Writing tips for direct mail

Published June 5, 2018 1:12 pm by LoSasso
Categories: , , , ,

Though today’s digitally-dominated world might have you thinking otherwise, direct mail is far from dead. In many cases, it can achieve a higher response rate than direct-response emails and other digital channels.

And when it comes to direct mail, capturing and keeping your readers’ attention is key.

Short on time?

Try these quick and easy DM copywriting tips

  • Personalize by using the recipient’s first name
  • Indent your paragraphs when writing letters to improve readability
  • Use callouts (like a box or starburst with just a few words of text)
  • Include a headline (and a subhead if it makes sense)
  • Use short words, sentences and paragraphs
  • Avoid using reversed type on color blocks since it’s harder to read
  • Include a P.S. section with a CTA—as many as 79% of your readers will read the P.S. first

Direct mail itself comes in a variety of formats—postcards, letters, self-mailers, and catalogs, just to name a few. While the exact strategy for every piece will be different, here are a few DM copywriting tricks we’ve developed through trial, error and success.

Put the essential details first

Ultimately, your readers want to know: What’s in it for me?

When a reader picks up your piece, they’ll most likely start by scanning it, so make sure you’re making the most important things the most prominent. No one’s strapping in for a novel, so tell them exactly why they should be interested in what you’re selling right off the bat.

Draw attention to the important parts

All direct mail formats have visual “hot spots” where your readers’ eyes go first when they’re scanning the copy. Your designer can work with you to create and use hot spots that focus attention on the major benefits of you message, as well as pull your readers into the copy, including:

  • Headings
  • Subheadings
  • Starbursts/callout boxes
  • Bulleted lists
  • Bold, underlined or italicized text (use sparingly)
  • Sidebars, pictures and other graphics

We wouldn’t recommend trying to use everything in the above list in one piece—your readers’ eyes need some white space to rest on. However, these are all proven ways to get readers to focus where you want them to focus on your direct mail pieces.

Pro tip: While callouts are incredibly effective in communicating important messages, we’ve learned that the P.S. is one of the most-read parts of direct mail letters!

Tell them exactly what to do

Once you’ve laid out the details of what your readers will get when they respond to your piece, tell them exactly what to do with short and sweet call to action.

For example, let’s say you own a Lasik eye surgery practice. You probably generate new leads through appointments or consultations. Therefore, your call to action would look something like:

“Call (800) 555-5555 or visit OurCompany.com/Promotion to book your FREE consultation.”

When it comes to your CTA, it helps to give your readers multiple ways to contact you, i.e., a phone number and a special URL.

Pro tip: We recommend repeating your call to action at least twice (three times if you can do so without cramming the piece) to cement them in your readers’ memory and drive them to action.

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Drive urgency

The more time your prospect has to act, the less likely they are to actually, well, act. Indicators like expiration dates, event dates, and limited supplies indicate scarcity—another trigger that will prompt your prospect to act if he or she is still on the fence.

Additionally, having an angle is an incredibly effective way to drive this urgency while setting yourself apart from your competitors. Think: Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale. Instead of simply asking your readers to do what you want them to because your business and benefits are great, add some zest to it by dressing it up as an event, sale or trial with expiration dates and specific savings percentages attached.

Pro tip: If you have space, include a coupon with cut-out lines that prominently display your offer, an expiration date, company logo, CTA and contact information.

Appeal to the reptilian brain

Want your prospects to act? The quickest way to get there is by engaging their reptilian brain with powerful keywords. The reptilian brain is more concerned with survival and avoiding pain than it is with gaining pleasure, and there are certain tried and true words that naturally jump out at your readers:

  • Free
  • New
  • Save
  • Imagine
  • Now
  • Hurry
  • First
  • Limited
  • Simple

Additionally, active voice can help build momentum for the readers, too. Intersperse short, sweet verbs throughout your piece and in your CTAs, like:

  • Experience
  • Get
  • Enjoy
  • Schedule/book
  • Call
  • Visit

Skillfully-used keywords and verbs will prove that you are worthy of your readers’ attention and capable of helping them solve their problems.

Make it about the reader

“You” is one of the single most powerful copywriting words that can be used in marketing. Speaking directly to your consumers shows you want to help them improve their lives.

Marketer to marketer, we know you already know that empathy is the quickest way to the heart of your prospects. But with direct mail especially, it bears repeating that including a healthy dose of “you-phoria” is one of the most efficient and easiest ways to build a connection.

After all, it’s surprisingly easy for even household-name companies to fall into the “we” trap. When promotional copy is focused on “you,” it creates a powerful subconscious tug that helps captivate your reader.

Like our tips? Click the social media buttons on the right to share them! Have some best practices of your own that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below.