5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail

5 Tips for Effective Direct Mail

Every day but Sunday, the mailbox delivers surprises. Of course, much of what arrives in the mail is expected, but that element of surprise never wanes. The mail might contain a card from a loved one, a check you didn’t expect, or a great offer from a local company, via direct marketing. Successful direct marketing campaigns don’t happen by accident, but a small business doesn’t need to pour substantial amounts of money into such an endeavor to achieve a good result. That means rather than mass marketing, modern direct mail campaigns concentrate on targeted marketing. When businesses use effective direct mail marketing, they not only boost their bottom line, but add excitement to the routine of picking up the mail.

1. Set Your Goals

As a business, what do you expect this mailing to accomplish? Have a firm plan in mind ahead of time. What is your budget for this mailing? What kind of ROI do you think you’ll receive? Crunch the numbers before embarking on a direct mail campaign.

Have a projected number of new customers in mind. For small businesses doing much of the work on their own, one of the best measures is sending out a mailer-only coupon for a percentage off a purchase or free item with purchase. Ensure that keeping track of the number of people who redeemed the coupon, including new customers, is quite simple.

2. The Mailing List

When it comes to an effective direct marketing campaign, nothing is as crucial as the mailing list. That seems obvious, but too many companies waste time and money sending direct mail to people with little interest in their product or service. You want a “Goldilocks” mailing list – not sending too many or too few mailers, but just the right amount.

While you will need to purchase some lists, focus on your own lists of previous customers. In fact, if you don’t have a solid database of customer names and addresses as well as strong prospects, avoid direct marketing until you do.

3. The Demographic

Who are your customers? What is their primary age and income level? Where do they live? This information is essential for a small business conducting a direct marketing campaign. You’re looking for your ideal customer, whether that person is a senior citizen, millennial, parent of young children, individuals with X amount of disposal income – that’s necessary  information before you start your campaign. The more personally you can delineate the target, the better the response rate. You can then consider the type of mailing list you want to purchase.

4. Clarity Rules

No matter what type of mailing format you decide to go with, the potential customer must instantly “get” what you offer. All the fancy graphics in the world won’t make up for a confusing message. That doesn’t mean your direct mail has to be boring – far from it. You only have a few seconds for the recipient to decide whether your offer is one worth saving or throwing in the trash. Funny, clever copy can help get the message across, but it must be absolutely clear. The person must instantly recognize they can get a special deal on your product or service and understand exactly what they must to do to take advantage of the offer. For best results, repeat that call-to-action a few times.

5. From Direct Mail to Online

Social media and direct mail marketing are not mutually exclusive. A direct mail campaign is a good way to get customers to follow you online.  The cheapest form of direct mail, the postcard, can get you more online customers and followers. You want to drive traffic to your website, and direct mail is a useful vehicle. A coupon code on the postcard for online sales or some other promotion can gain you the customer info that you can then follow up on via an email or social media marketing campaign.  

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2017 Price Change Information: USPS Marketing Mail and What You Need to Know

2017 Price Change Information: USPS Marketing Mail and What You Need to Know

A new year always brings with it a variety of different changes, and it seems that 2017 will be no exception, as far as the United States Postal Service is concerned. Anyone who relies on the USPS for their direct mail marketing activities would do well to sit up and take notice, especially with regards to the price change information and other news that has recently been announced.

What’s In a Name?

According to PitneyBowes.com, the USPS “Standard Mail” tier will be rebranded as USPS Marketing Mail in 2017. Additionally, what was previously known as “Alternate Postage” will now be called “Share Mail.” Pricing structures have been changed (and arguably, simplified) accordingly.

When the new branding goes into effect, letters that are 3.5 ounces in size or less will cost $0.284 – a reduction from the current $0.290 pricing structure. Flat rates for items that are four ounces or less, on the other hand, will actually increase to $0.555 from the current rate of $0.546 that is expiring. It’s important to note that these rates are for the USPS Marketing Mail items that are processed through non-automation means.

Other Upcoming USPS Changes

The USPS also announced a number of other changes, particularly to items that fall into the presorted mail category. Overall, people can expect a price decrease on average of about 0.25%, though it’s important to note that certain types of items will actually increase in price at the same time.

