Direct Marketing --Truth in Numbers
by Ray Jutkins
Direct Marketing is now a dominate discipline in
marketing and selling. Why? Because it works! It carries a message, answers
questions and gets orders.
And it works because it is personal. Direct Response Marketing works
because it is "conversation in writing". It works because, no matter what
you have heard, read or believe... most people look forward to personal
communication. They like being treated as a person - as an individual.
So, if Direct Response Marketing is so powerful, how can we as marketers
use it effectively? To keep the business we have...to find new business?
As with most disciplines, the "Truths of Direct Marketing" are common
sense. Here is a list of a few "Truths", to make your Direct Response
Marketing work for you;
60 - 30 - 10
A full 60% of your Direct Marketing success is making certain your
message gets to the person who can buy what you have to sell. It's very easy
for the wrong person to say "no".
An offer will be 30% of your Direct Marketing success.
What is an offer? It is a reason for your prospect to do business with
you. It is the urge to action. It is an incentive to get your audience to
raise their hand. To indicate a willingness to talk with you. It is a reason
The 10% remaining is creative. Not unimportant...certainly less
important. And although it is the fun part of marketing - without a clearly
identified audience and a sound offer - your creative has little chance of
giving you a winner.
Now, once you've clearly identified your marketplace and put together an
offer of interest - how DO you get your Direct Marketing message read,
heard, seen, understood and acted upon?
A few more "Truthful Numbers";
Write your message for a 13 year old reading level.
Yes!, for the junior high school kids on your block. If they do not
understand your message - your marketplace will not understand your message.
Television news, the morning newspaper and by far the majority of our
conversation is at a 13 year old reading level.
Exceptions? Sure. The Wall Street Journal is written at a 17 year reading
Keep your opening paragraph to 11 words or less.
Yes, I did say paragraph!
Why? Because, by opening quickly you slip your reader into your full
message. Make your letter, your brochure, the print advertisement -
everything you write - easy to read. A quick beginning helps.
Your opening paragraph should contain 11 words or less. All your
sentences should average 14 words or less.
When sentences are long, the reader loses the thought, mis-understands
the message, stops reading. Translation; you get less response!
The best way to write short: use a period. Yes, every so often insert the
"dot". It works. And it will help you get read.
1, 2, 3, 4 & 5
About 70% of all your words should be 5 letter words, or less.
Why? Because they are easy to read - easy to understand. Your message
will be quickly absorbed.
The 500 most common words in English have 13,000 meanings. No wonder we
have trouble with basic communication. One answer is to go short. It pays
Another way to think about sentence length is with syllables A max of 25
per sentence is best.
Since no one wants to count syllables...use short words and short
sentences. It is easier - and it works to get your message across.
Keep ALL paragraphs to a maximum of 7 lines. Never more than 7...and
sometimes just 1 or 2. i.e., short paragraphs.
Again, why? Because a large block of copy looks tough, even if it is not.
The tactic of short makes your message look more inviting.
Think of it this way; how many lawyer briefs, medical papers or
government documents look inviting?
A postscript (P.S.) is mandatory in every direct mail letter. Because 4
of 5 of your readers will read the P.S. first...before they read anything
else in your letter.
So, my theory is, if 1 P.S. is good - why not 2! I am serious. When you
have 2 key thoughts that need repeating or emphasis - there is no better way
than with a P.S. and a P.P.S.
Indent every paragraph 5 spaces.
This "Truth" is really physiology - not marketing. Our eyes pull us "in"
when we see indents. They pull us to a point - and while we're there, we
read. It works. Indent all paragraphs.
On the other side of the paragraph - the right side - use the ragged
right design. Do not justify margins! Do not proportionally space your
sentences. Ragged right increases readership.
Yes, this is 0, a zero. Here are a pair of "Do Not Truths".
First, do not use hyphens. Divided words are next to impossible to
read...they are worse than watching a ping pong match. Just don't split your
words. Do not use hyphens.
Next, do not abbreviate. There is no reason for you to "assume" anyone
has any idea what your abbreviations mean. Are there exceptions? Yes (see
P.S. above). Don't do it anyway.
25 & 33
This is another pair of "Do Not Truths". First 25.
WHEN YOU PUT ENTIRE BLOCKS OF COPY IN ALL CAPS YOU REDUCE YOUR READERSHIP
BY 25%. SO DON'T DO IT!
Reverse type is worse. When you reverse out of a dark background your
readership is cut by 33%. So don't do that, either.
Sure, a little ALL CAPS and a little reverse is fine. Lots of it is not
Type size is important for readability. The absolute minimum is 9 point.
And 12 is much better!
Why is this important? Because most of us wear glasses. Because we cannot
see! So, make your type large enough to be readable.
And one more thing about type; ALWAYS use serif typefaces for paragraph
Serif type is the style with "feet". The type used for most of the
articles in this magazine. Serif type is for things you hold in your hand.
Direct mail, a magazine, brochure, newspaper. Use serif type to increase the
understanding of your message.
Whenever you go to a second page in a letter - split the last sentence in
Begin it at the bottom of the first page...end it at the top of the next
page. Why? To pulllll the reader with you. "Make" them turn the page. Keep
The same tactic works in anything printed with columns. Such as
brochures, reply forms, print ads...anything. Split the last sentence...the
last paragraph in 2. And move the reader to the next column.
Be specific. The number 481 is much more specific - and much more
believable! - than saying "almost 500".
Odd numbers get more attention than even. Use 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 and you are
more likely to be noticed. A list of 11 is better than a list of 10. 99 or
101 ideas is better than an even 100.
One more thing on numbers; use the number - not the word. As I have done
in this article. The number 3 or 7 is easier to see, read and understand
than the word three or seven.
40 - 57
The number of printed characters on a line should not exceed 57.
Keeping the number in the 40 range is better.
Printed characters are letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation used in
your message. Empty spaces between are not counted.
The reason newspapers and magazines have columns is to make their message
more readable. Bingo!...another "Truth". Do the same in your direct mail,
literature and brochures, space ads...everything printed.
Offers with a date work to get more action - more response. Try a Limited
Good for only 30 days...or better yet, "This offer good only until August
31" gets action. Test making your offer a Limited Time Offer. It can
increase your response.
3 - D
When using direct mail, try a 3-dimensional package. It is guaranteed to
get attention...guaranteed to be opened.
Anything lumpy, in a puffy bag, odd color, size, shape - things
"different" get attention. Look different - be different.
And a second 2
The first 2 talked about P.S. and P.P.S. This 2 is about communication.
It takes 2 to have good communication. The same for all your Direct
For your message to be effective for you, write in a dialogue style. A
conversation style. More like you talk. Because those you are writing to
will be more likely to respond.
1:1 marketing = 2. And 2 means it takes 2 to have Direct Marketing
success. You and your customer...you and your prospect.
There are many more "Truth in Numbers" for Direct Marketing. This list
will get you going to make your mail, your print, your collateral materials
- all your written communication - just that much better.
About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one
of the NMOA’s most generous contributors.
Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for
members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer
clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the
South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.
Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the
pages of Direct Marketing
Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.