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Copywriting Tips from Bob Westenberg

Any letter you write has to overcome these two roadblocks:

1. Human Inertia.

It's plain and simple laziness. People are basically lazy. It is much easier for them to do nothing than to do whatever you are asking them to do ... order, return a card, phone call, fax ... whatever. 

So, make it as easy as possible for them to act. Prepay postage, offer an 800 number, put his/her name and address info on the order blank or reply form, allow plenty of room to write in information.

Every hurdle you put in the way of response, no matter how minor, can get your prospect out of the action mode. So, look for obstacles to action. Get rid of them.

2. Competition For Attention And Money

Just take a look at your daily mail. There's plenty of competition, but how much of it evokes a ho-hum response? Most of the letters you'll receive all look pretty much alike. What can you do to beat the competition?

Test mailings with attachments: money, seeds, string. 
Anything that will logically make a point -- not just a gimmick for the sake of gimmickry. Put illustrations on your letters, perhaps overprint the letter on an appropriate background photo, use color. Experiment, test and track the responses. Find out what works, improve it and follow up. Find out what doesn't work and drop it.


Here's a couple examples of unique Direct Mail ideas.

A Wisconsin company sent a mailing to customers announcing their new line.  They enclosed a lottery ticket and put a line on the envelope stating: "Lottery Ticket Enclosed."  Their sales people followed up with a phone call.  Past mailings without a lottery ticket got about 10% of those phones taking the call.  Follow-ups after mailing the ticket, with the phrase "I have the winning lottery numbers" resulted in 70% of the customers taking the call.

A brokerage firm used a series of autographed baseballs to top prospects, plus a stand for three balls.  The first letter said they'd get another ball by returning a card for more information.  The second letter, including the second ball, asked for an appointment and said that their rep would bring the third ball.  The cost?  Over $ 300 per recipient.  But it resulted in more that $ 60 million in sales!

The point is ... direct mail does work.  Sometimes it takes something a little different -- or outrageously bold.  But look at the results from these two ventures.  Was it worth the risk or not?  You don't have to spend $ 300 per recipient.  A lottery ticket is only a buck.

Make it an ongoing procedure to look over your form letters periodically ... at least twice yearly.

Case in point: When the bank VP died, an executive of the bank who was also a friend of the family was taking a packet of papers to the widow with information about the retirement plan, social security, insurance, etc. Luckily, he looked through the packet on his way to see her. The mortgage department had included this cheery form letter: "Congratulations! This certainly must be a happy day now that your mortgage has been paid off!"

You may not have form letter that can cause disasters like this. But do you have some that are out of date? Or that don't apply to current policies?

Run off copies of all your form letters and assign someone specifically to review all of them with an eye to eliminate inappropriate information, updating, or simply improving them.

Bob Westenberg is an NMOA advisor and longtime copywriter, his contact info can be found on this page:


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