More Tools to Boost Mail Response

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When we last talked, I was pondering my home remodeling project and how craftsmen always have an overflowing toolbox. For any project, they can rummage around and pull out the right tool. I noted that it's the same for advertising craftsmen. The best always have a "toolbox" filled with ways to encourage people to part with their money. Having accumulated thousands of these selling tools and techniques, I promised to share 99 of them with you and started this series by giving you the first eight. Here are a few more.


9. Test a separate order form. Sometimes you can attach an order form to a letter or brochure and get good results. But a separate order form is easier to use and doesn't force your prospect to take the extra step of tearing things apart. It's worth a test, especially for inquiries, sales leads and impulse sales.


10. Offer a toll-free number. Some people don't like filling out forms. They prefer a phone call, even if it takes longer. Have the toll-free number jump off the page in big, bold type. Shorten "toll-free" to "free." For example, "CALL FREE 1-800-555-1234." It gets to the point faster.


11. Offer something free. Creative techniques come and go, but "FREE" will be with us forever. You almost always can boost response by offering something for free: free premium, free dollars-off coupon, free sample, free accessory, free upgrade, free consultation, free issue, free book, etc.


12. Target messages to your audiences. Everyone's hot buttons differ. If you're mailing to a variety of markets, adapt your message to each one. For example, if you're selling an accounting software program to home computer users, stress the benefits of getting control of finances, easier budgeting or faster tax form preparation. If you're selling the program to home businesses, highlight the benefits of saving time, being more competitive or eliminating paperwork.


13. Aim for clarity. Forget the fancy stuff. If your readers don't understand what you're selling and why, they won't buy. Your first job is to be clear. Your copywriter should get to the point quickly. Your designer should make the copywriter's words easy to read.


14. Appeal to emotion first, reason second. Most direct marketers are number-crunching, logical people. It's easy for us to fall into a cold, left-brain, bullet-pointed, 714 reasons type of sales pitch. But people make decisions in their right brain, based on emotion. Then they "justify" that decision with logic. To set up a sale, appeal to emotion first. Then, to close and confirm a sale, use logic.


15. Be truthful and believable. If you're truthful, you believe what you're saying. If you're believable, your prospect believes what you're saying. Back up your claims every way you can: testimonials, case studies, visual evidence, solid guarantees, merchandise return labels.


16. Encourage involvement. Get your prospect's hands busy filling out a form, picking up the phone, affixing a stamp or leafing through multiple inserts. Action breeds action. The more involved your prospect, the more likely you are to get an order.


17. Always state a clear, specific call to action. People aren't stupid, but they are lazy. Never make people guess or assume anything. If you want a phone call, say so. If you want a filled-out order form, give instructions to do it. People don't act unless you tell them what to do.


18. Ensure extras have a clear purpose. Many consultants like to add extra pieces because they make for a bigger, more impressive (and more costly) package. But you're smarter than that. Make sure that any extra-lift letter, buck slip, sticker, membership card, flier or even brochure has a clear, tactical purpose. If you can, test the package with and without it to evaluate its cost effectiveness. Often, results are the same or better without the fancy stuff.


So far, we've covered general ideas related to your prospect and creative. Next time, we'll plunge into specific offer tactics that can boost response. This series of articles will last nearly the whole year, which, coincidentally, is about how long my remodeling project should last. The difference, of course, is that while I'm setting my checkbook on fire, you're getting everything for free.


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