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#62 How to Create a Breakthrough Direct Mal Package: Part II
From:
Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

 
Issue #62 – Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Posted by Denny Hatch

How to Create a Breakthrough Direct Mail Package: Part II


PLEASE NOTE: This is Part II of a 2-part Post.
If you missed Part I last week, here is the link:

A Personal Note: As you know from last week’s post, I completed this mailing—copy, design and revisions—last January. After many requests for payment I never received a check. I finally gave up and figured okay, so this won't be a total loss I’ll repackage it and use it for a teaching moment. Happily a reader forwarded Part I to the client and it prompted action. Yesterday, after five months, the check arrived. A belated “thank you” to the client.
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After opening the envelope, you have no way of knowing which element the prospect will look at first.
     Bob Hacker has pointed out that people process information two ways: rationally and analytically as well as irrationally and emotionally. Right-brain people—who rely primarily on the emotional an irrational approach—will read the letter first. Rational, data driven Left-brainers—will go for the circular.
     Me, I always look at the order card first so I’ll know exactly what the deal is.

A Full-dress Direct Mail Packages Is a Sales Team

By Malcolm Decker, Entrepreneur and Freelance Copywriter
I read books and articles and any kind of authoritative materials about my subject I can find, until I feel comfortable—or, as [poet Robert] Frost said, “easy in my harness.”
     I can’t speak for other writers, but only after I’ve done the research can I begin to discern an outline. This means taming an unruly mass of information, notes, interview quotes, reading material, samples of the products or services, illustrations and maybe videos. 
     Eventually I can begin to get my head around the various facets of the story. Pieces fall into place and take shape—the lede, the direction, the middle and the end.

First, the Envelope knocks on the door to see if anyone’s home.

Second, the Major Letter—the salesman—takes over. 
     Once the envelope is opened, the letter is the most important member of the team.  It sells soft or it sells hard.  It spins yarns or it spouts facts. It’s long (but never long-winded) or it’s pithy.  However it comes on, it’s loaded with customer benefits... Customer Benefits... CUSTOMER BENEFITS.
     The letter itself is the pen-and-ink embodiment of a salesperson who is speaking personally and directly to the prospect on a one-to-one basis.
    The letter is the most powerful selling force in direct marketing, once the product, price and offer are set.
     The letter is likely to be the only “person” your market will ever meet, at least on the front-end of the sale. Don’t make him highbrow if your market is lowbrow and vice versa. Make sure he speaks your prospect’s language. If he’s a Tiffany salesman, he writes in one style; if he’s a grapefruit or pecan farmer, or a beef grower, he wraats dif’urntly.
     I develop as clear a profile of my prospect as the available research offers and then try to match it up with someone I know and “put him in a chair” across from me. Then I write to him more or less as though I were talking with him.
     The salesperson in the letter is doing the job he obviously loves and is good at. He knows the product inside and out and is totally confident in and at ease with its values and benefits—even its inconsequential shortcomings—and wants to let his prospect in on a good thing.
     How Long Should a Letter Be?
     The best answer to that age-old question is: “As long as it has to be.” That doesn’t tell you much, but it suggests two important criteria: economy and efficiency.
     As a sometime angler, I get a better sense of length by remembering a fishing trip to Maine when we used dry flies with barbless hooks. Unless you kept up the tension all the way to the net, you lost the trout. Try it. You should feel the same sort of tension when you write and read a letter. If not ... reel in the slack. 

Third, when the demonstrator—the Folder or Brochure—goes to work, it is “Show-‘n’- Tell Time.” 
     Like the letter, it can stand on its own. But it’s most effective when it demonstrates in graphics what the letter can only say in words. It should convince the reader in images that everything the letter said is true. 
     Because it is impersonal, the voice should differ in tone and color form the letter: It is the company—not an individual—talking to the prospect. It shows and demonstrates—and proves—everything the very enthusiastic salesman said in the letter is true.  Its job is to add visual dimension, and amplify certain points touched on lightly in the letter, thereby gaining further credibility for the offer. 
     The circular is frequently—but not necessarily—four-color. The pace is much different from that of the driving letter or the greased order card. The reader should be given as much time with the piece as needed or wanted. Although it must be carefully designed to unfold in the way you want to bring your prospect into the offer, he should be able to read every panel or page or spread independent of the others.  Think of it as a smorgasbord rather than a seven-course sit-down dinner.

