The principles of persuasive writing have been practiced and improved upon for decades. Now you can benefit from the lessons learned — by applying them to your direct mail.
When you send out a direct-mail postcard or flyer, you dont have a lot of room to sell your product or service. This makes the quality of your words critical, because the shorter a piece of writing, the better it must be in order to produce the desired effect.
A tall order? Sure it is. But if you apply some time-tested elements of persuasive writing to your messageand weed out everything thats taking up spaceyou can fill that order. This article will show you how.
Persuasive writing can be dissected into six rules or elements. Used together, these elements will make your writing more persuasive, your marketing more effective, and your customers more responsive the goals of any marketing piece.
To be persuasive, your writing must:
Six goals? you say. How can I fit all that onto a postcard?
Dont despair. By the end of this article, youll know how.
Theres a reason this rule comes first. If your direct-mail piece fails to capture the readers attention, it fails in all other regards as well.
So how do you get their attention?
You can do it with visuals. A picture of a Just Sold sign will surely entice anyone in the real estate market. The face of a kitten will stop animal-lovers in their tracks. But were talking about persuasive writing here, not persuasive pictures. So lets focus on the words.
As a rule, specific writing draws more attention than vague writing. So use numbers if you have them. For example, based on these lines from their direct-mail advertisements, which of the following realtors would you want to list your home?
Realtor A: I have sold a lot of houses.
Realtor B: I have sold ten houses in the last month alone.
An easy decision, isnt it?
You can also bold or enlarge your fonts to get attention, especially if you have something important to say, like an offer: Call today for a free, in-home consultation!
You can ask an intriguing question: Why are we offering $5,000 in free incentives?
You can do a lot of things to get your readers attention. So give it some thought. Find out what it is that makes your message unique, your product or service better and more valuable to the reader, and then say it!
If youve studied copywriting or marketing in any respect, youve heard the phrase focus on the benefits, not the features.
This is true to an extent. Benefits are crucial, no doubt about it. Your prospects will only sign on the dotted line after theyve seen how your services can benefit them. But details and features are important, too. So perhaps a better way to express this fundamental of marketing is this:
Focus on whatever is important to your prospects.
If you think the nuts and bolts of a product or service will help you sell it, then by all means include them in your message. Just be sure to tie each feature to a benefit.
As an example, lets say a real estate company has a new, state-of-the-art computer database that speeds up the home-search process for their clients. This is an important feature, and it might be advertised as such:
Our powerful new database improves efficiency twofold over previous versions.
Thats a feature all right, but with a lukewarm benefit at best. Improves efficiency how does that help the customer? Dont assume they know. Come right out and say it:
Our powerful new database helps you locate a home in just minutes online.
Now thats a benefit.
A rule of thumb: The more technical your audience, the more you should incorporate features into your marketing. A person buying a home or looking for a remodeler might not care about the nuts and bolts, but a scientist shopping for a new calibration device will want all the features and specs.
So remember our revised maxim:
Focus on whatever is important to your prospects. It will vary from one audience to another, but you had better find out what it is and give it to them in spades!
When a prospect pulls your direct-mail card or flyer from the mailbox, he or she will ask a series of questions:
Whats being advertised? Is it something I need? If its something I need, who is offering it?
The last questionwho is offering it?brings your credibility into the spotlight. And this is a double-edged sword. You have to reveal enough about yourself to make the prospect comfortable; but reveal too much, and youre wasting valuable space you need for the benefits.
The good news is this. You can establish credibility in a sentence or less, just by answering any of the following questions:
How long have you been in business? How many products or units have you sold? Do you have any third-party seals of approval, awards or certificates? Are there any independent survey results (like J.D. Power) that favor you? How many customers do you have?
Acme Remodeling. Turning houses into homes since 1968.
We invite you to join the 24,500 Americans whove come home to Ajax Realty.
Its time for some hard truth, marketing style. Your prospects care about themselves. They do not, however, care about you, your company, or your mission statement. They want to know right from the start: Whats in it for me?
So in your marketingand especially within the confines of your direct-mail piecesidentify with the reader right away.
Will what youre selling make their life better? Solve their problems? Satisfy their wants? Make them the envy of the neighborhood? If so, say it right from the start. Then you can go into the details (benefits-related, of course) of you product or service.
Imagine you live in an apartment you hate, beneath noisy neighbors whom you hate even more. Youd like to move out and find a house, but you think home ownership is out of your reach.
Now imagine a flyer comes in the mail that says: Think you cant afford a new home? Think again!
Would you keep reading?
Of course, you would. Anyone in that situation would eagerly read on. Why? Because the message started with the customer. It spoke to a specific person with a very specific desire.
It hasnt even mentioned whats being sold yetthough we can assume its related to mortgage or real estatebut right away theres a connection. And if this ad follows up with benefits-rich specifics and solid copy, it will land some phone calls and web visits. Guaranteed.
Thats the power of focusing on the reader.
Each day, the average American consumer is bombarded with more than 2,000 advertisements. Billboards, radio spots, TV ads, Internet pop-ups, direct mail, email, magazine inserts its enough to drown a person.
With all that advertising noise, and all those choices, how do you get your message heard? How do you throw a lifeline to that drowning consumer and say, Hey, listen up, heres something worth your time.?
Answer: You must convince the consumer that your product is different and better than the competitions.
Walk down the cereal aisle in a grocery store, and youll see what I mean. Literally hundreds of brands clamor for attention with colorful packaging and logos. But when you actually read the labels, youll see how the top-sellers set themselves (and their products) apart from the bottom-dwellers:
Crispix cereal stays crispy in milk.
Post Raisin Bran has two scoops of raisins.
Wheaties is the breakfast of champions.
If your product or service is unique within its market, stress this in your message. If its not unique, find a way to make it so. Otherwise, its just another box of oat bran on a crowded shelf.
Without a call to action, your direct-mail flyer or postcard is nothing more than a product review. And thats fine, if your sole purpose is to inform.
But if youre trying to generate a response, you need to tell your reader how to move forward, how to learn more, or how to purchase:
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Above all else, keep this part of your message simple. Open your door and light the way, and your prospects will enter.
There you have them: the rules of persuasion, time-tested and proven to work.
So how do you tie it all together? How do you take all that information and all those tips and shoehorn them into a direct-mail piece? Therein lies the challenge. But if you want to persuade your prospects and turn them into loyal customers, youll rise to the challenge.
After all, your success depends on it.