99 Handy Tools to Boost Response
As my wife and I watch our home being demolished and rebuilt, we are learning that a good craftsman always has a massive, overflowing toolbox. No matter what the project or situation, he can plunge his hand into the box and pull out just the right tool.
I think it's the same for advertising craftsmen. The best always have a "toolbox" filled to the brim with ways to encourage people to part with their money. Over the years, I've accumulated thousands of these selling tools and techniques, and I'll be sharing 99 of them with you over the next several months.
Some are specific. Some are general. Most relate to direct mail. All have proven valuable if used at the right time. Of course, you don't want to use them all at once, any more than a plumber or carpenter would use all his tools simultaneously. The intent here is simply to help you add to your own toolbox.
1. Relate to your prospect as a person. Everyone wants to be liked, feel good and belong to a group of similar people. So give your package or mailer some personality. If you're selling to women, show a woman using the product. For men, use more masculine language. For children, be off the wall and playful. Prospects should see themselves in your product pitch.
2. Try to help people instead of just sell them. Going solely for a sale often leads you to dry, overused techniques. But if you make a genuine effort to be helpful in offering your product, you'll hit the hot buttons. For example, if you're a bank wanting to increase deposits, don't just send a letter saying, "Please remember that we offer you many interest-bearing accounts." Offer a free booklet that educates customers about how to use your services, with a title such as "How to earn more interest with your money."
3. Reduce perceived risk. People fear spending too much money on something that won't work or choosing an inferior brand. Show your prospect that your product is a bargain, that it's guaranteed and that it's the best for them.
4. Remove the barriers to buying. People want to buy things. However, if there's a reason not to part with their money, they won't, no matter how persuasive you are. The fastest way to success is to remove the physical, emotional and financial reasons not to buy. The toll-free number, for example, did more for selling than any eight-page letter.
5. Be honest and straightforward. Fake invoices, deceptive offers and other unethical techniques often work well, but treating customers like ignorant sheep is bad for long-term success. The way you sell says something about you. If the only way to sell your products is through deception, you need better products. If you're a solid company with good products, act like one.
6. Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance. Direct mail profits seldom result from a wild, new creative idea. Generally, it's the solid, tried and true - even boring - mailings that work again and again, year after year. If you have a groundbreaking format or creative tactic, test it. But don't get caught up in a search for the Holy Grail.
7. Break the rules now and then. Try two or three separate letters instead of one long one. Try two, three, four or more envelope windows. How about two order forms, each for a different product? Are you serious all the time? For a CD-ROM game, I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter that began with "Dear Sucker" and ended with "Insincerely Yours," followed by six separate P.S.'s. When it's appropriate, loosen up. Have fun.
8. Design your package for chaotic reading. No two people read in the same way. You can't count on your readers to follow the linear path from envelope, to letter, to brochure, to lift piece, to order form the way they're supposed to. Make each piece complete with the offer, call to action and ordering information to boost the odds of response.
Is your toolbox getting heavier? Good. By the time we're done, it will be a back breaker.
A note to the readers who clip my articles: If you want the whole series of 99 tools, please start clipping now. This series will continue for several months, and I won't have time to send you all the ones you missed. After all, I'm busy remodeling, writing massive checks to my contractor and pulling my hair out. So have mercy on me.