(I felt “Buy-10-Get One-FREE!” was so strong, I wanted the reader to act at once rather than sift through a blizzard of paper, maybe get distracted, resulting in the mailing being laid aside and lost under a pile of newspapers. So the “brochure” was the reverse side of the letter. It’s okay to use two sides of each sheet of paper in a mailing. 
     Martin Edelston, patron saint of the Boardroom empire once got a phone call from an irate woman who complained that by creating a two-page letter on two separate pages, he was trashing the environment. Marty snapped, “Madam, I’m in business to make money, not make a statement!” and hung up on her. —DH)



Third, when the demonstratorthe Folder or Brochure—goes to work, it is “Show-‘n’-Tell Time.”  
     Like the letter, it can stand on its own. But it’s most effective when it demonstrates in graphics what the letter can only say in words. It should convince the reader in images that everything the letter said is true. 
     Because it is impersonal, the voice should differ in tone and color form the letter: It is the company—not an individual—talking to the prospect. It shows and demonstrates—and proves—everything the very enthusiastic salesman said in the letter is true.  Its job is to add visual dimension, and amplify certain points touched on lightly in the letter, thereby gaining further credibility for the offer. 
     The circular is frequently—but not necessarily—four-color. The pace is much different from that of the driving letter or the greased order card. The reader should be given as much time with the piece as needed or wanted. Although it must be carefully designed to unfold in the way you want to bring your prospect into the offer, he should be able to read every panel or page or spread independent of the others.  Think of it as a smorgasbord rather than a seven-course sit-down dinner.

(I felt “Buy-10-Get One-FREE!” was so strong, I wanted the reader to act at once rather than sift through a blizzard of paper, maybe get distracted, resulting in the mailing being laid aside and lost under a pile of newspapers. So the “brochure” was the reverse side of the letter. 
     It’s okay to use two sides of each sheet of paper in a mailing. 
     Martin Edelston, patron saint of the Boardroom empire once got a phone call from an irate woman who complained that by creating a two-page letter on two separate pages, he was trashing the environment. Marty snapped, “Madam, I’m in business to make money, not make a statement!” and hung up on her. —DH)
                 



Fourth, the Order Device restates the offer in the pithiest, most unambiguous language possible.

(I used the typical National Collector’s Mint design (front and back) for the order device. It has obviously worked for them before. When creating a new mailing for a client, it’s not a good idea to change everything for the sake of change. This is what NCM buyers were used to. Why screw around with it? —DH)

Order Card Obverse

Order Card Reverse




Fifth, the Publisher’s Letter (or lift piece) is yet another voice backing up the key salesman, the long letter. Its job is to convince the waverer and salvage the skeptics. It has exciting new and different information than what’s in the letter and brochure—yet another benefit and reason to take advantage of the offer.
    
(My work was sent off to the Mint. The word coming back was okay so far. What was needed was some romance stuff about Morgan Dollars and the Old West.
     I was basically consumed by the offer—in this case the 80% of the marketing equation. NCM wanted the other 20%. Fair enough. I would do a lift piece—separate brochure that would “lift” response.
     In 1949 I was in Las Vegas. At age 13, I was not allowed into the casinos. But standing in the doorways I could see the action. Coin of the realm for the high rollers was the Morgan Silver Dollar—the equivalent of $10.76 today. They were everywhere—at blackjack, keno and poker tables and craps games.     
     I clearly remember when a player hit the jackpot in a sliver dollar slot machine, the winner let out a loud whoop amid the click and clank of silver dollars spilling onto the floor.
     On August 2, 1876 Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory when he was shot at point blank range in the back of the head. He was holding the winning cards—aces and eights—forever known as Dead Man’s Hand. On the table was the pot of Morgan Silver Dollars.
     I had to do better than regurgitate clichés every schoolboy knows.
     Then I remembered as kid, I saw the original Irving Berlin Broadway Musical, Annie Get Your Gun starring Ethel Merman and Ray Middleton, and later the film version with Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. Here is one side of the lift piece I came up with. —DH)