One change that marketers will no doubt be happy about is the fact that presorted First Class Mail will see a significant price reduction. Starting at the end of January, sending 3.5-ounce materials will now cost the same price as a one-ounce letter. Up until these changes go into effect, the pricing category ranged from one to two ounces, not 3.5 ounces.

Those First Class letters up to one ounce will now cost you $0.49 as opposed to the current $0.47. Flat rates up to one ounce will increase to $0.98 from $0.94, while First Class Mail parcels will allow you to pay one price ($2.67) for any item up to four ounces in size. Each additional ounce will cost you $0.21, which is actually one of the few categories of pricing that will remain unchanged in the new year.

Changes Behind the Scenes in 2017

It’s also important to note a significant change in the way these types of items are processed. Items that used to fall under the 3-Digit and AADC categories are being combined with First-Class Mail Presorted Automation Letters and USPS Marketing Mail Automation Letters. Ultimately, this won’t really change the price that you can expect to pay when you send your marketing materials out into the world, but in theory, it should make them easier to process and send out once they’ve made their way into the hands of the United States Postal Service.

All of these changes will go into effect on January 22, 2017. Until then, the current pricing structure will still apply. As marketing budgets get tighter than ever during a period where direct mail marketing has never been more important, it’s always essential to stay as up-to-date as possible on any and all USPS pricing changes to help make sure you’re getting the most out of your hard-earned (marketing) dollar.

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Not All Mailing Lists Are Created Equal – Maximizing Your Return With Mailing List Savvy

Not All Mailing Lists Are Created Equal – Maximizing Your Return With Mailing List Savvy

It’s ironic, really. The lists that we struggle to be removed from are also the same lists our companies strive to obtain. The truth is, for many businesses, targeted mailing lists are the bread and butter of their marketing efforts. Being able to create niche-marketing materials and then putting those materials into the right hands is essential to a company’s survival.

Not all mailing lists are created equal, though. Understanding the different types of mailing lists is critical in maximizing the return on your investment of content and quality marketing materials.

Consumer Mailing List

Consumer mailing lists are comprehensive lists of people associated with their demographic, economic, and psychographic information. The consumer mailing list helps your business target individuals with very specific profiles for maximum return on investment. Typically, you can choose to filter these types of lists by the following data:

– Gender
– Age
– Ethnicity
– Marital Status
– Estimated Household Income
– Children Present
– Home Value
– Single or multiple family homes
– Hobbies and Interests

Consumer mailing lists are more expensive than say, a neighborhood mailing list, but your ability to filter out non-ideal recipients can make your investment worthwhile, especially for high-quality mailings such as multi-page letters, brochures, or large, high-quality postcards.

Neighborhood Mailing List

Neighborhood mailing lists are by far the most cost-effective list you can get. Many local businesses will target specific neighborhoods within a particular zip code or geographic location that falls within a specific radius of their business location.

This type of list is effective for obtaining new clients, particularly if your business wants a broad reach without regard to specific demographic or psychographic categories. Deliverables commonly associated with this type of mailing list include coupons, smaller postcards, and tri-fold 20# paper-stock brochures.

Business Mailing List

Business mailing lists are the “Holy Grail” for B2B companies, enabling them to maximize new targeted opportunities. This list type includes data pertaining to:

– Business Type
– Number of Employees
– Annual Sales
– Credit Rating
– Geographic Location
– Executive Names
– Phone Numbers
– Years in Business
– Owner Gender
– Public vs. Private

By targeting specific business data points, your company can identify and market directly to your ideal clients. You can also use the data points to differentiate the type or content of your marketing materials. For example, if you are a woman-owned business wanting to connect with other women-owned businesses, this type of list can help you do that, while still allowing you to send similar content to non-women-owned businesses with a different slant.

Specialty Mailing List

Specialty mailing lists are, just like they sound, lists of people filtered by special categories that you determine. Common types of specialty mailing lists include:

– New Parents
– New Movers
– New Homeowners
– Homeowners
– High-income Homeowners
– Renters
– Investors
– Health Conscious
– Green Consumers
– Sports Enthusiasts
– Voters (by political party)
– Seniors
– Consumers by Hobby

The list goes on. Essentially, if you can think of a niche that you want to market to, you’ve got yourself a specialty mailing list.

