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Direct Marketing Breakthroughs Worth More Than $1 MILLION

Direct Marketing Breakthroughs Worth More Than $1 MILLION

February 25, 2009

(if you apply the ideas found here)

Special Report: First in a 2-Part Series

I'm constantly asked, 'What's the best form of marketing I can do with a limited budget?'

That's an easy one. Direct mail marketing. Clients are always surprised with my answer, especially in an age where we spend so much of our time online.

But do you know how much of all retail sales are made online? Ten percent. With all of the hullabaloo, and with all the talk of people making millions and millions of dollars online, few sales are made from the web. But don't ignore the web because it can still be a very valuable marketing channel (see story on page 3).

It's all about identifying your hungry fish and understanding how they want to do business. For instance, one of the best ways to market on the Internet is to drive traffic to your website using irresistible bait such as a free report or another premium that your hungry fish would want so you can capture their email and snail mail address for future marketing promotions.

For my money, though, direct mail marketing is where you get the most bang for your buck. You can target your audience by income levels, titles, spending habits, related purchases, etc. It's still one of the cheapest and most direct methods to get your offer in front of your hungry fish. It's up to you whether they open it and act, or toss it in the trash.

That's why I want to give you a crash course in direct marketing. The secrets I'm about to reveal to you have made clients of mine more than $1 million so these are proven to work.

Tip #1: You already have your best list right under your nose.

Keep in mind the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your repeat business will come from about 20% of your customer base. Take special care of your 20%. Show them you appreciate them and value them. Give them special offers and benefits, and make it clear they're getting them because you value them.

The key to getting more customers is to start with the right list. The best offer and product in the world won't work if you're not talking to the best and most qualified people. A sharp agency or list broker can suggest lists you might not even consider.

The best list you'll ever find, however, is your own customer base. Contact them regularly. They are the easiest and least expensive prospects to market to because they already know and trust you.

Tip #2: Messy is better.

A clean, classic design often does poorly in direct mail. Why? Because in direct response marketing, the key is to keep the eye moving. Use every device you can including:
Bullet points
Underlined text
Arrows (especially in another color)
Quotes, anecdotes or other key points in indents, italics, (parantheses), etc.

Break up the copy. Circle stuff. Messy promotions do better than clean nearly every time. And ugly paper pulls better than high-end designs from the ad agency.

Your goal is to make sales ' not win design awards.


Tip #3: Use the power of P.S.

Believe it or not, most people will go right to the end of the letter to see who wrote it and then they'll go right to the P.S. So what should you include in this valuable space? The P.S. should reiterate your offer and reinforce the most important points. Repeat your call to action and add urgency to your offer. Here's an example:

P.S. Remember, if you act now you'll not only get 3 FREE service calls but an attractive, rugged Buck Knife ' FREE!


Market to your prospects as if you're talking with them in their living room -- not as if you're talking to the masses.

Tip #4: Don't talk to your prospects as if you're in a coliseum!

Business owners often market as if they're talking to everyone in a large room. Don't you hate it when a TV or radio announcer refers to you as a viewer or listener? I'm not a listener or viewer. I'm Jon. Talk to me ' not the group!

A good direct mail piece is like a person who walks gently into your living room and says, 'I want to tell you a story that I think you'll find very interesting and helpful.' It's a personal communication.

When you write a letter to a friend, do you sign it? You bet you sign it. Do you call them by their name? Absolutely. Is your tone personable and conversational? Of course. In other words, you're not shouting to the masses. You're talking to your readers one at a time. Direct mail is a very personal medium. Be informal when appropriate. Be sincere.


Tip #5: Test long copy v. short copy

Believe it or not, long copy (direct mail pieces that go on for 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 or even 128 pages) sell best in the right situation. When writing long copy be sure to appeal to two types of readers:

  • Scanners ' Give readers the main points up front and clearly. They're looking for the information fast.
  • Readers ' Give them all the information they need to become comfortable enough with you to trust you and to take the ultimate step ' 'return the enclosed reply card,' 'call us today,' 'stop by today,' or whatever response you desire.


You'll be surprised by the results. Long copy usually works every time. Long copy is lots and lots of stuff with thousands of words. Marketers debate this issue all the time, and guess what? Long copy wins in most cases.

Martin Edelston started his book-selling and publishing business out of his basement with $5,000 and now runs a multi-million dollar business built solely on direct marketing pieces that ran 8 pages long at Bottom Line Publishers and Boardroom Inc.

I just got a promotion from his company that's actually a 64-page book, promoting a much larger $40 book.

What else does he do that's so successful? On the envelope he grabs the attention of his hungry fish with teasers such as, 'The best junk foods and the worst, and other surprising secrets you're not supposed to know. Plus, the world's dirtiest, deadliest airline.' You can't help but wonder what's inside.

