Anybody can write direct mail copy, right? The answer is yes, and no. The trick to successful marketing copy is knowledge, prior preparation and an understanding of previous results. We’ve been offering direct mail services for years and have seen both effective and disastrous marketing copy. The following tips and advice has been gleaned from years of experience creating both customer and prospect direct mail and email marketing.
1. Say what you need to say, in as few words as possible
Experience shows your mail marketing has less than two seconds to grab your consumer’s attention. Think punchy, persuasive text.
2. Provide clear steps
Start with the call-to-action as part of your direct mail marketing: telephone numbers etc. After, move onto what you would like the reader to do – call the number – and what they can expect from doing so. This will help clarify objectives and the end result of your direct mailing.
3. Get to the point
Be absolutely clear in what you’re saying. The difference between success and failure with direct mail marketing is understanding what you would like to happen next. If a customer can misunderstand your marketing copy, they will.
4. Keep the first line short
To draw the reader’s eye, the first line should be as short as possible. The shorter the line width, the easier it is to read.
5. Objective is ‘to sell’
We are, most definitely, going against the grain, but you don’t always have to be grammatically correct. If your brand is casual, with a relaxed tone, make sure your message reflects your brand’s nature. The rule is simple… Whatever sells, sells!
6. Always use connectors
Using connectors encourages the reader to continue reading, so utilise the power of arrows and numbered items etc.
7. Keep them reading
Incorporate ‘read on’ or ‘more overleaf’ to your direct mail design, and it’s likely your audience will do as you ask.
8. Use ‘everyday’ language
Don’t use complex language for simple messages. It’s likely this type of direct advertising will be misunderstood.
9. Does it make sense?
Successful marketing requires thinking like the consumer so ask yourself if they will truly understand your advertising mail.
10. Use 'free' and 'new'
We’re programmed to be inquisitive. In our experience as a mailing house, using these words increases response rates.
11. Don't cry wolf
Misleading your consumers oversteps marketing legalities. As part of our direct mail services, we always recommend you be transparent.
7. Topics covered
Your direct mail design and copy must act as your sales team, and your direct mail copy should provide an easier job for your team, such as FAQs etc.
13. Use Google Adwords
If you are bidding on terms, include them in your direct mail marketing. Prospects are likely to search for your words.
14. Add a signature
If possible, include signatures. Signatures signify you have taken the time to personalise their mailing, leaving your prospects a lot more appreciative of your work. Likewise, if you choose luxurious print finishing and direct mail fulfilment, you have more chance of seeing an increase in responses.
15. You don’t always have to include T&C’s
T&C’s don’t have to be on the mail marketing itself. You can get away with ‘terms and conditions apply, see www.example.co.uk’ etc. to save space for your direct mail design.
16. Run the terms & conditions past an expert
Terms and conditions, by their very nature, are legally binding. Most likely, your marketers are not lawyers, and it’s always best to go to the experts to save any repercussions.
17. Use names
If you address your consumer as wrongly, for example… Mr E. X. Ample or Mrs M. Mouse, it shows a lack of accurate data and even interest. If you cannot take the time to personalise your message, why should they respond to your direct mail marketing?
18. Believe in your offer
If you are selling an offer, believe in what you are saying. If you do, you’ll be significantly more authentic in your tone.
19. Don’t change your customer’s behaviour
Work with them and change your process to suit their needs. If your target audience does not want to do something, they won’t. No amount of direct mail marketing will change that.
20. Read over your mailing
We’ve lost count of the number of clients who haven’t proofread their mail marketing, and have had to make changes at the last minute. It can prove costly when employing direct mail services, so always ensure you read through and ask colleagues to also.
Personalisation increases response rates by up to 65%, when compared to that of mail campaigns addressed to the ‘homeowner’.
22. Handwritten touches improve engagement
Handwritten messages always get noticed – particularly in the digital age. If you can include handwritten notes, as opposed to typeset printed, you are likely to increase interaction.
23. Include small areas of text
Shorter sentences and paragraphs increase readability, and increased readability reduces confusion and the risk of abandonment.
24. Do not repeat
Many consumers will stop reading if they have already read it. Try to keep your copy unique, refreshing and persuasive.
25. Grab attention
You can create interest by using tables and graphs, and setting a line at an angle. Likewise, you should never justify your text. If you use the direct mail services of a mailing house, they should be able to guide you through the process of design and where to place images and copy etc.
26. Attempt to use first person
People buy from people, not from faceless companies. Wherever possible, use ‘you’ and ‘me’.
27. Make it easier to say ‘yes’
Most people take the path of least resistance. As part of your content marketing strategy, you should aim to make ‘yes’ that path.
28. Sell the lifestyle
Don’t just sell what your product does, but how it will add value to your consumer’s life. People buy into lifestyles – particularly if you demonstrate the importance of your product or service.
29. Offer positive social proof
Offering negative social proof while asking for your prospect to do something positive, is more likely to result in the reader taking the negative course of action.
30. Never pad out your copy
The more copy there is, the greater the opportunity for confusion. Therefore, the easier it is to ignore.
31. Use guarantees
Guarantees are solid, tangible facts. The reader is aware you’re attempting to sell your services, and is subconsciously looking for a catch. Guarantees help put their subconscious to rest.
32. Give more than the reader expects
Reports have shown that unexpected and personalised additional bonus items or gifts, delivered at a significant point in time, can dramatically increase engagement rates. This is particularly true in the case of ‘Thank You’ marketing as part of a renewal or retention cycle.
33. Keep in mind your reader’s budgets
Methods of purchase will vary depending on your audience. Some might purchase outright, and others might prefer to spread the cost. Bear those thoughts in mind with your direct advertising, and offer multiple ways to purchase. You should put the control back in their hands to ease any fears they might have about buying from your brand.