Truly understanding the individuals and businesses that your product or service is ideal for is the key to success. Combining a highly targeted mailing list with marketing materials that speak directly to the people or businesses on your list will boost your chances of making that next sale.

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Understanding What’s Really Going on at the Post Office

Understanding What’s Really Going on at the Post Office

If you had a tough time during the Great Recession of the last few years, you are in the same boat with many, including the United States Postal Service. With computers, e-mail, and the rise of similar types of technology, total mail volume was already on the decline – and then, the most troubling economic times in decades hit. All types of mail volume dropped dramatically in a short period of time.

According to the official USPS website, total mail volume in 2006 was roughly 213.1 billion pieces of material. The total mail volume in 2015, on the other hand, was 154.2 billion. While that’s still a lot of mailers, flyers, and other items being delivered across the country on a daily basis, a drop of that magnitude is still pretty staggering.

What is an Exigent Rate?

Because of this situation, the USPS asked for something called an Exigent Rate Case. That meant that due to demanding circumstances, the Postal Service was allowed to “raise market-dominant prices above the CPI-U (consumer price index) price cap” for a limited time. After an approval process that required a submitted proposal and a hearing conducted on the record with an opportunity for public comment, that increase was granted – leading to the current rates that we’re experiencing.

So Why are Rates Dropping?

Exigent Rate Cases are not permanent – they have a limited lifespan as, theoretically, the special circumstances that required them in the first place will resolve themselves eventually. This is exactly what is happening. When the emergency rate expired on April 10, 2016, most of us experienced the first postal rate drop in our lifetime. With the price of a first-class stamp dropping to 47 cents, it represents the first decrease in nearly 100 years.

The good news is that mail volumes have actually recovered pretty significantly. This is especially true in terms of packages, as more people than ever before are choosing to buy their everyday items online at retailers like Amazon.com. The news may be great for consumers and marketers, but it is doing little to actually relieve the problems that the Post Office is still going through.

Megan J. Brennan, the current Postmaster General, said that multi-year revenue declines are still a very real concern and were in excess of $7 billion in 2009 alone. In a statement she would go on to say that “Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition.”

Looking Ahead for the Post Office and Marketers

Not to worry, though. The United States Postal Service isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – however, exactly what these rate decreases will do to their bottom line remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, as previously stated, there has never been a better opportunity to truly experiment with the benefits that direct mail has in terms of your overall marketing efforts. If you’ve moved more in a digital direction due to increased mailing and shipping rates over the last few years, this rate drop is the perfect incentive to dip your toe back in these proverbial waters.

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Lowered Postal Rates Mean Now is the Best Time to Give Direct Mail a Try

Lowered Postal Rates Mean Now is the Best Time to Give Direct Mail a Try

To say that most small businesses have something of a love/hate relationship with the United States Postal Service is an understatement. USPS is one of those necessary things to get a wide range of direct and print mail marketing materials out into the world. With a decade of increasing prices chipping away at return on investment little by little, it’s no wonder many organizations started to skimp on direct mail spending in favor of other “cheaper” solutions in the interim. Now, however, the tides may be truly changing as postal rates are on the decline with no clear end in sight. If you’ve been waiting to jump back into the direct mail world, now might be the PERFECT time to give it a try for a number of reasons.

Postal Rates: What is Going On?

On April 10, 2016, the cost to ship a first-class letter in the United States fell to just $0.47 – a rare phenomenon in recent memory. Additionally, the price of sending a postcard dropped a penny, international letters fell $0.05, and even coveted “Forever Stamps” saw a decrease in cost at the same time. These are the most direct mail and small business-friendly prices to come along since the beginning of the 2008 recession.

Direct Mail Doesn’t Just Work – It Works Gangbusters

Despite all this, some people still refuse to give direct mail the chance it deserves because they naturally assume that digital marketing is more efficient in the tech-driven world in which we now live. After all, with people glued to their cell phones day in and day out, how much of an impact can direct mail really have?

The answer is “a great big one.”

