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Marketing mastery: How to create a customer stampede with direct mail

Oct. 7/14 2013; Volume 27/number 12

By Jim Armstrong

(Part three)

Jim Armstrong
Jim Armstrong

FLOOR DEALER: What do you think of my ad?

JIM:  It’s got your business name at the top, a list of products, and contact information, just like your competitor’s flooring ads.

FLOOR DEALER: So what do you think?

JIM:  I think you should start over.

I was sorting through my mail, tossing out the unopened junk, when I came across a letter from a bank.  It wasn’t my bank, so normally I would have just tossed it out with the rest, but there was something lumpy in the envelope. My curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it up to find a Lifesaver taped to the top of the letter. This letter succeeded where the rest of the junk mail failed: it got me to open it up.  (See part 2 in this series for strategies on using lumpy mailers.)

Let’s say you’ve succeeded in getting your prospects to open the letter. Now what? You’ve got to get ‘em to read the message, but if you use the Name, Rank and Serial Number formula for your message, you’ll lose them from boredom.

Therefore, it’s critical that your mailer uses a carefully crafted, direct-response formula that captures your prospects’ attention and compels them to take action.   There are a number of good formulas, and here is an effective, time-tested-and-proven example to get you started.

A.I.D.A.  Formula (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action)

Attention. Use a captivating headline. The headline is the “ad for the ad.” It makes people want to read your information. Most flooring ads have the dealer’s business name as the headline, which is a huge mistake. The only three things your prospects care about are benefits, benefits, benefits. Most business names do not convey a benefit, especially to people who have never heard of, nor done business with, you. Your headline should convey a benefit, pose a problem or arouse curiosity.

Interest. Create interest with your prospects with a strong first paragraph. The first paragraph should feature the most powerful benefits. Keep the interest of your reader throughout the letter with subheadlines and don’t be boring. Remember that your prospect has probably surfed online through multiple flooring sites, looked at dozens of ads, all full of photos and descriptions of products.

Desire. Create desire by showing in vivid detail how her life will be better if she buys from you, and by giving her an “irresistible offer.” Again, assume that your prospect has seen dozens of websites or ads before seeing yours. If your offer consists of teaser prices (like those virtually everyone uses) do you think they will find this “irresistible”?  Only if your teaser price is way lower than all the others they’ve seen. But now you’re competing on price, and that’s a dead-end street.

Action. Give your prospect a call to action at the end of the ad or letter. For example, tell them to “Bring this letter to our store by November 15th!” Always use a deadline. It’s not direct response if it doesn’t have an offer and a deadline.

Done correctly, direct mail is an incredibly effective method for generating sales.  It can be targeted like a laser beam to a specific market, it works quickly and it’s cost-effective.