When you do, you see more headlines that grab your attention including, 'Get reimbursed for past stock market losses ... How thieves deactivate your home burglar alarm ... How banks play tricks with the interest rates and with your money.' He unveils one benefit after another that makes you want to find out more.


Tip #6: Add a short little note and give your marketing a lift

Called a Lift Note, a 5-1/2' x 9-1/2' piece of paper, folded in half, can literally lift your response rate.

Your note can be a personal message, an executive summary, a testimonial, a case history or another piece of information that would make your hungry fish want to respond. Why does it work so well? Because it's a separate piece of paper, it increases your reader's interaction with your mailing. The more they interact with it, the more likely they are to respond.

Busy fingers increase response. The more opportunity a reader has to interact with your piece, the more likely they'll respond.

Have you ever received a Publisher's Clearing House promotion in the mail? There's stuff falling out all over the place. You've got stickers over here, you've got to tear other pieces apart and stick this in that. That's part of the goal: get your hungry fish to interact with your piece.

The Navy League sent a promotion that grabbed everyone's attention. Sent in a cream-colored envelope with a broken red stamp it said, 'Delayed mail.' The return address said, 'From Theodore Roosevelt.' Then the lift note said, 'A special note from the president.'

Wouldn't you want to read that? You bet you would. The most interesting thing happened with this piece. They got a call from the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C. who said, 'I'm sorry to tell you that this mail has been sitting around for a long time.' They even fooled the post office!

Who will grab the attention of your hungry fish and create bait so irresistible that they would want to tear it open? (Note: The Theodore Roosevelt family gave the Navy League rights to use the family name and their foundation supports the non-profit organization.)


Tip #7: Personalize it.

Do you know the two most popular words of your hungry fish? Their first name and last name. Use them! Most people love to see their name in print. So don't make them feel as though they're just another name on a list. Make them feel special with a personalized message. Personalize your piece ...


  • On the envelope where the name can be handwritten or typed.
  • In the salutation: 'Dear Jon Goldman'
  • In the body copy: 'Most Baltimore homeowners like you, Jon, have found ...'
  • In the lift note: 'Jon, I thought you'd like to know ...'
  • On the response device: 'Yes, send one Free Swiss Army knife to Jon Goldman at 123 Main Street ...'
  • On the premium: Ad Age is a master of this technique, with a personalized cartoon on the envelope, or a free personalized coffee mug with each subscription.

WARNING:Everyone of us likes the sound of our name, if it's pronounced right and spelled correctly. If not, what you do? You ignore it! Misspell a prospect's name and you'll kill the interaction you tried so hard to create. Either make sure you have their name correct or don't personalize your message. It's better NOT to personalize than to misspell your prospect's name.


Tip #8: Tune into WIIFM.

If you get anything from this article, be sure you remember this one thing: you should always be prepared to answer this one five-word question: What's In It For Me?

Here's what your hungry fish are saying: 'Quite honestly, I don't care about you. I don't care that you've got a nice office or even that you have to pay rent and take care of your family. I only care about myself. And if you're not going to tell me things that are going to help me, I'm not going to listen to you.'

Your prospects are always asking themselves, 'What's in it for me?' The more tuned in to your prospects needs and concerns, the better response you'll get. When you create a marketing piece, ask yourself, 'Are we addressing the wants and needs of our hungry fish or are we just saying, 'Here's all of our services.'?'

Tip #9: Guarantee it!

Go ahead, guarantee it! Whatever you're offering, you're asking people to take a leap of faith and assume the risk. Chances are they won't, unless you assume some of the risk.

The guarantee is the backbone of direct mail. Entire businesses including Sears, Lands End and many others have been built on ironclad guarantees.

So why don't more people offer a guarantee? They're afraid that they're risking too much. They're afraid they'll get burned and lose money.

For the most part, I believe people are good and they're not out to burn you. But there are some jerks out there and some people will take advantage of you. Know that up front. Do people take advantage of the guarantee we offer? Absolutely, but I give them their money back anyway. Why? Because I know that we get seven times more business because we offer the guarantee.

My friend and client, Dr. Alvin Schamroth helps OB/GYNs pass the oral medical board certification exams. I recommended that he offer a money-back guarantee if his $500 course doesn't help doctors pass the exam. He was nervous, but we found that 96% passed the test. So then I told him to sweeten the deal even more and offer a 'Double Your Money-Back Guarantee.' If a doctor fails, he gives them back $1,000! He fought me on it, tried it and now loves it!

The guarantee nearly doubled his business! Who wouldn't love that?!