Todd Lerner

If there's a subject that gets most copywriters, especially those who write in the squeezed publishing sector, fired up, it's vouchers. Simply put, most hate them because these "is it a bill?" mailers have replaced many full-blown acquisition or retention packages that used to be their bread-and-butter work. It's not just that jobs have been taken away, they say, but also the meaning of their work, as so many publications are, in essence, sending a much less impressive representative now—the lowly voucher.

The role of the order card in the direct mail piece has always been important. "The main purpose is to state (or restate) the offer clearly and simply, so it's easy and effortless for the recipient to say, 'Yes.' The sole purpose of the order card is to get the order!" states Heidi Wells, a freelance copywriter based in Chicago.

Every day, marketers battle the shrinking attention spans of their potential customers. While the electronic channels appear to operate on the same wavelength—and, in part, created those waves of attention and inattention to begin with—of our scatter-brained society, direct mail naturally struggles with it. Direct mail requires the prospect to read sentences, paragraphs and—gasp!—even pages. How anachronistic. Of course, unless it wants to go extinct, every company that uses direct mail needs to acknowledge this attention-span problem and adapt—just as it is grappling with the postal rate changes. But, no, that doesn’t necessarily mean gutting the package. Instead, consider six ways to get that

The outer envelope. Unexplored territory? A blank canvas? Not so fast. These days, “less copy on the outer often yields a better response,” states Todd Lerner, copywriter/designer and owner of Todd Lerner Advertising in Farmington Hills, Mich. 1. Less Makes It More … Personal “If you’re trying to make it look more personal, you probably don’t put charts and graphs on the back [of the outer] because then it’s an immediate tip-off that you’re selling something,” says Pat Friesen, copywriter and owner of Pat Friesen & Company in Kansas City, Kan. Because she’s presently working with an older, educated audience that “doesn’t like hype,”

Format, the cover letter, the reply form, the premiums and/or freemiums … all key components of a direct mail package. But the most key component of all, most likely? The outer envelope. Here are six ways to make the language on that outer even more effective at achieving its end goal: getting the prospect to open the package. 1. Focus on the Outside “Mailers may say differently, but they tend to focus on what goes inside [the envelope]. But if you don’t get them past the outer envelope, it doesn’t matter how great your cover letter is,” asserts Pat Friesen, copywriter and owner of

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