’t you read it?
Obviously we’re not saying to write a headline for the name of every person you’re trying to target, but we do mean to write it AS IF you were talking to one person and one person only. For example;
“Attention Asthma Suffers”
“At Last, a sure fire way to stop your dog barking”
“A Cure for Cancer”
“FREE, your copy of how to make a million dollars”
“7 simple steps to make a million dollars”
“Never have back ache again”
“Coldest beer in town”
Every one of these headlines is talking to anyone who has an interest in that particular thing. If you were an asthma sufferer, or had a barking dog, or you knew someone with cancer, or would like to make a million dollars, or have chronic back pain, or it was a hot day and you were just plain thirsty, these headlines or headlines like these would attract your attention:!
The key to writing effective head lines is always talk to JOHN SMITH.
And yet you will see time and time again a headline that says Mary’s Cakes, or Cosmic Cuts, or Jims Butcher. None of these headlines attract any one’s interest except the business owner and perhaps their Mum!
Outers and Attention Grabbing Devices
If you’re using direct mail, you must consider something just as important as your headline: how to get your mailer read?
There are two effective ways to get this done: Outers and Attention Grabbing Devices (AGDs).
The outer is simply the ‘package’ your direct mail is delivered in. It could be an express post bag, or black envelope, a bright yellow envelope, hand delivered, sweet smelling, chunky, small, large, or just plain different.
Think about it yourself. When you receive mail and you have one that is computer printed with ‘Valued Customer’ or “Business Owner” or it might even by your name, but in the same mail you receive a hand addressed envelope with your name and address on it with a normal postage stamp. Which one are you more likely to open first? The hand written one of course. It arouses your interest more:
So give some thought to the ‘outer’ of your mailers. How can you ‘grab’ the attention of the ‘suspect’?
Another way to ‘grab’ attention is to use an Attention Grabbing Device or AGD. And AGD can quite literally be anything. As the name suggests, its an object that is designed to ‘grab’ the attention of the person your trying to communicate with.
There are many examples of AGDs, here are but a few, they are limited by your imagination:
§ Band aids
§ Tea bags
§ A length of rope
§ A toy
§ A piece of jigsaw puzzle
§ A bag of ‘gold’ (gravel painted gold)
§ A paper clip
§ A $1 note
§ A gambling die
§ A lolly
§ And the list goes on.
It’s important that there is a link between the AGD and the actual ‘copy’ of your mailer. There needs to be some relevance. You can use this link to establish your introduction. For example :
If you were using a bag of gold, you might link with something like At last! a sure fire way to turn your efforts into gold.
Or, if you were using a die, you might link it with, “Stop gambling with your health”.
Or if you were using a match stick, you might link it with “ignite the fire in your business”.
Now that you have their attention you have approximately 4 seconds to secure their interest. It’s crucial that you now entice them to read further. This is where a ‘sub-headline’ can work wonders.
The idea with print advertising is that the headline entices the reader to read the sub headline. The sub headline entices the reader to read the copy and the copy entices the reader to read the call to action and the call to action entices the reader to take action and purchase or at least inquire about the business owner’s product or service.
In addition to the actual sub headline, there are a number of small things that need to be taken into account in order to maintain interest in the ad.
The accepted font size is either 11 or 12 point font. You’re now reading 12 point font.
Now you’re reading 11 point font.
Some people can tend to get too concerned about sending out more than one page of a letter so they will reduce their font size to make it fit. If it’s uncomfortable to read, people are less likely to read it. This is 10 point font, as you can see, its beginning to get a little small.
But then there are still others who think that if they write in lager fonts, they will have more impact. Fact is, it simply looks like they’re writing to a child:
So, for the best results use either 12 or 11 point font.
Font type is another area of confusion for many people. Generally speaking there are two basic types of fonts:
Serif font. That’s the one with ‘little feet’ on them. This paragraph is produced in is a serif font. Many word processing programs default to a serif font.
This particular font you’re reading now is called ‘Times New Roman”. Some research suggests that comprehension is reduced when reading a non serif font and so often a serif font like this one is used for sales letters etc..
A non serif font is like this one you’re reading now. As you can see, it doesn’t have ‘little feet’ on it. Many people believe a san serif font, like this one, looks easier to read.
We have chosen a non serif font for these articles and whilst it doesn’t have the feet of the “times New Roman” example it is more like the serif style than the “Arial” font used in the paragraph above this one. You might choose a font like this style to attempt a balance between comprehension and ease of reading.
It is important that you don’t get carried away using decorative or swanky fonts as you risk losing lose your reader before they get the chance to take in your message. A conservative, plainer style along the lines of these examples is recommended.
Justification means that one of both edges of your paragraphs are ‘aligned’.
For example: all the paragraphs in this article are what are known as ‘justified’. They stretch across the page and have even edges on both sides.
This type of justification is usually reserved for formal or text writing. There would be few occasions when this type of justification would be required inn sales letters. And certainly rarely, if ever, in direct mail.
The next type is Right Justified.
In this case, as you can see, the even edge is on the right had side of the page. Again, sometimes useful, but rarely.
The next type of course is Left Justified. It is the most common style you will use and will have an even edge down the left hand side but will have an uneven or ‘jagged’ finish on the right hand side.
This type of style is most effective as it portrays a casual, friendly communication. Which is exactly what you want when writing copy for direct mail and flyers.
You’ll also notice that we use a small indent for each paragraph. This is because it leads the eye to where you want it. If all paragraphs were straight, imagine how that would look!
Then there’s writing style. This is actually the easiest part and yet the part that most people have challenges with. It’s simple because all you need to do is ‘write like you talk’.
If you lived a few hundred years ago, you would have walked down the street and met a ‘gentleman’ and said something like “My dear Mr. Smith, ’tis good to see you up and well again:”. It’s just the way people spoke! At the same time, reading and writing was reserved for the privileged few. So as language evolved so too did a writing style that suited that era:
The thing is, we’re no longer in that era:!
They simply wrote as they spoke: and that’s exactly what you should do. In writing a direct mail piece, don’t start with Dear Mr Smith, start with “good morning”, or “Hi John”, or in some cases even “G’day Barry”.
So, remember, just imagine how you would be talking to that person and write accordingly.
Even if you were writing to a corporate boss, there would be little difference, perhaps a little more formal, but not a lot.
Imagine how many ‘typical’ letters that person would receive in a day, and yours turns up, refreshing, and easy to read???
Emphasis and punctuation
The next thing that will make your copy work better is emphasis and punctuation.
In the 21st Century we have so many ways by which we can spice up our communications. However, be careful not to overdo it:
Use bold, italics, CAPS and underline to help emphasise certain points you want to make. Of course you can use combinations. For example:
As you can see, the above letter uses each of the ’emphasis’ tools available to you. And it’s the way I would have expressed it, if I have of been standing in front of her:
Two more things to consider!
Use contractions and use ‘:’
Contractions are used in everyday speech, so use them in your direct mail and correspondence. You’ve instead of you have for example.
Just be careful that you don’t overuse them however as they can become tiresome to