Bob Stone

Pat Friesen is a direct response copywriter, content developer, copy coach and creative strategist. She is also the author of "The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook," published by Direct Marketing IQ. Reach her at (913) 341-1211.

Some recent and mildly frustrating interactions with young marketing colleagues started me wondering about the amazing mentors whose generosity and wisdom shaped my own career. What’s happened, I asked myself, to the time-honored practice of mentoring?

When you're writing to generate response, it all starts with finding ways to engage your reader in your copy and content. Reader engagement hinges on using the right words to build rapport. This kind of copy rings true with the targeted audience because it makes an immediate connection. But how do you know which are the right words to use? One technique is to say the same thing in different ways. Many different ways. You never know which will hit your readers' hot buttons and snag their attention. I know from experience this technique works across channels—from direct mail letters and self-mailers to emails, whitepapers, blog posts and website copy. Twitter, with its 140 characters, may be the one exception, because you don't have the opportunity to repeat yourself.

Direct response writers (and their readers) know that one of the most powerful motivators in the English language is a four-letter word. It's the word "free." Free nudges fence-sitters by eliminating risk. It rewards the deal-seeker in each of us. And it's a tool for separating you from the competition. It's also a faster read and more engaging than words and phrases such as "complimentary," "at no charge" or "courtesy of."

If you rely on direct mail to bring in business, you've probably had a bumpy ride the last couple of years. Just as customers are more prone to avoid risk in these uncertain times, you should try to avoid unnecessary risk in your marketing efforts. This is the perfect time to remind yourself of a few basic principles that drive direct mail marketing.

Chances are, if you're doing direct marketing, you already have a good offer. But it may not be working as well as it used to, or you simply may want to try something new.

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