According to a study conducted by Compu-Mail.com, direct mail is still used heavily in an iPhone and Droid-centric world: approximately 43% of all local retail advertising still falls into this category. Not only that, but young adults are actually the largest group to respond to direct mail the most, particularly among the millennial crowd. According to a recent International Communications Research survey, approximately 73% of consumers actually prefer direct mail over alternative advertising methods. This is largely due to the fact that an equal number of respondents said that direct mail marketing was a much more personable experience than internet-based materials. Keep in mind that millennials think junk mail happens in their inbox, not their mailbox.

So, if the reasons why you had overlooked direct mail in the past were because “it was too expensive” and “you didn’t think it worked,” congratulations: those two reasons just evaporated in an instant.

No two businesses are created in quite the same way, and what works for one might not work for another – especially in terms of an overall marketing strategy. However, with the recent decline of USPS postal rates, now would be the absolute perfect time to give direct mail a try if it’s something that you’ve flirted with in the past, but ultimately overlooked for whatever reason. Now, is a terrific chance to really dip your proverbial toe in the water and to see just how direct mail can benefit your organization, especially if you’re doing so for the first time. These declining rates most likely aren’t going to stick around forever, so go for it, and create your direct mail campaign today.

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The Power of Personalization

The Power of Personalization

Print marketing is still one of the best and most effective ways to connect with your target audience and create brand awareness on a large scale. For starters, print marketing is tangible — you’re giving a person something they can hold in their hands and, more importantly, something they can pass along to a friend or family member.

Despite the many benefits of print marketing as a medium, many people still seem to miss one of its most powerful and most natural tools: personalization. When you take a look at just how effective personalization can be, you’ll be shocked you weren’t embracing it in the past.

Personalization: By the Numbers

In 2012, the industry organization InfoTrends conducted a study on marketing communication. It revealed several interesting facts, all of which are important to know when planning your next marketing campaign. The good news is that print marketing is alive and well, even in an era where everyone carries a smartphone or other type of mobile device with them at all times.

The better news is that marketing materials featuring high levels of personalization yield a dramatically higher ROI over ones sent out in a uniform or more generic manner.

The InfoTrends survey covered more than 1,000 businesses in 10 industries. Nearly two thirds used personalization or segmentation techniques to increase response and conversion rates. One of the respondents who used personalized print materials exclusively experienced a response rate of around 6% and a conversion rate of over 16%. Compare this with the average 2% response rate more generic materials generate, and the power of personalization becomes abundantly clear.

Things get even more impressive when you combine personalization with other best practices of modern marketing, like combining print and digital to reach a wider audience. For example, the respondents who utilized print and e-mail materials with high levels of personalization reported a response rate of 7.6% and a conversion rate of over 18%.

Why Personalization Matters

When you personalize your marketing materials, you’re taking that extra step to show your target audience how much you really care about them. Instead of addressing a direct mail brochure with the generic and calculated “Dear Sir or Madame,” you can take advantage of the basic technique of including their name — which, keep in mind, is information you already have if you’re sending them something in the mail.

Believe it or not, this does go a long way. It instantly creates a much more organic connection with the person reading your materials and subconsciously separates your mailer from others that may not be personalized at all.

Personalized print marketing is also inherently more impressive than personalized digital materials of the same variety. Everyone has a computer, and they know how quickly you can change an e-mail to include a name. Changing a print mailer, however, takes a little more thought and effort (though not as much as you’d think). Your effort will definitely be appreciated by the recipient.

Not only is print marketing alive and well, but one of its most powerful assets is something many businesses aren’t even using. Personalizing your print materials will go a long way toward creating a more meaningful and long-lasting connection with your target audience and increasing your ROI.

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Top 5 Secrets of Successful Direct Mailers

Top 5 Secrets of Successful Direct Mailers

Savvy marketers know that direct mail offers a cost-effective and potentially profitable marketing method — but in order to work, it must be done right! In fact, some of today’s most innovative and creative advertising is sent through the mail, according to Entrepreneur magazine.

An effective direct-mail campaign can accomplish several goals, including:

  • Generating leads
  • Attracting new customers
  • Engaging with current customers
  • Expanding the reach of your brand
  • Producing profits

Here are the top five secrets of successful direct mailers.

1. Focus, Focus, and More Focus

The success of any direct-mail campaign depends in large part on your audience, so you need to target the right people. A direct-marketing rule known as the 60-30-10 states that 60% of success depends on the list, 30% depends on the offer you present, and 10% lies in creative elements. This highlights the importance of choosing the right list for your mailing.

