Direct mail is a direct marketing format that is much underrated and overlooked by small business, especially in Ireland. Much of the hype and myth surrounding digital media marketing through blogging, social media, and email is driven by assertions and opinion masquerading as facts.
Direct mail, as a consequence, is overlooked. This is a big mistake for small business owners and offers huge opportunities.
As does direct marketing in local newspapers, free sheets, magazines, local radio, and national newspapers especially now that advertising rates have dropped significantly and competition for advertisers is fierce.
Direct Mail Benefits
The benefits of direct mail include
Direct mail allows your marketing message or offer to be highly targeted at the very customers who are most likely to respond to your offer, unlike mass advertising which can see your offer being wasted on prospects who have no interest in your message, for example advertising lawn mowers to apartment dwellers.
Direct mail is tangible-it allows you to place your message directly in the prospects’ hands including special offer coupons, stickers, fridge magnets, calendars, and other promotional material.
Direct mail is personal allowing you to speak to your prospect by name and speaking to their desires and interests directly.
Direct mail is flexible as it allows you to target your prospects with sales letters, post cards, flyers, samples, brochures, and so on.
It is measurable in a way that internet or digital channels are not. You simply count the number of responses compared to the number of direct mail pieces sent to see how effective your campaign has been.
The ability to see the exact response you get allows you to tweak your campaigns, messages, and so forth to improve your response rate.
- Easy to Implement
A direct mail campaign can be set up and implemented with a home computer and a printer. Desktop publishing software allows you to get more sophisticated with your mail pieces but the essential success of your campaign will depend on your offer. And a great offer delivered by a letter which you can create on your home computer is all you need.
Types of Direct Mail
The most popular types of direct mail are
- A direct mail letter
- Post cards.
The success of your direct mail campaign will be largely determined by your offer. This can consist of
- The service or product itself
- A great price discount
- A free sample or trial
- A money back guarantee
- A coupon to be redeemed in your business if acted upon within a certain period of time.
Regardless of which format you choose, the text/copy on your direct mail piece will be the biggest determining factor in how successful in getting a direct response from your target.
Good copywriters command very large fees and this is easily explained by the difference between a high response to a direct mail campaign or a low one. The difference in return between a 1% response rate and 2% can be enormous, depending on what type of product or service you are offering.
So the strong advice is not to skimp on the copy in your campaign.
Direct Mail Letters v Post Cards
When should you use a direct mail letter and when should you use a post card or flyer?
The direct mail letter is perfect when you want to tell the story of your offer and it cannot be done briefly. It is especially apposite when your product or service has a high price point or has a great lifetime value of acquiring one new customer or client.
Your letter, if written professionally, can really engage your reader and you can also include coupons, testimonials, reply cards, brochures and other relevant sales material.
Postcards on the other hand should be used to present a special offer, drive traffic to your website where you can do your selling, or even to keep in touch with customers and thank them for their business.
Your postcard will definitely be seen so your message needs to be concise, easily understood, and direct.
You can of course use both letters and postcards to create teaser campaign firstly with your postcard and follow up with your letter with your detailed offer.
As sure as day follows night small business owners are being duped and misled by unsubstantiated claims for the success of digital marketing, social media marketing, text messaging etc.
Direct mail works and is incredibly effective with a clear return on your investment which can be easily measured. It is no wonder that banks, credit card companies, and financial service providers are some of the biggest spenders on direct mail in Ireland.(Source: An Post, Amarach Research 2009-2011 & Ipsos MRBI research)
This same research found that
- Direct mail costs are coming down quickly
- Direct mail increases loyalty with 32% of Irish consumers saying that direct mail increased loyalty compared to 22% for email
- 75% of Irish consumers prefer to have a physical catalogue to peruse rather than view online
- Direct mail gets a response: 41% of Irish people surveyed will go online to find out more when they receive a direct mail piece
Direct mail spending in the US is expected to surpass $13 billion in 2013. Interestingly the spend on direct mail in the Irish market is only a fraction of the US, the UK, Australia, and other leading economies.
Facts versus Myths:
Video marketing via YouTube and smart phones has been strongly trumpeted as a marketing channel that small business owners should not miss out on.
Nielsen’s 3rd quarter “Cross Platform Report” is worth a look because it delivers something in pretty short supply when it comes to information for business owners as opposed to assertions…
It finds that
- Video viewing on a television (live plus time-shifted) came to 97% of all video viewing
- Video viewing online accounted for a little over 2% of video viewing
- Mobile video viewing was about half of 1% of total viewing.
What is copywriting? Copywriting is simply the writing of materials designed to persuade and sell.
Good copywriting is an essential part of good advertising, online or digital marketing, web design, text in sales brochures or company catalogues, and so forth.
One of the earliest, and most successful, proponents of the art of persuasion was the Greek philosopher Aristotle.
Aristotle literally wrote the book on the art of persuasion-variously called “Rhetoric”, “the Art of Rhetoric”, or “Treatise on Rhetoric”.
Rhetoricians regard Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” as the “most important single work on persuasion ever written.”
Much of what Aristotle had to say about persuasion is still evident in good copy today-ethos (character, honesty, authority), logos (a plea or reason, logic, knowledge), and pathos (suffering, empathy, experience, an appeal to the emotions)
Great persuasive copy contains all of these elements, and more. This isn’t surprising because human motivations and dreams and desires haven’t changed all that much down through the centuries.
(See also the seven principles of persuasion)
But I digress…
We all come into contact with copywriting every single day of our lives, whether we actually notice it or not.
