Versioned Copy-Make it Work for Your Next Campaign
How many times have you heard or said, "We need you to write a letter so we can do a mailing?" Notice my emphasis on the words "a letter."
It's not unusual to have even the most savvy direct marketers overlook one of the major advantages of direct marketing. That's the ability to send highly targeted messages to different market segments, whether they're customers, members or contributors.
Versioned copy is one of the most powerful tools of direct response advertising, no matter which medium you use—whether you're doing consumer or business-to-business advertising.
Why should you create different versions of letter and e-mail copy based on information in your database? Versioned copy allows you to test offers, creative approaches and products. It also allows you to be more specific in how you build rapport with your audience to generate response.
Creating Versioned Copy
The first step is to create different copy platforms for prospects and customers. The same message doesn't appeal to both groups. Customers and prospects have significantly different questions, concerns and buying objections:
- A customer already has a relationship with you— a prospect doesn't.
- A customer knows who you are, your quality standards and your guarantee—a prospect doesn't.
- A prospect is less motivated to open your mail and even less motivated to read and respond to it.
That's why it's best to start by creating versions of letter copy that address specific concerns and capitalize on an existing relationship. Then go even further: Segment copy to different audiences within those customer and prospect groups.
It's a Fact
All customers are not of equal value to your business. Some buy more product, and some buy more often. Some return products more frequently. Others use your credit card to pay for purchases, and then tend to spend more with you.
Each one of these groups may benefit from receiving a different version of the same basic letter.
Something else to consider. A one-time, or first-time, buyer isn't a devoted customer—at least not yet. He or she still is trying you out. It's the second purchase that will move the buyer into the category of being a more valuable repeat customer.
That said, the letter and e-mail message you send to a first-time buyer should be different from that which you would send to a repeat customer. Start by acknowledging the individual's first purchase with a "thank you for giving us a try." Tell her you hope you have not only met, but also surpassed, her expectations. Let her know you want her as a valued repeat customer. To transform one-time buyers into loyal multi-buyers, test letter versions with different offers and different messages. Never assume that because someone has bought from you once, he or she will buy from you again.
Apply the 80/20 Rule
If the adage that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers holds true, the letters you send to that top 20 percent of your customers also should be different from those you send to less-profitable customers.
The objective is to create the most-effective message to cross-sell and upsell. Even if you can't individualize each letter or e-mail, you can send segmented copy versions based on factors such as the following:
- most recent product purchased;
- product categories purchased;
- frequency of purchase;
- recency of last purchase;
- customer's lifetime value;
- gift-buying history;
- customer anniversary;
- provision of referral names;
- method of payment used; and
- number of marketing channels used (e.g., online, in-store, mail, phone).
When I wrote for Current Inc., in Colorado Springs, CO, I would write as many as 124 versions of a single letter, testing offers, openers and other elements—each targeted to a different customer or prospect segment. By tracking the response generated from these different versions, we were able to identify the new control letter for the coming season based on measurable results.
Use Versioned Copy to Romance Buyers and Influencers
Another reason to segment copy is to communicate effectively with decision-makers vs. decision-influencers. A decision-maker may place the order and sign the check, but decision-influencers are every bit as important to closing a sale. Whether you're selling office equipment, financial services, expensive jewelry or a four-year education at a university, it seems the higher the price, the more influencers there are involved in the purchase decision.
I once wrote dozens of letter versions for a pre-sale contact program. The mailing matrix included a series of six to eight letters with 15 versions of each that all mailed into the same prospect organization.
The product was a comprehensive hospital-management software program that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The different versions were targeted at key staff members in almost every hospital department. Although one individual ultimately signed the contract for the purchase, these decision-influencers had questions, concerns and opinions that had to be addressed to gain their support. Versioned copy was the answer.
Tips About Writing Versioned Copy
Start by writing "base" copy that mails to the largest or most-valuable segment. Forget about all the other versions and write one letter or
e-mail as though it were the only one you were writing.
From this letter, write spin-off versions using this base copy as the foundation. Sometimes all it takes is changing the first paragraph or e-mail subject line. At other times, you may need to vary two or three key paragraphs, bullet points, the Johnson Box or postscript.
Using information from your database, your objective is to create the strongest message possible to generate maximum response.
Versioned copy is your tool for achieving success.