5 Tips for Producing Direct Mail Copy That Sells

These strategies will help you craft a direct mail piece that will connect with your customer.

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By Craig Simpson

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In his book The Direct Mail Solution, direct marketing expert and entrepreneur Craig Simpson provides easy-to-follow solutions for creating direct mail campaigns that work! In this edited excerpt, the author describes how to write a direct mail piece that captures your readers' attention.

Good copywriting creates exciting pictures in the reader's mind. Here are some easy tricks to producing copy that sells.

1. Make it easy to read. When people pick up a sales piece, they'll start by quickly glancing through it. To grab their attention, your copy must be interesting, and at the same time, it should be easy to read.

  • Keep paragraphs short.
  • Don't use convoluted sentence structure.
  • Use bullet points so they can easily see your main benefits and features.
  • Keep repeating the main point in different ways. That way the message is sure to sink in.
  • Guide the reader with subheads that tell a story.

2. Use images and magic words. Draw pictures of how the reader will feel with that beautiful new car. How they'll feel on their luxury vacation and how relaxed they'll be. What they'll look like with fewer wrinkles and youthful skin. Offer specific images but not so specific your readers won't be able to tailor the images to their own fantasies.

Certain words are proven to sell: Free, New. Use them wherever you can. Stress benefits, not features. Tell readers how their lives will be improved with your product.

3. Have an angle. One day you receive two sales pieces in the mail. The headline on one says:

"My Course Will Teach You Everything I Know About Trading Stocks"

The headline on the other says:

"Learn the Stock Secret I Used to Make Six Figures in Six Months"

Which piece are you more likely to read? I'll bet it's the second one. Why? Because it has an angle--a clever way of presenting the information that makes it clear what the unique advantage is that the seller has to offer the reader. The first one just says
"I'll teach you how to trade stocks." But who am I and why should you care?

In the second headline, the angle is that the information I have to share is "secret" and it made me a sizable amount of money in a short amount of time.

You need a hook that will get attention and appeal directly to your target audience. What is it about your product that makes it of special interest and value to them? That's the point you want to stress throughout your piece. With the right angle, everything else about your piece will fall into place.

4. Have a story. Long sales pieces can be great. Long, dull sales pieces can be a complete waste. To be successful, your sales piece has to keep the reader's interest.

One technique to make a sales piece interesting is to play up "the story." It could be the story of the person who developed the product. Or the story of someone who used the product and whose life was changed as a result. The idea is that the reader identifies with the person in the story, becomes involved enough to keep reading to find out what happened, and comes to the conclusion, "I'm just like that person, and there's no reason I can't have the same experience using this product."

People especially love a rags-to-riches story. "I was poor (sick, lonely, etc.). Then I learned this secret, and now I'm healthy, happy and rich. And now I'll share everything I learned with you." Some of the most effective sales pieces have taken that exact approach.

This is your opportunity to sell yourself (or whomever created the product). Why are you an expert? Why are you the one to provide the solution to the reader's problem? Often a personal story about the individual who created the product makes for a very compelling sales piece.

Of course, the story isn't really about you. It's about the product and what it will do for the reader. So always bring it around to that. What is it about this product that is so unique and so much better than anything else out there?

5. Keep them guessing. It helps to add a touch of "intrigue"--you want the reader to feel compelled to keep going, wondering what great revelation is coming next.

Your task is to get the reader interested and keep him moving through the piece, all the way to the close. You don't want to lose the reader along the way. One method is to keep hinting at what's about to be revealed, so the reader keeps following the "trail of crumbs." For example, maybe you want to make sure the reader gets through a relatively boring part, so you keep him involved by saying, "I'll tell you about how I had my big breakthrough in a minute, but first, I have to give you some background information so you can understand the genius of it."

Another technique is to structure the piece around a series of subheads. The proper use of subheads acts like that "trail of crumbs" and pulls the reader along nicely. Before the reader sits down to read the piece word for word, he'll likely flip through the piece and read the eye-catching subheads which, by themselves, will tell a story. If that story sounds related enough to the reader's interests and goals, the motivation will be there to read the entire piece.

Craig Simpson

Author and Owner of Simpson Direct, Inc.

Craig Simpson has managed thousands of direct mail campaigns and grossed hundreds of millions in revenue for his clients over the past 15 years. Simpson is the owner of Simpson Direct Inc., a Grants Pass, Oregon-based direct marketing firm, and a respected speaker/presenter on the topic of direct mail. He is the co-author with Dan S. Kennedy of The Direct Mail Solution. He blogs at http://www.simpson-direct.com/blog/.

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