Don't Hide the Benefits!
There's a large furniture store in San Francisco where I've bought furniture, now and again, over the years. Because I'm on their mailing list, I recently received a letter informing me that they are "proud to be moving to a larger, better San Francisco location."
They go on to say that: "You'll find well-lit showrooms, plenty of free parking, street level pick-up of our many in-stock items, and of course, the same timeless style, quality crafting and customer service you expect from us. Where is our new San Francisco location?"
Naturally, I expected them to answer their own question and tell me the store's new address. No way. Amazingly, they refused to do so. Instead they told me that I should enter a contest to "guess the location of our new showroom."
That's correct. Nowhere in the letter do they tell you where they're moving! Instead, you're invited to stop into their old store, or visit their Web site where you can analyze six clues and guess the new store's location and perhaps win a prize.
Maybe someone can explain to me why you would write your house list with the news that you're moving to a new address and ask people to guess it. Wouldn't it have been just a tiny bit better to have said:
"Where is our new San Francisco location? It's conveniently located at 123 Main Street between 15th and 16th Avenues. (Please see the enclosed map for your convenience.) Our new store opens with a gala celebration at 10 a.m. on November 1, and we cordially invite you to stop by and say "hello." We'll have fabulous new showrooms for you to explore, valuable door prizes, coffee, delicious snacks and a whole lot more."
The important point is to be sure that you are not burying important facts in your own letters or e-mails the way the furniture store did. If you have an offer or an announcement to make, put it where the reader can see it immediately! For example:
1. Put the offer in the subject line or on the envelope.
Why make people open your e-mail/envelope to find out what the offer is? Put the message where the reader can see it. Right up front. (The furniture store I mentioned above might have been better served by using a postcard instead of a letter. A postcard is perfect for simple announcements like a new store opening. Back it up with an e-mail campaign.)
2. Put the offer at the top of your e-mail or letter in a "Johnson box."
Highlight the offer in a centered rectangular box placed at the very top of the letter above the salutation. Your offer will get noticed for sure!
3. Include the offer early in the e-mail or letter.
Don't wait until the end of the e-mail/letter to make your offer. Get right to the point quickly. You may only have few seconds to get your main points across.
4. Restate the offer in the postscript.
Postscripts get very high readership, which means it's the perfect place to issue a final call to action. In the P.S. you can stress that there's no obligation, there's nothing to lose, this is a limited-time offer, whatever.
5. Feature the offer in your flyer/booklet/brochure.
Just because you make the offer in your letter doesn't mean you shouldn't restate it in the flyer. You can't be certain which piece will be read first, no matter how everything is nested and comes out of the envelope.
The take-away message this month? Your readers don't have time for fun and games. They want you to get to the point and tell them how you can solve their problems. Remember this and watch the cash register ring!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for such companies as Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mails and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his Web site at www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at email@example.com.