(Okay, now what about the other side of this thing?)
(I began pondering why the hell anyone in their right mind would amass a bunch of silver dollars. Yeah, these coins are 90% pure silver (and 10% copper).  
     But silver prices fluctuate and coins are a lousy investment (as is gold). You can stick them away in a drawer or a safe and think about them. Coins don’t enrich your life such as paintings or sculptures or fine automobiles. 
     If you want to get your money quickly out of an investment, buy financial instruments (e.g. stocks, bonds or funds) that (1) can increase with value and (2) are easy to sell and turn into needed cash.
     What’s more, if you tout gold or silver coins as an investment—and suggest the price is going up—the FTC will jump all over you.
     Then I remembered richest person in modern history—John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), founder, chairman and largest stockholder of Standard Oil—who on his death was worth between $300 billion and $400 billion in today’s dollars. The other side of my lift piece wrote itself.
     The message in my lift piece—“Give an authentic, uncirculated and gleaming antique Morgan Dollars as your signature gift!”—was a possible USP (Unique Selling Proposition)! —DH).


Sixth, the Postage-Paid Business Reply Envelope (BRE) brings the order home.

Finally, it’s important to remember 
that in direct mail, the word is king. 
Copy is the architect of the sale.  Design and art are strongly supportive interior designers that often set up the sale.
     Because lookers are shoppers while readers are buyers, if you can firmly engage your prospect—and keep him engaged—through reading, you’re on your way to a sale.  
     —Malcolm Decker

Was This Mailing a Breakthrough?
In his Comment at the end of Part I, National Collector’s Mint Founder and CEO Avram C. Freedberg wrote in part:

The outer envelope you posted saying that is the one we used is totally incorrect and even misspelled. The use of foil did seem like a good idea. So much so that we've tested same several times as early as 30 years ago and found that it did not increase orders or revenue and, in fact, had decreased same in some tests. The test package based on your submissions failed miserably against our control, though we loved some of your ideas so much, we recently tested a brochure with your historical material added to the control versus the control. At present, that version's results are on a par with the control.

Alas, the creatives at National Collector’s Mint
rewrote, revamped and redesigned my effort.

DH's opinion: A single word on the Mint's outer envelope and in the letter could have doomed this mailing:
Mostly
To a serious collector or investor, "Mostly" is a deal killer.
      







Takeaways to Consider
• I was astonished when I saw the proofs with so many radical changes to my copy, design and illustrations. No input. No explanation. This has never happened in more than 50 years of creating direct mail.

• “The Holy Grail of Direct Marketing is the single variable test.”
     —Don Nicholas

• What the Mint wanted was a complete new mailing—four radical new elements. If it did not beat the control, many inexperienced marketers would never mail it again.

• The Mint was correct to drop the Lift Piece into their current control mailings to see if it ups response.

• If you are working on a promotional mailing—either direct mail or digital—you will find the following post helpful: Denny Hatch’s Ultimate 85-point Marketeer’s Checklist.

About Malcolm Decker,
Contributor to This Post

The guy who taught me the craft of writing a letter was a great copywriter and most elegant gentleman, Malcolm Decker—friend and mentor for 40 years as well as a sometime client.
     As founder and proprietor of Stamp Collectors Society of America, his specialty was back-end marketing—keeping customer so happy they bought and bought and bought.
     For example, Mal sold a series of 58 gold stamps commemorating the treasures of Tutankhamun over the signature of George Worthington (aka Mal Decker).
      “George writes at least a one-page letter of 200 words with every stamp we send out. And then, of course, George offers Christmas and Easter and other special stamps along the way so that by the time they complete their collection, members had received about 50 letters from George filled with information and gossip about the history of each stamp. These fulfillment letters were all personalized and signed with a printed reflex blue signature. I put as much time an effort on transmittal letter number 48 as I did on the original letter that brought in the customer.
     "Once in a while one of our subscribers gets a windfall and buys the whole balance of his Collection at once. But what's odd is that after he receives his stamps he oftentimes insists on getting the whole set of transmittal letters from George, too. The letters are perceived as having value and being an integral part of the collection.”
     Mal’s completion rate for his many stamp series was upward of 50%—unheard of in the continuity business.
     For this post, I used the marvelous contribution on Direct Mail that Mal made to my first book, “Million Dollar Mailing$.”
     In early in January 2015, Mal called to say he was moving on in a couple of weeks from the copywriting world and wanted to say goodbye. He thanked me for the 30 years of press coverage. I stumbled through the rest of the call and hung up. Mal died on Feb. 16, 2015.

###

Word count: 2441



At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

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