“The severest test of an advertising man is in selling goods by mail.”
If Claude Hopkins is right, our digital writing is severely tested each day. This fourth chapter in Scientific Advertising, “Mail Order Advertising: What It Teaches” explains why learning to craft mail order advertising can help us all communicate better.
How Print Beats Your Webpage
Do your e-words drive the sales they could? Advanced as we believe ourselves to be, the current rigors of assembly and transmission make many webpages far less effective sales tools than print. We’ve been honing paper ads for hundreds of years. But daily I see scattershot web pages that clients expect me to get aloft with words alone.
Words can be like battering rams. But they don’t break things without logistics. You’ve got to hone your web page’s back-end, its page speed, and swing it higher on search. Then you can write and add graphics. But carefully. Every element on the screen has to do psychological work, from the pictures to the headings and captions, to the invisible flow.
That’s all not much different from crafting a mail order.
Your Copy Has the Hardest Job of All
“It is far harder to get mail order than to send buyers to the stores,” says Hopkins. “It is hard to sell goods which can't be seen. Ads which do that are excellent examples of what advertising should be.” The mail order writer pays by the inch, and when all space counts you learn what sells.
Here’s what happens when you don’t: “A man was selling a five-dollar article. The replies from his ad cost him 85 cents … Another man submitted an ad which for two years brought replies at an average of 41 cents each. Consider the difference on 250,000 replies per year. Think how valuable was the man who cut the cost in two.”