Easy Sell vs. Tough Sell: The Anatomy of Two Direct Mail Controls
How does this letter break the rules?
- This is full of vague generalities. As Byrne said, "Specifics sell. Generalities don't."
- The headline leads with mind-bending concepts and questions that make no sense without further information.
- The letter starts with names the most likely unfamiliar to the reader: "Qigong Master Chunvi Lin" and "Feng Shui Master Marie Diamond."
- The offer at the end: "Just 8 payments of $30!"
Comparing the Controls
The letter from Harvard Women's Health Watch:
- represents a virtual checklist of elements necessary for a control letter-easy-to-read and understand, good offer, etc.
- can go to just about any adult female on any response list, which gives the marketer a vast audience to mail to.
The letter from Learning Strategies:
- is complex and difficult to grasp. As a control, we know it has been responded to. But this is clearly a niche audience.
- will require exhaustive mailing list research. For this to work, it is essential to test: Very smart, educated people who can read dense prose, who are proven direct mail buyers and who do not blanche at a $240 product cost.
"Success in direct mail is 40 percent lists, 40 percent offer and 20 percent everything else, " wrote Ed Mayer. But in the case of Learning Strategies — with its expensive, off-putting offer — my guess is the ration needs to be 70 percent lists, 20 percent offer and 10 percent everything else.
Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His next book will be "Write Everything Right!" Visit him at dennyhatch.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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