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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 to respond.

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";

Lucky 13

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 level.

11

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.

14

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 with results.

25

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.

7

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?

2

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.

5

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.

0

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 fine.

9

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 copy. ALWAYS!

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.

1/2

Whenever you go to a second page in a letter - split the last sentence in half.

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 them reading.

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.

481

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.

30

Offers with a date work to get more action - more response. Try a Limited Time Offer.

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 Response Marketing.

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.

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