If you’re building your own list, start with your past and current customers. After all, they’re a known factor — they’ve purchased your product or service before, and you probably already have all of their info. (If you don’t, now’s the time to start collecting it!)

If you’re purchasing or creating a list, consider your target audience’s characteristics carefully. Who’s your “ideal” customer? Look at demographics such as age, gender, locale, interests, buying patterns, climate, and leisure activities when compiling your mailing list. The more specifically targeted you can get, the better.

2. Keep it Updated

If it’s been a while since you updated your customer data, a direct mailing is a good place to start. People change addresses more than you might think! Simply add a request for address corrections onto the label; the post office will send undeliverable mail back with the recipient’s new address. It costs a bit more, but doing this at least once per year keeps your database updated.

3. Determine Your Goal

What do you want this particular campaign to achieve? Do you want to generate orders, build your brand, or produce leads? Setting a clear, measurable objective will help you drive the creative portion of your campaign. If your goals are too broad, your message is likely to be vague — and less effective — as well.

4. Grab their Attention

You only have a few seconds to grab their attention — and if you don’t, they won’t even open the envelope. Take a look at your own mail; what are you most likely to open? Are you enticed by offers of “FREE MONEY!” or “AMAZING PRIZES!”? Probably not, and your audience is similarly jaded to cheesy, gimmicky headlines. Instead, pique their interest with a creative headline, interesting use of color, a hand-addressed envelope, or a bit of humor. In other words, go for elements that stereotypical “junk mail” doesn’t have.

5. Develop a Relevant Offer

Now that you’ve gotten your customer to open the mail, present them with an offer that appeals to them. Here’s where knowing your audience is key. Be brief, but include the information they need to make an on-the-spot decision. Why do they need your product? How will your service benefit them? Testimonials from satisfied customers can be powerful in this capacity.

Above all else, make it easy for them to respond. Provide multiple contact channels, including a website, email address, and phone number, but don’t leave it at that. Always (ALWAYS) include a call to action. Tell them to call, email, or visit your website. Remember, if you don’t tell them what you want them to do, they simply won’t do it.

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Direct Mail Is Alive and Well, Thank You

Direct Mail Is Alive and Well, Thank You

Marketing fads come and go. Marketers today have a bewildering array of choices never seen before. Consequently, busy business owners don’t always know who to listen to in order to find what is working most effectively right now. Everyone can claim their systems and tools are the secret to a never-ending stream of prospects and customers.

Is Direct Mail Worth Exploring For Your Business?

Have you noticed that many of the Internet companies (like Google, among others) have been increasingly turning to direct mail to advertise their services? The reason is that old school direct mail worked long before the Internet and has been working for smart marketing in businesses all along. It just happened not to be the flavor of the day, thereby not getting much attention.

Now that the furor and publicity surrounding the “free” aspect of social media marketing has settled into the reality that free doesn’t necessarily equal real customers, smart marketers are looking for real campaigns that result in real customers.

Living Together in Harmony

Leveraging one proven marketing channel is great, but taking advantage of two or more is better. As effective as one channel may be, you limit the potential impact when using a single platform. With an integrated marketing strategy, you position yourself to maximize the real potential of your campaign.

The truth is that direct mail can still deliver real results when done correctly. In fact, direct mail works even better when coupled with email marketing and Internet marketing. When coupled with other channels, direct mail has the capacity to be even more targeted, personalized, and effective than when any of these channels are implemented alone.

To make this work and deliver results, it’s very important that the messaging and branding be consistent across all the channels you use. The logo, tag line, messaging, design, and colors used in one campaign should be reinforced across all media to generate stronger results and a more powerful impression. Consistency allows each campaign to feed off the other and deliver a bigger bang for the investment.

This is how big brands are able to leverage the power of multimedia messaging. Today, with the availability of affordable, short-run digital printing, you don’t need a large budget. It’s realistic and available for businesses of all sizes.

An example of a campaign that works extremely well is a new customer campaign. Nothing shows appreciation like a nicely designed, professional-looking direct mail piece delivered to your new customer soon after they become a client. People know that an email costs nothing to send but that a direct mail piece has a real cost.

