13 Questions for Better Creative
August 22, 2007

Copywriters who have been around the direct marketing block more than a few times bring with them honed insight into what details in a campaign can make the difference between floppy, flat and firing-on-all-cylinders performance. To leverage this knowledge, it behooves marketers to answer, to the best of their ability, the questions these creative professionals send their way. The following are 13 questions you should be trying to answer—even if your copywriter doesn’t do the asking—compiled from freelance copywriters Pat Friesen, of Pat Friesen & Co.; Mark Everett Johnson, of Mark Everett Johnson Inc.; and Malcolm Decker, of Malcolm Decker Associates Inc. 1. What are the

Keep the Glass Half Full for Seniors
July 25, 2007

It’s been in the steady rotation of childhood teachings since the beginning of time: If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And it’s no coincidence that you most likely heard such a reproach from your grandmother. As it turns out, in terms of direct mail copy tenets that best reach the senior market, she had it right all along. “A lot of marketers start out by telling all the negative things that can happen if you don’t use ‘my product or my service.’ With the older market, you will get much further … by being positive and

Headline Bait to Grab Prospects Hook, Line and Sinker
July 25, 2007

While general advertisers are more apt to cast a wide net and see what, if anything, they come up with, direct marketers prefer to use the right bait to catch the desired fish. That’s why the pros, the ones who succeed more often than not, spend significant time studying the fish: what they like to eat, when they like to eat and any other data they can gather to get a bite. And just as a fisherman can’t hook a shark with corn niblets, a mailer certainly can’t make a sale with the wrong headline. In any direct marketing effort, the headline is the

10 Tips to Up Your Outer Potential
July 25, 2007

In his session, 34 Market-Tested Strategies for Revitalizing DM Performance, presented at last month’s DM Days New York Conference & Expo, Russell Kern—founder and CEO of The Kern Organization—revealed a few of his favorite copy and design secrets to help you get your package past the first line of defense. Consider the following tips as you contemplate your outer envelope strategy. • Use a near-perfect handwriting font. • Call out or show multimedia interactive devices—CDs, DVDs, etc. • Inform prospects they’re pre-approved. • Show the prospect that the package is from someone important and that he should not discard it. • Create involvement using

Five Strategies to Turbocharge Your Postscript
July 18, 2007

It always floors me how many so-called “experts” leave money on the table by forgetting to use a postscript (or P.S.) in their letters—or paste a drab blob of drivel at the end of a rock ‘em, sock ‘em pitch. A hard-hitting P.S. is your last, best chance to ring the KA-CHING bell! Sales equals money, which equals more work for the copywriter, raises for the marketing manager, happy senior execs and owners ... well, you get the picture. Online and off, testing the P.S. is easy and darned near free. Here are five strategies that work: 1. Add a bonus offer, restate your

Creative: When You Only Need a Tweak
June 27, 2007

When you have a control package that’s performing near or on budget, you may not want to risk testing a completely different approach. You should, however, test “tweaks” to the control package that have the potential to generate small increases in response/profitability. Theoretically, a series of successful tweaks will add up to a major improvement in your program. There is, however, a danger in tweaking. It results from misunderstanding the difference between a tweak and a substantive (and possibly damaging) change to the control package. Here’s an example from the world of publishing. The control package is comprised of a promotional outer envelope; a four-page, 8½˝

Make the Golden Years Your Gold Mine
June 20, 2007

Breaking down the section of society that collectively has reached its golden years is no easy feat. While many know this group by one all-encompassing name—the 50-plus market—“There are a gazillion different segmentations,” laughs Kurt Medina, president of Medina Associates, a Rose Valley, Pa.–based consultancy that specializes in marketing to this niche. When considering these folks in the broadest sense, however, he narrows down the “gazillion” into three general categories: • Pre-retirees: These folks are of the baby boomer generation, around 52 to 62 years of age. • Active retirees: Those who have retired. But Medina notes that it doesn’t have to mean “retired,”

Benefits Revisited in the Age of Hype
June 13, 2007

Copywriters always have operated on the principle that benefits are the guts of any promotion. We know our prospects don’t care about the products we’re pitching. The only thing they want to know is, “What’s in it for me?” But with thousands of overhyped ads assaulting people daily, consumer skepticism keeps growing in direct proportion to the hype. Credibility is stretched razor-thin. As veteran copywriter Clayton Makepeace observes, “Pure benefit leads don’t work as well as they once did because they scream, ‘Hey, this is another AD! Read this so I can SELL you something.’” With the deluge of me-too messages promising to help us save

Nuts&Bolts: 5-minute Interview With National Wildlife Federation’s Anne Senft
June 1, 2007

With the online environment morphing at light speed, direct mail may seem like a stable but stagnant channel. But that’s certainly not the case for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), a Reston, Va.-based nonprofit whose mission is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for future generations. Anne Senft, senior director of membership marketing at the nonprofit, recently took a break from her busy schedule to explain the effect consumer trends have had on NWF’s copy, design and overall messaging strategies. Target Marketing: What key consumer factors have shaped your direct mail program recently? Anne Senft: The one that’s making us nervous is the aging of the

Six Ways to Overcome New HTML E-mail Design Challenges
May 2, 2007

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched Vista, the largest update to the Windows operating system since Windows 95. Simultaneously, the company introduced the newest version of its Office suite, which includes Microsoft Outlook 2007. Although widely anticipated for its many new features and enhancements, Outlook 2007 now uses only the Microsoft Word HTML engine for composing and rendering e-mail messages, instead of also using the Internet Explorer engine previously employed for displaying HTML e-mail. The result is that Outlook 2007 no longer supports a variety of design techniques that are commonly used in HTML e-mails, affecting their creative interactivity and functionality. These include: * No Flash