One of the most popular sessions at last week's Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk 2012 virtual show (free to register for on-demand viewing for the next 90 days) was copywriter Pat Friesen's "Using Words to Generate Response ... Direct Mail, Email, Online and More."
In 40 rapid minutes, she discussed the keys to getting more calls, clicks and visits from your copy. Here are some questions that Friesen wasn't able to answer during the session, but subsequently answered in friendly, frank Friesen-like fashion! They may be the same kinds of creative challenges you're wrestling with, so take a look.
1. Use of font type ... can this effect copy in any way?
Friesen: If we had had more time, I would have talked about readability studies related to the use of serif and sans serif type. Serif type is still considered to be more readable when used for long copy. Studies confirm this. Sans serif type is better for shorter copy such as headlines, subheads, callouts. EXCEPT online, where you regularly see more sans serif. Typefaces can make a HUGE difference in whether or not copy/content even gets read! Great question.
2. Are there guidelines to writing for women rather than men?
Friesen: I'm sure there are guidelines someone has written ... but I've not read or used them. My philosophy is to write to the targeted audience ... as an audience of one. I try to visualize an individual I now who fits the audience description, then write to him/her. Naturally, part of that includes male/female. But not in a stereotypical way.
3. Many of your examples are consumer-driven, how does the tone change for B-to-B?
Friesen: Much of the work I do is for B-to-B. Tone/voice has to do with the brand, the audience, the offer and so much more. The most important thing to remember is that whether you are writing to someone at home or at the office ... we are all PEOPLE. Motivated by Ed Mayer's list of motivating factors (see media player for full list).
4. Is simpler better? I have a hard time working with my corporate marketing and they are so wordy. Any stats or recommendations to have them make it simple?
Friesen: Simple is good. But how "wordy" you get may also depend on your audience. Certain audiences (e.g., older readers) like more detail, more words. I'm not sure what kind of stats you're looking for but here are some readability "rules" that may be of help:
- For maximum readability, 75 percent to 80 percent or your words should be 5 characters or less;
- Sentences should be 1-1/2 lines or less; and
- Paragraphs in a letter should rarely exceed 6 lines.
5. Is "join our program" or "become a member" a strong call to action, or does it put people off?
Friesen: "Join" is typically a strong word, as is "member." Why do you think these may put off people? Remember what people want to know is WIIFM? What's in it for me? So, are you telling them WIIFM: if they "join our program" or "Become a member." If so, it probably isn't a put off. But when in doubt ... test!
6. What do you think about expiration dates on call to action coupons?
Friesen: Deadlnes are powerful. I try to include them in most of what I write. But they have to be credible. They give procrastinators a reason to stop procrastinating.
7. Are there any good copy writing books that you would recommend?
Friesen: Yes. Many. Look for books by any of these fine direct response writers: Bob (Robert) Stone, Joan Throckmorton, Denny Hatch, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Bob Bly, Donna Baier-Stein.
To listen to Pat Friesen's session, or any of the other sessions recorded last week, register for Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk, which is free to view on-demand now.