And the best copy is not really noticeable.
“He should have gone to Specsavers”, “Just Do It”, and “Probably the best beer in the world” are three instantly recognisable phrases that have entered into every day speech in many parts of the world.
All of these phrases were lovingly crafted by superb copywriters who may have spent days and weeks just crafting the headline or punch line for advertising/promotional campaigns which cost millions.
So at it’s essence, writing copy is the skill and art of writing words that move people to believe what it is the copywriter has to say.
And the copywriter will be seeking to persuade the reader that their life will be more complete or they will make more money or gain more prestige or cure a particular problem or avoid a particular fear or be loved or gain recognition or secure inner peace or better health or obtain more free time…or whatever.
The vast majority of purchasers make their decision based on emotion, not logic, and then rationalize or justify their decision by logic.
So the initial appeal of the copywriter will be to one or more of the reader’s basic human emotions and will seek to demonstrate in the “body copy” how his product or service will fulfil this need.
A Good Copywriter
A good copywriter will utilize all the principles of persuasion outlined by Aristotle and identified more recently by Dr. Robert Cialdini and seen in action every day of the week in Moore Street and Henry Street in Dublin by the street traders.
He will also use persuasive, attention grabbing headlines which will have you saying: “hey, he is talking to me”. He will use emotions, benefits, features, calls to action; try to generate urgency and various other tricks of the persuasive trade.
Regardless…if you are a small business owner and you are not utilizing the benefits of great copy in your marketing/advertising materials and/or on your website you are making a big mistake.
If you think that customers want to have a relationship with your brand or if you think that the best way for your business to hold onto customers is through “engagement” take a look at this Harvard Business Review. (“What consumers really want when they interact with brands online is to get discounts…” Harvard Business Review, May 2012)
What to do now for 2013: forget about social media, take a copy of “Rhetoric” (Aristotle) out of the library…or decide to focus on great copy in your online and offline marketing and advertising.
The tabloid newspapers fight for attention in an ultra-competitive market. The “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” headline is one of the more lurid and attention grabbing newspaper headlines employed by a tabloid newspaper in New York.
If you engage in content marketing (and you should) to promote your business you will probably find yourself in a similarly competitive market to gain the attention of your potential customers. Even if you don’t you will probably be advertising somewhere: local newspapers, magazines, national papers.
Or you may be utilizing social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn to get your message out.
Regardless of where you choose to spread your message: boring simply won’t cut it. You won’t be heard and your efforts will be swallowed up in a sea of noise and competing distractions like Jonah being swallowed up by the whale.
Once you gain the attention of your target you need to deliver value on behalf of your business. But you do need to gain that attention first. Letting the reader or surfer know what is in it for him/her is vital.
Stimulating their interest works as well. When you combine curiosity and a benefit for the reader you will be on a winner in terms of getting the opportunity to make your pitch.
Guerilla marketing and marketing on a small (or no) budget requires a little strategic thinking. Done right though will ensure that you get maximum value from your investment of your time and/or money.
The title of this piece mimics one of the most famous advertisements in copywriting history written for the US Music School.
It was written by a copywriting genius called John Caples and the title of the original ad went:
“They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano-But When I Started to Play..”
The title of Caples’s ad works on many levels but the key task it accomplished was to get readers to read the body of the advertisement. The ad worked spectacularly well with some describing the ad as “arguably, the 20th century’s most successful” results-oriented mail order copy.
Before the internet-direct response copywriting
Suffice to say that before the internet there was mail order and the goal was to move the recipients of the direct mailing to purchase a product or call a toll free number or cut out and send in a coupon to the sender who would then follow up.
(You may be interested in our copywriting services)
To ensure that the mailings were not just cost effective but showed massive returns on investment top copywriters were paid massive sums of money to write great “direct response copy” that produced results.
Direct response copywriting and the internet
One critical parallel between direct response copywriting and marketing on the internet is the necessity of getting your message read.
The most important part of ensuring that your message gets read is the headline or title of your piece. With a great and/or effective title or headline you have a chance. Without one your message will be lost in a sea of noise, distractions, and more effective competing headlines.
Whether you are sharing your story on your website, blog, LinkedIn, Twitter or anywhere else for that matter your title or headline must draw the reader in.
If you read the first paragraph of this piece the title did it’s job..
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80% of people who land on your website will glance at the titles of your content. Only 20% will then go ahead and actually read the full article or post.
The benefit of good titles is that what you have to say gets read.
Bad, uninteresting, boring titles will see your content being swamped and ignored in a sea of noise on the internet.
The internet can be a distracting cacophony of noise. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube are all competing for the attention of your reader or potential client.
Telling people to “Read my latest blog” will not cut it.
Nobody cares. (Sorry)
“Man’s Head Explodes in Barbers Chair”-this is a title that will get attention.
Sources of Great Titles
If you are wondering where to get ideas or examples of great copywriting titles look no further than
- The tabloid newspapers generally
- National Enquirer
- News of the World
- Sunday World
Copywriters like Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, David Oglivy, Claude Hopkins, John Carlton to name but a few have written copy generating hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.
They have all one thing in common-the care taken and time spent in writing the headlines or titles of their copy.
The Purpose of your Title?
The objective of your title is to get the first sentence of what you have to say read. The objective of your first sentence is to get the second sentence read.
And so on.
(If you need persuasive copywriting for your business, whether online or offline, you may be interested in our professional copywriting services.)