Flattery Will Get you a New Control
Flattery Will Get You a New Control
Looking for a fresh lead for your letters? Try flatteryit's the second most-used technique for leads in all long-term control letters says direct mail consultant Axel Andersson.
For upscale book club marketer Easton Press, it's the approach that culminated in a new control for its continuity series of "The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written" (124EASPRE0200X), upsetting a package that's been successful for the past four years.
According to Andersson, it took Easton Press from 1992 to 1999 to develop this two-year control, refining its copy and strategy with each successive control. Two previous controls laid the groundwork for the current mailing, and each of them are powerful examples of direct mail in their own right.
The most obvious difference between the three mailings is the upgrade from the prior 6" x 11" envelope packages to a 9" x 12" envelope format. Whereas the earlier efforts arrived in white outers with or without copy snipes, this outer is grass green with a large, cellophane window through which peeks a photo of the book Moby Dick (the trial book) and a line of promotional copy personalized with the recipient's name. Besides the visuals, what's most striking is that this is the first use of personalization we've seen from Easton Pressever.
The real heart of these controls, however, have been the letters. Comparing the new mailing to the former controls, you see a gradual progression of copy techniques. The most recent letter gets more flattering, dropping the previous tacks of first emphasizing price, value and offer.
The most recent letter is evocative of Ed McLean's long-term control letter for Newsweek magazine, which began with the copy, "If the list on which your name appeared is any indication..."
The process of evolution, if you will, followed this path: From the early 90s' copy platform of "my boss was startled by the deal I'm about to make you;" to the mid-90s control letter that uses subtle flattery, by name-dropping the distinguished individuals whose biographies are published by Easton Press and those who own the collection, like William F. Buckley; to the current control which recycles McLean's excessive flattery.
This flattering process begins on the front of the outer envelope, with the copy "We're looking for people who have almost everything." The four-page letter then picks up the pace, shown at left, and continues in this complimentary vein for the entire first page.
Most noteworthy, observes Andersson, is the checklist that is suggested to have served as Easton Press' selection criteria for finding suitable prospects. Such a checklist, he explains, gives Easton Press a reason to flatter prospects and makes the copy more believable. Of course, recipients will find at least one criterion the he fits.
And there follows the sales hook. Every single checklist item could describe the recipient, but he still would be lacking the one thing that would cap his success: "The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written" collection.
The rest of the letter weaves in the previous control letter's high points of getting a leather-bound book that would sell for $75 for only $5.95 and of being in the same company as "leading figures in the arts, politics, industry, education and science" who own the collection.
Ideas in Action
* Flattery can work for any kind of product or service, but it is especially effective for offers that imply exclusivity or that have some other kind of "snob appeal."
* When flattering prospects, impart your offer with the feel of an invitation by using words like "acceptance," "candidates," "selected," etc.