The 7 Key Parts of an Effective Direct Mail Sales Piece

When writing your direct mail sales piece, be sure to include and pay particular attention to these seven parts of your letter.

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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 outlines the seven critical parts you should include in every direct mail sales piece.

If you were building a model airplane, it wouldn't be any good to make most of it great but to leave off the left wing or connect the rudder upside-down. You would completely undo all your good work by being sloppy in even one area. If the airplane is going to be worth anything at all, every part of it has to be perfect.

It's the same with your direct mail sales piece -- you want to get the absolute most out of every one of its parts, and you don't want to skimp on anything. The success of your business is riding on your sales piece doing its job. That means you have to give each section the attention it deserves.

Every sales piece has exactly the same elements, no matter how long it is. Whether your sales piece is a postcard, a two-page letter or a 36-page booklet, it will have all or most of the following parts. Make sure you give attention to each one that you include.

Headline. You have to grab your reader's interest in just a few seconds, and the best way to do that is with a great headline. It can be just a few words long, or it can be several sentences., but it has to capture interest and make or imply a promise that you're offering something that will be of great value to the reader--and they'd better read the piece right away to find out what it is. Getting the right headline is job one!

Benefits. The one question every potential buyer is going to ask is, "What is this going to do for me?" So throughout your piece, you have to keep piling on the benefits.
And keep in mind that it's benefits, not features, that sell. That new car may have the most advanced engine, but the buyer wants to hear that he'll be able to drive fast and impress the neighbors. That new diet supplement may have an impressive list of ingredients, but the buyer wants to know it will make her husband love her and her friends envy her.

Always stress benefits that will appeal to your audience. If you're selling a money-making opportunity to a novice audience, you would want to stress that it's easy to learn with no experience needed. If your audience is a group of veteran traders, you would want to stress that this is a new and profitable trading technique they've never seen before.

The offer and call to action. By the time your reader comes to the end of the sales piece, there should be no doubt as to what to do next. You want to create a sense of urgency by providing a call to action. As we say in the business, "Always ask for the order."

And you want people to act right away. If they put the sales piece down, even if they're interested, they'll soon forget about it. All that enthusiasm you worked so hard to develop will fade out.

To avoid that happening, you can encourage people to act immediately by offering an incentive for buying within a certain time period. It could be a special reduced price, a bonus gift or any other extra you want to throw in if they'll just "act now."

Another way to encourage action is to make it clear how easy it is to respond and that with your toll-free number, they don't have to pay for the call. With today's calling plans, many people don't pay for individual calls anyway, but there's something about a toll-free number that's very appealing. It's a psychological thing.

The P.S. Research shows that one of the most important parts of a sales letter is the P.S. Very often people will look at the opening of the piece, then turn to the back to see what the offer is. If there's a P.S. there, they'll often read it before anything else.

So make sure you always put an appealing P.S. that reiterates the most important points of your sales pitch. Remember, you want every part of your piece to work hard for you. Make sure your P.S. is doing everything it can to clinch the sale.

The order form. If you're using an order form with your piece, this is your last chance to sell your product and convince your prospect to go ahead and make the purchase. Always include brief, attractive copy about the product, its benefits and the offer.

The guarantee. OK, this is optional, but it can be very powerful. Your potential buyer may be very tempted but still afraid to lose money. If you put in a satisfaction guarantee, it can convince prospects sitting on the fence to go ahead and try your product because they "have nothing to lose."

The BRE. This is also optional. If you would like your prospects to respond by mail, you can consider inserting a business reply envelope (BRE) into your mailing package. The BRE is preaddressed to you, and the prospect doesn't have to put postage on the envelope (the post office bills you postage for each envelope mailed back to you). By making it easy for your prospect to respond, you may increase response rates.

Just as it pays to point out to prospects that they can call using a toll-free number, make sure your prospects know they can send in their order form postage paid. Not only is it free, but they don't have to go to the bother of finding a stamp!

Use all the parts of your sales piece to full advantage. Don't be satisfied with any part of the piece that just "gets by." Put as much care into each aspect of your piece as possible, and it will work hard for you.

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

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