34. Your reader’s time is precious
Your prospect’s time is critical. We live in an always-on technology-driven society, with demands on our time from dozens of directions. If your direct mailing is quick, easy and with as little fuss as possible, your readers will welcome your message.
35. Thank your reader early
The acknowledgement of your reader spending their valuable time with your brand builds on a relationship, thus increasing engagement. You can thank them for something as simple as reading your direct mail marketing.
36. Reward your prospects as they read
Rewarding your consumer keeps them reading. The more they read, the more likely to engage and respond to your message. Plus, everyone loves a bargain.
37. Don’t use your first draft
You should never produce direct advertising with your first draft, and any good mailing house will reinforce this point. Your first draft can always almost be made better with editing. We always attempt to reduce our initial direct mail copy by up to 50%.
38. Build your headline around a benefit
Start with your most powerful advantage, maximising the potential for your reader to say ‘yes’. Every subsequent benefit will bolster this and, at some point, there should be an acceptance tipping point.
39. Use case studies
Research shows that offers paired with case studies always come out on top.
40. Think about your offer
After correct data, tests have shown that the offer is the second primary factor in achieving a response. Preview your offer as soon as possible, and utilise it throughout your marketing campaign.
41. Offer solutions
While you should touch on your company, use the time to discuss the solutions you can offer to your consumers. All prospects are interested in is what your services can offer to their life.
42. Don’t use closed questions
If your reader can answer ‘no’ to your headline, they will rarely read further.
43. Ask target consumers to read your copy
Your marketing copy must speak to your consumer. Choose specific individuals to proofread your mail marketing. If they all understand the message, your marketing campaign is already on the way to success.
44. Choose an appropriate tone
Tone can make or break direct mail. If your brand is renowned for a warm and relaxed vibe, replicate that tone in your advertising mail.
45. Make your copy exciting
The more exciting and the more entry points for the reader, the higher the chance your prospects will begin reading your copy. A busy and dynamic layout trumps a neat layout by over 14%.
46. Caption pictures
Your eye is drawn first to the image, before reading text underneath. Placing a caption before the image means it’s likely to be ignored.
47. Ensure your copy flows
If your direct mail copy is disjointed, your prospect will not have the necessary information to engage with your marketing campaign. Essentially, you are throwing money away…
48. Stick to a primary objective
You should always have one primary objective, and stick to it. Multiple objectives will dilute your message, leaving it less effective.
49. Be honest
Reputation is paramount. An element of doubt with your marketing mail can render the whole campaign useless, corrupting your entire message.
50. Put ‘quotes’ around phrases
Placing quotes around phrases helps customers accept the novelty of the phrase. Therefore, it allows a little freedom for your brand, with the readers not taking the quote as gospel.
51. Use ‘real’ numbers
Always stick to numbers that can be envisaged by the reader. Avoid numbers such as 500 billion and the like, and stick to more realistic numbers. The more realistic, and the easier the number is to visually understand… for instance “a football stadium full of people every week”, the bigger the trust.
52. Avoid using round numbers
The more a number departs from a rounded-off number, the more credible it seems to the reader. Research has also found that listicles starting with an odd number have a significantly better read rate than that of even numbers, as they appear trusted.
53. Use brackets in the most appropriate places
Brackets help you downplay message that are still crucial to your direct marketing (they tell the reader that what’s in them is less important than what’s gone before them.)
54. Use exclamation marks sparingly
Only use exclamation points if what you are talking about is worth exclaiming. Otherwise, you run the risk of diluting the importance of the exclamation.
55. Don’t start a sentence with ‘it’
Your mail copy should be punch and persuasive, and ‘it’ is weak when it comes to selling. Attempt to stick to sentences beginning with your product or brand, and avoid ‘fluffing’ your text. If the copy doesn’t need to be there, get rid of the sentence.
56. Use ‘the’ above ‘a’
When using ‘the’ above ‘a’, you are suggesting that your product or service stands alone, as opposed to one of many. The air of exclusivity adds excitement to your direct mailing, offering an incentive for the readers to follow on with the next steps.
57. Use contractions sparingly
While contractions may make your campaign appear more personal and relaxed, they can reduce readability. Use the likes of ‘shan’t’ and ‘won’t’ sparingly to avoid tiring the eye.
58. Include ‘will you’ to request statements
A subtle question goes a long way when it comes to direct mail marketing, with pushy messages likely to be ignored. Adding ‘will you’ at the end of your copy transforms the hard statement to a warmer request.
59. Use ‘when’ instead of ‘if’
This one is fairly straightforward. Using ‘when’ suggests your offer or message is going to happen, whereas ‘if’ only suggests something might happen.
60. Use ‘because’
Studies have shown the using conjunction ‘because’ improves persuasion by up to 34%. Any initiative your company can take should be utilised.
61. Look to your competitors
You should always keep tabs on your competitors if only to identify gaps you can fill. If a competitor has a tried, tested and successful campaign, there’s nothing stopping you from incorporating their ideas into your own marketing.
62. Avoid words that need explaining
There’s a huge difference between using ‘Controlled-access highway’ and ‘toll motorway’, and that’s success and failure. If your message is not easily understood and requires further explanation, your content marketing strategy is far from right.
63. Ask for a response
Always state the next steps for the reader after receiving your direct mail, and don’t have more than three calls-to-action in one place.
64. Three to five choices
The human brain can deal with three to five choices at one time, anymore and the higher the risk of ‘analysis paralysis’ and failure.
65. Track your campaign
As a mailing house, we put a lot of emphasis on tracking marketing. If not, how will you replicate the advertising mail in the future?
66. Keep it simple
Keep your message simple and stick to one or two primary points. Minimise the steps a reader has to take, and ensure your copy is clean, clear and concise to improve response.