Now you can follow that up with some informative emails to educate your new customer about how you can help them solve their problems. In the emails and direct mail pieces, ask your new customer to also connect with your brand on social media. Now you can further develop a bond with your new customer by sharing your values and core messages across all media.

Marketing success is about momentum. An integrated, multidimensional campaign, implemented consistently throughout the year, keeps the marketing ball rolling forward. This allows your business to be fresh on prospects’ minds when they’re ready to buy. The more consistent your brand, marketing message, and integrated approach, the better your results will be.

Your customers consume information in different ways. You can’t guess or assume one is better than another. Showing up in the physical mailbox, in their email inbox, and on the web assures that your brand is leaving no stone unturned. Having an integrated marketing strategy assures your business will be seen and heard. If just showing up is half the battle, then implementing this multidimensional approach is your call to action to make yourself ready for new customers on the business battlefield.

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Email versus Direct Mail Marketing: Which Works Better?

Email versus Direct Mail Marketing: Which Works Better?

As more businesses and marketers have turned to email marketing, it is fair to wonder if direct mail marketing still works as effectively as it once did.

Email marketing is a good way to stay in touch with customers and prospects. Just like social media marketing, it has its place in the marketing mix. However, a downside to the massive increase in marketing emails is that only an estimated 19% are even being opened (according to the Direct Marketing Association).

Direct mail marketing still works, and it works very well. However, marketers cannot just create any type of campaign and expect it to be successful. Here are some tips and suggestions from the pros:

  • Keep specialized lists, and target each with the right message. That means no mass-mailing everyone the same message and offers. This requires a bit more preparation but will generate the best responses because you are offering the right message to the right audience.
  • Instead of mass quantity, think quality first. Fewer, better-targeted and better-crafted mailing pieces are more effective than regular, lesser-quality pieces.
  • Think lumpy mailings. People still enjoy receiving freebies, so include a logo pen, pencil, tiny Frisbee, mini-DVD, or mini-CD card with your contact info on it. Although these types of mailings can be more pricey, the retention and response rates can pay a handsome ROI on the investment.
  • Be creative. People still enjoy programs that offer discounts or a gift with repeat purchases. Set up a loyalty rewards program that ties a buyer’s repeat purchases with discounts and rewards. Then announce it with a direct mail campaign.

Head to the link below to learn more information from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Then start setting up your next direct mail print campaign today!

3 “Old School” Marketing Tactics that Still Matter

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Lessons From the Greatest Direct Mailer of All Time

Lessons From the Greatest Direct Mailer of All Time

Direct mail has been a proven money maker for many years and continues to prove its worth to this day. In this age of all things digital, it’s ironic to note that many who have tired of wasting valuable time and resources with unproven tactics are once again turning to direct mail.

If you’re one of the wise ones who have penciled this powerful strategy onto your marketing calendar this year, it would be smart to learn from one of the best direct mail sales letters ever written.

In 1974, Martin Conroy wrote a simple, two-page sales letter which was continuously mailed out with very minor changes between 1975 and 2003. Not only did it have amazing longevity, but it was responsible for raking in over a billion dollars in new sales.

This letter was a simple story. The best salesmen, teachers, CEOs, and communicators know that stories told well sell! Whether you’re selling something or trying to get others to take action, simple but powerful stories can do much of the heavy lifting for you.

There are many reasons this piece proved to be so successful. The classic formula of attention, interest, desire, and action are beautifully articulated in the piece. Here are a few other lessons to learn:

  1. It pulls you in with a story and emotional hook which makes you want to read more.
  2. It’s simple and clear, so you can follow to the end without getting lost.
  3. Emotions and hot buttons are weaved throughout the copy so your interest remains high.
  4. The benefits are crystal clear.
  5. There’s a clear call to action.
  6. It offers a risk-reversal and guarantee for those on the fence.
  7. It makes a promise and restates that promise at the end.
  8. It provides three options: Good, Better, and Best.

These simple 781 words proved to be a key circulation builder for subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal for over 30 years. There are seminars and courses which have been taught using this letter as a prime example. Studying the letter and learning the techniques and power can make your next direct mailer a big success as well.

Here’s a link to the letter’s text, along with some information about its amazing success.

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