Message & Media: The Devil’s in the Details
It's the little things that make a huge difference when it comes to delivering clicks, calls and visits to your store or website. When rolled into a powerful marketing message, even the smallest copy and design elements can help increase or squelch results. Your response depends on these details.
• Present perfect. Use present tense verbs in subject lines, headlines, body copy and bullet points. Why? Immediacy encourages reader involvement, and involvement leads to action. It's the difference between: You will receive 3 free gifts and You receive 3 free gifts. You will look slimmer in six days and Look slimmer in six days.
• Link up. Think of online links as response devices similar to a toll-free number or business reply card. Links allow readers to respond on the spot, so make them easy to find and rewarding to use. Use both text links and buttons that look like buttons to link to trackable landing pages and registration forms.
• Preview perforations. A perforated reply form should make it easy to respond. Who checks yours to make sure they're effective? Case in point: I struggle with my VISA and Macy's credit card monthly statements because the perforation is a scant 1/16" from the fold line. And if I tear the stub along the fold line, it doesn't fit properly in the reply envelope.
• Spotlight your deadline. Deadlines work online and off. They create urgency that causes people to focus and make snappier decisions. When you use a deadline, don't bury it. Mention it more than once in highly visible hot spots. It seems like a small thing, but it's not.
• Verbs start the story. Strong active verbs draw the reader's eye and interest. Use them to start bullets, sentences, paragraphs and headlines. Examples: Cut hours from your next plumbing job. Whiten your smile in seconds. Double your investment in just 30 days.
• A sticky subject. Postal regulations and inline formats have increased the use of stickiness in the mail. Make sure the wafer seals, fugitive glue and other adhesives used to make your direct mail pieces mailable don't depress response. If they're too sticky, they make it difficult—if not impossible—for customers to open your mailings. While this sounds obvious, too often this critical detail isn't noticed until after the mailing has dropped. I know from experience.
• Sincerely yours. People, not companies, write letters. That's true whether they're delivered by traditional or electronic mail. At a minimum, close your message with a person's name. Even better, add a signature. The reader's eye is drawn to the signature because it's different than typical typography and it's a humanizing element.
• Less is more; especially when you have only a nanosecond to capture your reader's interest with a subject line, headline or envelope teaser. Skincare company Murad applied this principle in an email with the subject line, NEW Exclusive Holiday Savings followed by the click-through headline, Give, Receive, Save! These three verbs said it all when coupled with Murad's offers in the preview pane.
• Psssst … add a P.S. Direct response letters should always have one; emails can, too. Thirty percent of those scanning a letter read the P.S. first. Because of the need to scroll, P.S. readership in email may not be as high, but it's still an opportunity to highlight a key benefit.
• Read on! Avoid ending headlines and subheads with a period. To a reader, a period is a stop sign. You want your heads and subheads to create momentum that draws your reader into copy/content.
• A seed of an idea. While this isn't a creative consideration, writers and designers appreciate seeing their work exactly as it is delivered. Ask your writers and designers if they want to be seeded on your email and traditional mailing lists as decoys. Doing this could plant the seed for future new ideas and garner useful feedback.
• Readability rocks! Nobody reads letter copy or website content if it looks crowded and difficult to digest. And readability doesn't only hinge on type size and font. Keep margins wide enough and line length short enough that people perceive the copy as being quick and easy to read. Also, avoid dense paragraphs of more than six lines by breaking long paragraphs in two.
• Pay attention to postage. Postage not only pays for delivery, it's an outer envelope hot spot used for screening mail. Consequently, the appearance of your postage and how it supports the other elements of your outer envelope (corner card, teaser, addressing, personalization) can make a major difference in response. The surprise is, many organizations leave postage decisions up to their vendors instead of their marketing departments.
• Specifics sell. Odd numbers (19,973) are more credible than even (20,000). And specifics (1,795) are almost always more convincing than generalities (many, more than 1,700).
• If vs. When. When I have the choice to start a sentence with one of these two words, "when" wins 99.99 percent of the time. "When" implies immediacy and action, "if" is provisional. Example: If you call us, you receive … vs. When you call us, you receive ...
• People like people. People also like looking at other people. Show images of people in emails, on landing pages, in brochures and ads. You don't have to show the whole person to engage your reader. Just the glimpse of someone's eyes, feet, even a nose draws the reader's interest.
• Numbers count. The numeral 9 is a faster read with more impact than the word nine. That's why I use numerals whenever it's appropriate. $10,000.00 is perceived as being greater than $10,000. When I'm promoting a sweepstakes or scholarship, I include the extra digits. In this case, more is a good thing. When I'm selling a product or service that costs $10,000 and my audience perceives it as expensive, I drop the extra zeros.