Prospects can be a fickle bunch. While a few will respond to the same kind of mailing again and again, many others have to be targeted in new and innovative ways. When trying to come up with such ways, who better to speak to than famed copywriter Bob Bly?
Author of “The Copywriter’s Handbook, Third Edition: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells” (Henry Holt) and “The White Paper Marketing Handbook” (Thomson), and freelance copywriter for such clients as Boardroom, TCI, Agora Publishing, IBM and Lucent Technologies, Bly knows how visual language, testing the right creative and even good guessing can bring out the full potential of a package.
EB: What are some trends that you’ve noticed in direct mail recently?
BB: In your promotion, you have to speak the visual language of the prospect. I saw a promotion for a client that didn’t do well, and what I wrote to go against it did better. But I don’t think it was the headline or any brilliance on my part. It was a promotion for a trading system and their promotion was a letter in magalog form that had no diagrams or graphics. It was obviously written by a copywriter who had never marketed to traders or traded himself. Traders, what do they like to see? Charts, so you’ve got to load it with charts. That’s not a brilliant strategy, but people ignore that. They don’t use the language of their prospect, and the visual language in particular.
EB: In general, are letters getting shorter?
BB: In some cases, it’s the reverse. The B-to-B ones are getting shorter, like consumer magazines, but a lot of direct response consumer offers, which are traditionally long copy, are getting longer. For 10 years the common thing in investment newsletters was a 12- or 16-page letter; then it became a 16-page magalog, which is longer; then it became a 24-page tabloid, which is even longer.