What makes the biggest difference to your response rate?
What makes the biggest difference to the chances of success and failure in your email or postal campaign? In most cases it is the product or service you are selling. Try selling something that no one wants and it doesn't matter how good the advert is, you won't get too far.
But assuming your product or service is one that can attract sales given the right advert, what really makes the biggest difference is what you say and the way you say it.
In short it is the text that counts
A few changes can make all the difference - a phrase here, an opening line, a PS - these are the changes that can double your response rate.
There are only five ways of creating direct mail that really work (by focussing on price, by focussing on benefit, by using humour, by focussing on emotions, and by asking an interesting open question). The best direct mail (whether it is postal or email) takes one of these five ways and then uses it in accordance with the rules of writing direct mail and email text.
However, text is complex stuff. It contains far more information than we could ever imagine - normally far more than a range of pictures. And it conveys this information in far less space and time than pictures.
So powerful is it, in fact, that it needs to be handled with care and caution. And yet, because we are all used to words, we often make the mistake of thinking that we can knock out a decent advert quickly.
Curiously many people who would take hours to prepare a speech to 100 people spend only 10 minutes writing an advert that is going out to 5000 people.
So my first point to anyone writing email or postal direct mail copy is: slow down. Write it, revise it, come back to it, show it to other people, and revise it again.
When you have finished try to put yourself in the position of the recipient, and as the recipient of your advert ask yourself these two questions:
- Why should I buy it?
- Why should I buy it from this company?
If the answer to “Why should I buy it?” relates to the product or service being particularly good – then there is a problem, since everyone claims their product is good. You need to go further.
Once you have got that bit right, you might care to follow these rules:
1. Write to the recipient. You are writing to one person who has certain attributes, certain understandings, a way of looking at the world - a vision of reality. You have to fit into that if you are going to convince this person of the need to read your text and buy from you.
2. Grab attention. If you don't grab the reader by the throat and hold him/her there then all is lost. So you need a good opening message and a process through the email or letter that insists that the reader cannot drift away.
3. Deal with skippers. Most people skip down the page, reading here and there. So your piece has to make sense to someone reading the first few lines of each paragraph as well as someone reading it all.
4. Have a PS in a sales letter which throws the reader back in, and keeps them reading with you. The PS is not the end - it is just another start. (For email, make this “throw back” paragraph the last paragraph of the email, and just put your name underneath).
5. Never forget that huge amounts of direct mail and email is written by people who really don't know how to write advertisements - so they copy each other and produce rubbish. Just because you have seen an approach within someone else's mailshot or in an email you have been sent, that does not mean it works.
6. Have a consistent tone. If you decide that you want to shout like a guy selling vegetables in the market, fine. But you are going to have to keep shouting all the way through. If you are asking and debating an interesting question (one of my favourite techniques), stay with it. Don't suddenly drop into heavy selling. If you are selling benefits, don’t suddenly shift into selling on price. Most of all, avoid the dreadful grabby headline, followed by "Now I have your attention I want to tell you about...."
7. Use short paragraphs Two or three lines of text covering a couple of sentences with each paragraph starting in a way that trips the reader up and encourages the reader to jump in and read the rest.
8. Differentiate. Make it clear from the start that this is your promotion, not a clone of a rival. Do your own thing.
9. Experiment. If you want to write your own copy, don't be afraid of your own style. Try writing as you want to write. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, start taking note of what all the gurus say and see if any of their comments might have relevance. Either way, always experiment.
10. The answer to “how difficult can it be?” is “incredibly”. Many firms believe that they have to write their promotions in house, because they know their audience and their product. So when the issue comes up, there is always someone who says, “how difficult can it be to write an advert?” and they do it.
The problem is that writing adverts is a specialist task, because the key issue is not knowing the product you sell, but is in knowing how to write an advert. Of course, there is not too much harm in writing your own advert – but if it does fail, don’t draw the conclusion that the medium is to blame or the offer is to blame. It is quite likely that it is the way the message is written that is to blame.
I have heard many people put the blame back on the medium saying something along the lines of, “When I had a stand at a show we had queues of people wanting to buy, but the email got no replies,” and from that they conclude that email advertising doesn’t work. But in fact it means that that they know how to sell with the product in their hands – but not when it is not directly visible to the customer. In that case a different technique is needed.
If you would like to discuss the writing or design of your mailing campaign, or indeed a single mailshot, with the Hamilton House team, without cost or obligation, just call 01536 399 000, or email Creative@hamilton-house.com There is more about our work on www.blog.hamilton-house.com