List Secrets for Creatives
Early in my career, I worked in the promotion department of a small newsletter publisher. I was in charge of assembling the six annual special reports that supplemented our two weekly publications.
Much of my time was spent making as many phone calls as humanly possible to get necessary information for the hundreds of listings that comprised the bulk of the extra editions. The listings were free, however, for a modest price, we’d print them in bold-faced type. It was my job to convince the prospect to buy. Sometimes it was an easy sell, but many times I encountered reluctance from my customers: What is the benefit? How many other listings on the page will be in bold? What will it do for my company?
After a while, I got very good at answering those questions. But I learned another strategy, too, that helped me close more sales: Whenever the prospect was unsure of buying, I began asking my own questions. I wanted to get to the root of his indecision and see whether I could assuage his worries. In other words, I was gathering information that would help me target my message and customize it to fit my prospect’s comfort zone.
In direct mail, however, the copywriter doesn’t enjoy the advantage of speaking face-to-face with a prospect. Fortunately, there are other means you can use to help you get in your potential customer’s head and inform the mailing’s message and offer strategy. Copywriters often overlook a campaign’s lists and datacards, yet, a careful examination of these vital tools can give significant clues as to how the copy and approach should be developed.
What a List Card Reveals
Developing a concrete, vivid profile of your typical prospect is essential for writing targeted copy. The list card is a great place to start because even a cursory analysis of its available data can give you insights into preparing your copy. You’ll discover such things as the prospects’ age range and gender, a description of the average buyer—what kinds of products he buys and how much he typically spends on an order, when the list was compiled and so on. Each piece of data tells you something important that can help target your message to a prospect’s hot spots.