I've often viewed writing an article akin to inviting someone to an event of some kind. Sometimes it's an exhibition that has some relevancy to the person, and other times it may be even more personal, like a dinner party or even cocktails. But these days, especially in the business press, so many articles open the door to the reader and promptly douse them with ice water.
"The bleak economic picture ..." "Budget pressures forced ..." "Investors panicked upon hearing ..." Of course, this is not just trendy, nonthinking journalism. Rather, it's reality, economic, everyday reality-it affects every part of how a business is run. And with the election over with, the bad economy is the big news of every day. That should be no surprise, given that it's now referred to by some economists as "the next Great Depression," especially when some of those big news entities that churn out these stories are hurting themselves, and in the case of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, have just declared bankruptcy.
The end result? An increasing level of fear and insecurity for the majority of Americans, including the wealthy ones. Fear can cause people to act in necessary and sometimes productive ways, but it also can cripple many people's normally good brains and cause decisions that create even further economic damage of some kind. Some critics have placed Henry M. Paulson Jr., Secretary of the Treasury, in this latter camp. How about you direct mailers, copywriters and marketers? Are you making decisions based on your own fears and bypassing the fears of prospects, or are you responding to the current conditions with sure-handed wisdom and really talking to prospects in the way they want to be talked to right now?
For many sectors in the direct mail industry, too many marketers appear to be sticking with efforts that were generated before this big mess began. Instead, they need to shift to mail pieces that properly address the damaged prospect, including employing letters that use the kind of reassuring language that prospects are looking for.
Recently, I took a deep dive into the financial services sector. With some massive banks and investment firms going down while an even more massive, but problematic, bailout was being weighed, prospects were nearing financial panic. Yet few financial mailers were addressing any of this. As Paul Bobnak, the director of our Who's Mailing What! Archive, said to me, "I know marketing and ad agencies/departments (for B-to-C and B-to-B) want to keep their happy faces on. But if it were me, I'd address people's concerns and fears head-on. The worst economic crisis in decades demands nothing less."