Creative: Multichannel Copywriting
The principles and foundation of direct marketing copywriting are timeless. But the copywriting styles used to market the same offer across various media aren't always the same.
While the tactics differ, one principle is constant: At the moment your prospective customer is consuming your message, you need to build motivation to take action now.
Direct Mail vs. Digital Media
Direct mail is often written in a formula—a framework—with a call to action. Direct mail affords flexibility in copywriting style because a letter can be two, four or even 16 pages long (depending upon budget and the category of product being offered).
One of the classic direct mail formulas, identified generations ago, is AIDA: attention, interest, desire and action. When this formula was first envisioned, it was obviously with the notion that all four processes would unfold while the reader was reading a letter. But now, because there are so many media options, and a shortened attention span from readers, this formula can unfold over a number of touchpoints. Moreover, the medium that gets the prospect's attention and brings them into your sales funnel can be virtually any vehicle: direct mail, email, Web landing pages, social media, content marketing and more.
Some media choices are designed for long copy, others for short copy. The environment your prospective customer is in while consuming your message can reveal what your prospect's mindset is at that point in time. Our challenge as marketers is to identify the best copywriting approach for each vehicle.
Putting It Together
To illustrate differences between vehicles, let's examine how the Digital Learning Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to improving economic growth by advocating for personalized education through the use of digital learning technologies, used multiple vehicles to reach technology companies. DLA has a list of educational issues that dozens of state legislators in about 35 states are attempting to solve through legislation and funding of initiatives.
Digital learning technology companies, who have created the technology to solve these issues, often don't have access to legislators, let alone an ability to track bills in states or know of RFPs in 50 individual states.
These digital learning technology company CEOs and senior executives are difficult to reach. To get the executives' attention, multiple vehicles were used with the same core message, but in different copywriting styles.
As is often true for any marketer, the messaging challenge for DLA was taking a complex concept and explaining it in easy-to-understand messaging. The readers had to quickly know there was something in the copy that was worth their time to read and consume.
Then there is the fact there are multiple audiences. In the launch, the people most likely to get to the website were legislators and industry executives. Eventually, DLA will expand the message to attract educators, parents and students.
The site (DigitalLearningAlliance.org) includes landing pages with both long and short copy, but most importantly, it includes videos, charts and graphs to tell the story. It numbers many of the paragraphs to help readers keep on pace and know where they are in the message. Subheads help to cluster thoughts. It is a continuous flow of information that unfolds across several pages.
Direct mail was sent to a highly targeted list of executives. The letter was three pages, and included a chart of 30 issues that legislators are seeking to solve. The letters were sent using USPS Priority Mail, and included personally written Post-it Notes as additional calls to action for attention. Telephone calls were made as a follow-up to get appointments for an online presentation.
Emails were then sent to these same executives. The highly qualified list of emails was acquired and vetted with intern-placed phone calls, so it was more vital than ever for the subject line copy to be strong. In fact, it took days and hours of conference calls to craft the right combination of words for the subject line. But it paid off: The first email had an open rate of 47 percent. Phone calls were quickly made to those who clicked through to the landing page and opened the emails to get the conversation started.
DLA continues to refine its use of social media, but the emphasis has been placed on LinkedIn. So far, it's working. To build connections, DLA executives seek out key players from a list of desired member companies who are invited to connect (and they usually accept). Then the conversation begins by encouraging the executive to learn more and follow a group created by DLA called Digital Learning Advocates. The group is still small, but, as it grows, it will be a place where executives can be introduced to news about digital learning and become more engaged. So while the core message is the same across all vehicles, the style for each is different.
For DLA, this multitouch approach has been successful, resulting in major players in the industry becoming members. Those larger, influential members are magnets for the smaller players who want to grow and perhaps be acquired by those larger members. It's a marketing ecosystem that benefits all, and is anchored by a consistent message across all media.
The bottom line for any marketer using multiple vehicles, such as direct mail, email, Web and social media, is it's vital to adapt the copywriting style to the vehicle. You must be agile in today's fast-paced online environment. But when it's orchestrated well among media, you work your copy messaging for consistency, and you adapt your copy style to the vehicle, your efforts can pay off with more responses.
Gary Hennerberg is a direct marketing consultant and copywriter. Reach him at Hennerberg.com or at (817) 318-8100.
Reinventing Direct is for the direct marketer seeking guidance in the evolving world of online marketing. Gary Hennerberg is a mind code marketing strategist, based on the template from his new book, "Crack the Customer Mind Code." He is recognized as a leading direct marketing consultant and copywriter. He weaves in how to identify a unique selling proposition to position, or reposition, products and services using online and offline marketing approaches, and copywriting sales techniques. He is sought-after for his integration of direct mail, catalogs, email marketing, websites, content marketing, search marketing, retargeting and more. His identification of USPs and copywriting for clients has resulted in sales increases of 15 percent, 35 percent, and even as high as 60 percent. Today he integrates both online and offline media strategies, and proven copywriting techniques, to get clients results. Email him or follow Gary on LinkedIn. Co-authoring this blog is Perry Alexander of ACM Initiatives. Follow Perry on LinkedIn.