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Writing direct mail copy: 10 point checklist

Direct response is often compared to fishing. A fisherman chooses the water, the bait, the depth and the conditions. A skilled fisherman will no doubt have a far greater haul than the well-intentioned yet woefully-inexperienced angler.

Like the fisherman's lures, good direct mail copy is critical to a mailer's success. As writing good copy is an art form all its own, we thought we'd share some perspectives we've gleaned over the years from countless books and experts. Here are 10 important characteristics of good copy you should keep in mind as you craft your direct response message.

On writing style

1. Make it easy to read and interesting.

  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Avoid run-on, convoluted sentence structure
  • Use bullet points to review benefits and features
  • Keep repeating the main point in different ways
  • Guide the reader with subheads that tell a story

2. Draw a picture inside their mind.

  • Tell a story that describes something compelling
  • Give enough to paint a picture that includes themselves.
  • Stress benefits, not features
  • Tell readers how their lives will be better

3. Have an angle and keep them guessing.

  • Create mystery
  • Draw them in
  • Hint at what will be revealed along the way
  • Ask a question that requires continuing to get it answered
  • Use subheads as if they were breadcrumbs

On message flow

1. Begin with your strongest benefit.

  • Get right to it
  • What's most compelling about your story?

2. Expand on the most important benefit.

  • Dive in a bit
  • Expand on its value
  • Reveal additional reasons to take action

3. Explain in detail exactly what the prospect will get.

  • List the features
  • Paint a picture
  • Give your reader something to visualize

4. Back up your claims with proof.

  • Examples
  • Statistics
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Market share
  • Testimonials

5. Tell them what they'll lose if they don't act.

  • How they will feel pain
  • How they might suffer

6. Sum up the most important benefits.

    • Bring the reader around to where you started
    • Set-up the call-to-action

    7. Present your call-to-action.

    • Ask your reader to take a specific action
    • Make sure it's a clear next step
    • Keep it simple and direct


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