10 Easy Steps to Improving your Direct Mail

I love how-to lists. I want to learn (in 10 easy steps!) how to look younger, run farther, improve my memory and make more money. You might say I want it all, in 10 easy steps.

Having said that, here's my contribution for improving your direct marketing campaign. You won't become younger or faster, but your company may make more money if you adopt some of these ideas.

1. Build relationships by trying to really help people rather than just selling to them. If you make an effort to be helpful, people will respond. When writing copy, write about how your product or service will benefit your client. Instead of saying "Our new energy bar has 25 grams of protein!" try "After a hard workout, one Energeeze will restore muscle mass more efficiently than three glasses of milk!"

2. Be truthful. Relying on tricky techniques (fake express mail envelope, fake invoices, deceptive offers) may work well for you ... at first. But treating your clients like they're ignorant is bad for long-term success. If your product or service is good, act like it. Back up your claims any way you can, with a guarantee, testimonials, anything that proves you're believable.

3. Speaking of guarantees, use them. Guarantees show you believe in your product or service, and are willing to stand behind it. This in turn helps to lower the perceived risk your reader feels when considering your offer. For a good guarantee, use simple, straightforward language without asterisks and teeny print: "Our socks are guaranteed to be blister-free or we'll happily refund your money."

4. You've heard this one before, but it bears repeating. Offer something FREE whenever possible. People love to get something for nothing - especially in this economic climate. It may be a free sample, free upgrade, free research article or a free consultation. Come up with something and offer it for free, because you'll almost always boost your response.

5. Target your message, and tweak it for various audiences. For instance, if you're selling paperclips to engineers, you'll want to highlight the fact that your titanium paperclips are virtually indestructible, and can securely hold a .263-inch stack of paper together. If you're marketing your paperclips to musicians, you'll want to emphasize that they come in a variety of shapes to make page-turning easier, and colors so they're easy to see.

6. Appeal to your reader's emotions. People tend to make decisions with the right side of their brain (emotionally) first, then justify it with the left (logically). For instance, I really want the cute dress I saw online, but I'm hesitating because it's so expensive. The accompanying copy assures me that the quality (silk, fully lined) makes this an "investment piece" that I will wear for years. Sold. I just needed to justify spending that kind of money. So appeal first to your reader's emotions, follow up with justifying logic, and you'll close the deal.

7. Have a time limit. Psychology and sales experience show two interesting facts: The longer a decision is postponed, the more likely it is that the decision will never be made. Conversely, the sooner you can "force" a decision, the more likely it is to be in your favor. So create urgency with a specific deadline, and your sales will typically go up.

8. Offer a choice of payment. Different prospects prefer to pay in different ways. Consider credit cards, personal checks, installment payments, purchase order, Paypal. If your reader wants to buy but can't pay for it the way they want, you lose out.

9. Keep it up. In direct marketing, not everyone will buy from your initial offer. In fact, most won’t. The key is to keep communicating with the people who do not respond to your offer. There could be a variety of reasons why they didn't: They may not need your product just then. Money could be a temporary issue. They may be preoccupied with family stresses and unable to consider your service at the moment. That doesn't mean they won't want what you're selling at some point. Savvy direct marketers know this, and continue sending communications. Studies have shown that the majority of people will buy after the 5th exposure, yet most marketing stops after the first.

10. Don't forget to use a P.S. One of the "hot spots" of direct mail, a P.S. is virtually guaranteed to be read. Use it to reiterate your offer or call to action.

That's it. Now go forth and conquer your direct marketing campaign...in 10 easy steps!

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